Comma Rules, Subjects and Verbs,
Who vs. Whom, Independent and
Dependent Clauses, Run-Ons, Comma
Splices, and more!
Fredericksburg Area Campus
Locust Grove Campus
Direct and Indirect Objects
In a sentence, the subject and verb may be followed by an object.
An object is a noun or pronoun that gives meaning to the subject
and verb of the sentence. Not all sentences contain objects, but
some may contain one or more. There are two kinds of objects
within a sentence: direct and indirect objects.
A direct object is a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a
Daniel fixes computers.
Try this technique when determining the location of the direct
object in the above sentence:
1) First locate the subject and verb in the sentence. The subject in
the above sentence is “Daniel” and the verb is “fixes.”
2) Now ask yourself the questions What? or Whom? about the verb
3) What does the subject, Daniel, fix? Daniel fixes computers.
Sometimes a direct object is followed by an indirect object. An
indirect object is the noun or pronoun for which the action is
Daniel fixes computers for his family.
1) First locate the subject (Daniel) and the verb (fixes).
2) Now ask yourself the questions To Whom? To What? For Whom?
or For What? about the subject and verb.
3) For whom does the subject, Daniel, fix computers? Daniel fixes
computers for his family.
**An indirect object may also come before the direct object:
Susan gave me her notes. (To whom did Susan give her notes? me)
Five Fixes for Run-Ons and Comma Splices
A sentence must always consist of at least a subject and a predicate.
Days are cooler leaves are falling. [run-on sentence]
A subject is anything that governs the action of a verb while the
predicate includes the verb and any accompanying objects,
Days are cooler, leaves are falling. [comma splice]
modifiers, or complements. The verb is the action of the subject.
In the following examples, the sentences are split into subjects and
predicates, and the verbs are underlined:
Fix # 1: Use end punctuation to make two sentences.
[The baby] [cried for a bottle.]
Days are cooler. Leaves are falling.
Fix # 2: Use a comma and conjunction to join sentences.
[The price of this necklace] [is too expensive.]
Days are cooler, and leaves are falling.
The simple subject is the specific noun or pronoun while the
complete subject is the simple subject along with all the words that
Fix # 3: Use a semicolon to join sentences.
modify or explain the simple subject. In the following examples,
the simple subjects are underlined and the complete subjects are in
Days are cooler; leaves are falling.
Fix # 4: Use a semicolon to join sentences, and use a
The gray cat in the pet store is for sale.
conjunctive adverb to show relationship.
Many people attended the banquet.
The subject of the sentence is compound when it consists of two
Days are cooler; therefore, leaves are falling.
(The conjunctive adverb “therefore” indicates cause/effect relationship).
or more subjects often joined by and or or.
Sara and Amy went to the movies.
Fix # 5: Use a subordinate conjunction to make one of the
sentences a dependent clause.
When the subject is a command, the subject is implied to be you.
Because days are cooler, leaves are falling.
(You) Go to bed.
Use commas to separate a direct quotation from the rest of
Every sentence includes a predicate along with the subject. The
The instructor warned, “Students who do not study hard will
predicate includes the verb along with any accompanying objects,
fail the test.”
modifiers, or complements. Within the predicate, the verb is the
Mother asked, “Who wants to go get ice cream?”
word that expresses action or state of being. In the following
“Yes,” the store clerk replied, “we do have this shirt in your
sentences, the verbs are underlined while the predicates are in
The elephant escaped from the zoo.
Tom gave Laura flowers on her birthday.
Use a comma to separate sentence elements to create the
Two types of verbs include action and linking. Action verbs are
verbs that describe action while linking verbs join the subject with
Still water is very refreshing.
a word or phrase that describes the subject. For example:
Still, water is very refreshing. (the comma changes the
Sally dropped her papers.
When we visited John, Robert came along.
When we visited, John Robert came along.
Two students are absent.
Use a comma to set off most conjunctive adverbs (however,
A compound verb consists of two or more verbs joined by and or
otherwise, therefore, similarly, hence, on the other hand, and consequently). But
do not use a comma after the conjunctive adverbs then, thus, soon,
now, and also. In the following examples, a semicolon is used to
The dog begged and whined for a treat.
separate two independent clauses.
Words such as never, not, hardly, seldom, and so on are modifiers, not
The sick woman needs to be given treatment; otherwise, her
illness will become fatal.
Mark’s goals were materialistic; therefore, he discarded any
You hardly ate any food.
career choices that offered only minimal salaries.
The maid washed the dishes and mopped the floor; however,
she forgot to make the beds.
We need to evacuate the beach quickly; soon there will be a
If the dependent clause comes after the independent clause,
no comma is needed (unless the dependent clause begins with the
Passive vs. Active Voice
words though, even though or although).
Verbs can be either passive or active. Consider the following
We went to the store to buy school supplies since the new
school year was about to begin.
English is my favorite subject because I love to read and
Of Mice and Men was published in 1937 by John Steinbeck.
The boy felt nervous, even though he had been to the
John Steinbeck published Of Mice and Men in 1937.
These two sentences carry the same message, yet they are worded
differently. The first sentence, written in passive voice, makes the
subject (Of Mice and Men) receive the action of the verb (was
Use commas around nonessential words, phrases, and
published). The second sentence, written in active voice, makes the
clauses that interrupt the flow of the sentence. If these words are
subject (John Steinbeck) the “doer” of the action (published).
dropped, the sentence will still make sense and retain its basic
Sentences written in active voice are more direct since the subject
does the action of the verb. Passive voice, on the other hand, is less
John, the boy who drives the ice cream truck, is my
preferable since it often omits the subject of the action. The
following examples show that passive sentences do not give credit
John is my brother. (the sentence retains its basic meaning
without “the boy who drives the ice cream truck”)
to the subject of the action while active sentences do:
The pillow, soft and fluffy, cushioned my head as I napped
on the hammock.
The key was lost. [passive]
The pillow cushioned my head as I napped on the hammock.
Linda lost the key. [active]
(sentence still makes sense, retains basic meaning)
The man was struck by lightening. [passive]
Lightening struck the man. [active]
Do not use the commas if the clause is essential to the
meaning of the sentence and cannot be taken out.
Students should avoid using passive voice in academic writing;
however, when the subject of the action is unknown, obvious, or
Everyone who does their homework and studies will make
unimportant, passive voice is acceptable. For example, in scientific
lab reports, the passive voice is often used because the subject of
Everyone will make an “A.” (meaning is not the same, it is
not guaranteed that everyone will make an “A”)
the action is unimportant:
All the apples which were brown and rotted were thrown
Participants in the study were asked to record their responses.
All the apples were thrown away. (meaning is not the same,
not all of the apples will be thrown away)
The original water level was subtracted from the final amount.
Put a comma between coordinate adjectives. (They are
Independent and Dependent Clauses
coordinate if they sound natural when they are either reversed or
joined by and.)
Sentences may contain both dependent and independent clauses,
but they must always contain at least one independent clause. An
The road dwindled into a rough, narrow path.
independent clause is a group of words with a subject and verb
that can stand alone and make sense. For example:
The road dwindled into a narrow and rough path.
Todd ate dinner.
The comma does not separate adjectives when they sound
We entered the building.
unnatural when switched or separated by and.
I was tired.
The storm ended.
Correct: She gave the teacher a large red apple.
Incorrect: She gave the teacher a red and large apple.
A dependent clause, on the other hand, is a group of words which
may contain both a subject and a verb; however, it cannot stand
alone since it depends on the independent clause to give it meaning.
Set off long introductory dependent clauses and phrases
In the following examples of dependent clauses, the subjects are in
(four or more words) with a comma. These clauses and phrases do
boldface while the verbs are underlined:
not include the subject and verb of the sentence, and they cannot
stand alone as complete sentences.
While Todd ate dinner
When we entered the building
Because I was tired
At the beginning of spring, flowers began to bloom.
After the storm ended
Although the prices were reduced, they were still absurdly
The words while, when, because, after, and since are all dependent
Having finished his homework, the boy was permitted to
go outside and play.
marker words, or words that indicate a dependent clause. Other
Forgetting to set her alarm clock, Ann woke up to find she
dependent marker words include: although, as, as if, before, even if, even
was three hours late for work.
though, if, in order to, since, though, unless, until, whatever, whenever, whether.
A studious and hard-working student, Thomas turned in
every assignment on time.
Commas are optional after introductory word groups that
are not four words or more.
During summer we go on vacation.
On Fridays we order pizza.
Punctuating Clauses Within Sentences
Compound Sentences: Two or more independent clauses can be
connected with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (for, and,
Put a comma before coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor,
nor, but, or, yet, or so). For example:
but, or, yet, so--remember the acronym FANBOYS) only if they
connect two independent clauses (a clause that is capable of
The weather cleared up, and we went to the park.
standing alone as a sentence).
Two independent clauses can also be joined by a semicolon as long
independent clause + conjunction + independent clause = comma before conjunction
as the clauses are closely related:
Jerry picked vegetables, and Bob mowed the lawn.
The boy raised his hand; he wanted to ask a question.
I did not bring an umbrella in the rain, nor did I wear a
Conjunctive adverbs can follow semicolons to show relationship
between two independent clauses. Examples of conjunctive
adverbs include: also, consequently, furthermore, hence, however, in fact,
moreover, nevertheless, now, on the other hand, otherwise, soon, therefore,
Do not put a comma before coordinating conjunctions
similarly, then, thus. For example:
(FANBOYS) if they connect an independent clause with a
dependent clause (a group of words that cannot stand alone as a
My alarm clock broke; therefore, I missed my first class.
Complex Sentences: A sentence containing one independent
independent clause + conjunction + dependent clause = no comma before conjunction
clause and one dependent clause can be written without any
punctuation when the independent clause comes first and the
The teacher scolded the boy for being late and sent him to
dependent clause comes second:
We watched the sky and hoped to see a shooting star.
[I watered the plant] [because it was dying.]
Put a comma after words, phrases, and clauses in a series.
An exception to this rule is when the dependent clause begins with
the words although, though, or even though. These words should have
Dogs, cats, and birds are common household pets. (words)
commas before them when the dependent clause comes after the
The hound ran down the hill, through the meadow, and
into the forest in pursuit of the rabbit. (prepositional
John continued playing, even though his mother told him to
When the weather warms up, when the snow is melted,
and when the roads are clear, school will be back in session.
(three dependent clauses followed by an independent clause)
When the dependent clause comes first, a comma is needed before
the independent clause:
Who vs. Whom
[When summer arrived,] [we went on vacation.]
When introducing a relative clause with who or whom, the choice
depends on whether the pronoun is in the subjective or objective
case. Subjective case pronouns act as subjects of sentences while
objective case pronouns act as objects of sentences.
Punctuating Restrictive & Nonrestrictive Clauses
Subjective Case Pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who
Restrictive Clause: When a dependent clause begins with a relative
pronoun such as that, which, who, whom, or whose, do not set if off by
She ate lunch. (she is the subject of the sentence)
commas if it is essential to the meaning of the sentence. For
Objective Case Pronouns: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom
The milk that is in the refrigerator is expired.
We saw him. (him is the object of the sentence)
To decide between who or whom, rephrase the clause as a sentence
Nonrestrictive Clause: When the relative clause introduces
information that is not essential to the sentence, set it off with
and substitute a different pronoun for who/whom.
I met the actor (who/whom) played in this movie.
The photograph, which is now faded, was taken in the 1930s.
Now rephrase the relative clause into a sentence by substituting
The relative clause “which is now faded” is nonrestrictive because it
who/whom with the correct pronoun:
can be taken out, and the sentence still makes sense and retains its
(He/him) played in this movie. (He played or Him played? He)
Who should be used in subjective case while whom should be used in
objective case. Since the pronoun he is a subjective pronoun, the
pronoun who should be used instead of the objective pronoun whom.
Correct: I met the actor who played in this movie.
Now decide whether to use who or whom in this sentence:
She is the girl (who/whom) I hired.
Rephrased: I hired her. (her is an objective case pronoun)
Correct: She is the girl whom I hired. (whom is used since it is
an objective case pronoun)