Using a Comma after a Long Subject

by Craig Shrives

Using a Comma after a Long Subject

A comma can be used to group a complicated subject, especially a compound subject. Here is an 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.
  • (The subject is shaded. The author of this sentence judged the comma to be helpful.)
Be aware that using a comma to mark the end of a complicated subject is not a popular practice with many grammarians - even if it is helpful.

comma after subject, between subject and predicate

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. Here is an easy example of a compound subject:
  • Simon and Tina are happy.
  • (In this example, "Simon and Tina" is a compound subject with two elements.)
Here is a more complicated example:
  • Simon from Portsmouth with the permed hair and Tina with the Jack Russell from the fish market are happy.
  • (The shaded text is a compound subject with two elements. In this example, the elements are more complicated. When a subject is this complicated, some writers like to mark its end with a comma.)

Using a Comma to Group a Complicated Compound Subject

Sometimes, a compound subject has so many complicated elements, writers like to mark 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.")

Using a Comma after a Complicated Single Subject

Occasionally, it is helpful to use a comma after a complicated single subject (i.e., a subject made up of one element). Here is an easy example of a single subject:
  • The boy is happy.
  • (In this example, "the boy" is a single subject, i.e., it's just one element.)
Here is a more complicated example:
  • The boy who was caught on Monday by the groundsman's daughter as he was setting up a crayfish trap, pleaded not guilty.
  • (The shaded text is a complicated single subject. The comma makes it clear where the subject ends.)
Using a comma to mark the end of any complicated subject is not a popular practice, but if you think it helps your reader, you can do it (and then fight like a dog to defend your comma).

Have Your Say

Would you mark the end of a long subject with a comma? Have your say with this poll.

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

Using commas (a summary) Our big commas test Commas after a sentence introductions Commas after a transitional phrase Commas after interjections (yes, no, indeed) Commas before conjunctions (and, or, but) Commas for parenthesis Commas in lists Commas with numbers Commas with quotation (speech) marks Commas with the vocative case Commas with Dear, Hello, and Hi