Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Using a Comma after a Long Subject

The Quick Answer
You can use a comma after a long compound subject to show your readers where the subject ends. (Be aware that this is not a popular practice with many grammarians.)

For example:
  • Leaving a list of Internet passwords, increasing your life insurance and writing a will, will give you peace of mind while you are on operations.
  • (We judge the comma in this example to be helpful.)

Using a Comma after a Long Subject

A comma can be used to group a complicated compound subject.

What Is a Compound Subject?

When the subject of a sentence is made up of a list of things, it is known as a compound subject. For example:
  • Simon and Tina are happy.
  • (In this example, Simon and Tina is a compound subject with two elements.)
  • Simon from Portsmouth with the permed hair and Tina with the Jack Russell from the fish market are happy.
  • (This is also compound subject with two elements. In this example, the elements are more complicated.)

Using a Comma to Group a Complicated Compound Subject

Sometimes a compound subject has so many complicated elements, writers like to show the end of the subject with a comma to aid their readers.

For example (long subjects are shaded):
  • A clean driving licence, the ability to operate under pressure and 5 years' experience in marketing, are the only criteria stipulated by the selection panel.
  • (The shaded text is the compound subject of this sentence. The verb is are.)

  • Murder is the only crime that does not increase during a full moon. Theft, disorderly conduct, larceny, armed robbery, assault and battery, and rape, increase dramatically during a full moon.
  • (The shaded text is the compound subject of this sentence. The verb is increase.)

What Is the Subject of a Sentence?

The subject of a sentence is the person or thing performing the verb in the sentence. (NB: Verbs are doing words like to dance, to sit, and to think.) For example:
  • Balloons rose from the stadium.
  • (The word Balloons is the subject of this sentence. They are performing the verb to rise.)

  • David Baker is a real gentleman.
  • (David Baker is the subject of this sentence. He is performing the verb to be.)

  • The man next door saw that stray dog again.
  • (The man next door is the subject. To see is the verb.)

What Is a Compound Subject?

  • Jack and Simon are in the swimming pool.
  • (Jack and Simon is the subject. To be is the verb. Jack and Simon is a compound subject because it is made up of more than one element.)

    Separating Subject and Verb Is Not Popular

    Be aware that the practice of separating a subject from its verb (as happens when you end a compound subject with a comma) is unpopular with grammarians. However, if you deem the comma helps your readers, then it is an acceptable practice.