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Writing Sentences
Introduction|Sentence Errors|Punctuation Errors|Academic Choices|Summary

Commas between subjects and verbs

Writers often unnecessarily place a comma between what is called the 'subject' of a sentence and the verb. In order to avoid this mistake, you must first understand what subjects and verbs are.

A verb is a word that expresses an action or a process being done by someone or something. For this reason, verbs are sometimes called 'doing words'. The verbs in the following passage are in bold.

The television viewer reads the images on the screen. He or she hears the sounds, sees the accompanying image, identifies parts of that reality as multiple, parallel, or sequential sub-realities and establishes some kind of relationship between themselves and the events within those realities.

The subject of a sentence is the person or thing doing the action or process expressed in the verb. It is always a noun (a person, place, object /concept word) or a nominal group (a group of words that provide more information about the noun). The subjects of the sentences in the previous example have been highlighted for you below.

The television viewer reads the images on the screen. He or she hears the sounds, sees the accompanying image, identifies parts of that reality ... subject
verb

As you can see in the passage above, the subject always comes before the verb. This is also shown in the examples below:

Performance criteria include hard, soft and contextual goals. subject
verb
Scientists should take full responsibility for their discoveries. subject
verb
The term 'urbanisation' refers to a set of related social processes. subject
verb

Notice that in the following sentences, the writer has placed a comma between the subject and the verb.

Some of the greatest writers in the history of English literature , have been women. subject
verb
The growth in the field of environmental accounting , reflects our growing disillusionment with traditional models. subject
verb
An agreement to change the company's policy on overtime , was made at the meeting. subject
verb

In fact, there should be no comma between these two elements. A comma indicates a break in the sentence and since the subject is linked to the verb (the subject carries out the action described by the verb) it is incorrect to have a break between these two elements.

The correct punctuation of these sentences is:

Some of the greatest writers in the history of English literature have been women. subject
verb
The growth in the field of environmental accounting reflects our growing disillusionment with traditional models. subject
verb
An agreement to change the company's policy on overtime was made at the meeting. subject
verb

Commas should not be inserted between the subject of a sentence and the verb.

Activity

 




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