How do you check your comma placements

Commas: You need to know these rules

The comma is undoubtedly one of the headaches in the German language. But you shouldn't neglect it, because it ensures order in the sentences, makes it clear what belongs to what and what value a word has in a statement. Make yourself the main rules of the Commas consciously over and over again, then you will quickly notice that a lot can be discovered through logical thinking. By the way, little tricks often help you to answer the question “comma or not?”.

What is the function of the comma in a sentence?

The comma is used to structure a sentence, making it easier for the reader to grasp the meaning.

Commas in lists

The most well-known rule of commas is: If you line up several similar clauses or adjectives, there must be a comma between them. You can string everything together in a sentence. Examples are:

  • Managers, employees and freelancers were invited.
  • The secretary opened the envelope, read the letter, processed the file, and filed the letter.

It's easy to find out whether the comma is in the right place. Replace the comma once with an "and". Does the sentence still make sense then? "Executives and Employees and freelancers were invited “- not nice, but right. Then the comma is also set correctly at this point. By the way: The last element listed is usually followed by an “and”, and there is no comma in front of it.

Caution trap: "Fine English tea" - shouldn't there be a comma between "fine" and "English"? No! It is true that adjectives in a row usually have to be separated with a comma. However, there are some connections between adjectives and nouns that are particularly close, for example in "English tea" or "Chinese vase". In these cases there is no comma. Here, too, there is a simple test: reverse the order of the two adjectives: is the sentence still correct or does it make a different sense? “English fine tea” - that has a different meaning than before. The adjective is too closely related to the noun to be separated from it just like that. So there is no comma between the two adjectives.

Commas in addenda

Additional clauses that define a noun more precisely are enclosed by two commas (so-called paired commas): Mr. Meier, my boss, and I are going to Frankfurt. This sentence shows you why it is so important to use paired commas. Because this makes it clear that "Mr. Meier" is the boss. So there are two people here. If there were only a comma in the sentence, the meaning would be different: "Mr. Meier, my boss and I are going to Frankfurt" - here Mr. Meier and the boss are two different people, so there are three people on the road. There is a very simple test of recognizing an addendum: You can omit it without changing the meaning of the sentence. Try it out with our example sentence.

Commas for conjunctions

Conjunctions connect parts of sentences or words. These include “and”, “or”, “but” etc. Some require the comma, others replace it, as you have already read in the penultimate section.

There is usually no comma in the following conjunctions: and, or, as well as, both ... and, either ... or, neither ... nor, both ... and. What is difficult is that conjunctions often introduce subordinate clauses, which in turn require the use of commas. Even with simple comparisons with "as" and "how" there is no comma:

  • The package is heavier than the parcel.
  • This letter costs as much as the other.

Attention trap: If "as" or "how" introduce a (comparative) subordinate clause, you must put a comma (see also below):

  • The package is heavier than we thought.
  • This letter costs just as much as we estimated in advance.

Conjunctions that require a comma express an opposite, e.g. B .: but, however, not, but, partly ... partly, on the one hand ... on the other hand.

  • The package did not arrive by post, but by messenger.
  • The package came by messenger, not by post.
  • On the one hand he was an expert in his field, on the other hand very sloppy.
Subordinate clauses and commas

Subordinate clauses must be separated from the main clause with a comma: The colleague works because he is paid for it. A main clause is characterized by the fact that it can stand for itself. “The colleague is working” is a simple main sentence made up of subject and predicate that can stand alone. The subordinate clause "... because he is paid for it", however, does not make sense in this form.

Extra tip: You can easily recognize subordinate clauses by the fact that the finite (inflected) verb (here “will”) is in the last position. In a main clause, on the other hand, the finite verb is always in the second position.

The difficulty is often in figuring out where a subordinate clause ends. The colleague works because he is paid for it and otherwise takes care of his hobby. Here you are dealing with a subordinate clause (“because he is paid for it”) that has been inserted into a main clause (“The colleague works and otherwise takes care of his hobby”). In such a case, you must enclose the subordinate clause with commas, i.e. put a comma before and after it.

Nesting is also possible between subordinate clauses if a subordinate clause is inserted into another subordinate clause. The colleague works because he is paid so well for it that he does not want to give up his job, and otherwise takes care of his hobby. Here, too, you have to enclose the respective subordinate clauses individually with commas. But such sentences are very difficult to read and understand. So you'd better make two or three sentences out of it anyway.

Commas between main clauses

The German spelling gives you freedom of choice in some cases - this also applies to the stringing together of main clauses, at least if they are connected with "and": The letter was lost and the email did not arrive. Here two main clauses are connected by an "and". In these cases, it is possible to use a comma, but it is not absolutely necessary. If, on the other hand, you line up main clauses without a conjunction, you always have to put a comma between them. The letter was lost, the email did not arrive.