Prepositional Phrases

When a short prepositional phrase is a simple adverb, it is never punctuated based on essential/nonessential. When it is an adverb, it usually takes no punctuation since adverbs get to wander around in the sentence.

…On Monday we visited her in the hospital.
…We visited her in the hospital on Monday.
…We visited her on Monday in the hospital.

There are times when a prepositional phrase is very interruptive and needs commas for readability.

Happy punctuating!


Punctuate the Fragment the Same As…

Punctuate a fragment that stands for a complete thought the same way you would punctuate the complete thought that it stands for.

…Q Where was he?
…A At the beach. He was alone.
…A He was at the beach. He was alone.

Punctuation for the word “correct?” falls into this category. It is punctuated the same as “is that correct?” It takes a semicolon in front of it.

…He was there at 5:00; is that correct?
…He was there at 5:00; correct?

Happy punctuating!


“If” Clause

When the “if” clause at the end of the sentence is a modifier for a word in the main clause, there is no comma.
…I will go if I can scrape the money together.
…She will call if she gets there before 9:00.
When the “if” clause is not directly related to the content of the sentence — which is often the case when it is reflecting a personal opinion — there is a comma.
…He is going to go on for a higher degree, if you can believe that.
…She will send it to you tomorrow, if you so desire.

Happy punctuating!


“Sometime/Some Time”


Often the grammar of the sentence determines the one-word/two-word difference for the word sometime.

If it is the object of a preposition, it has to be two words.

…for some time…
…at some time…

In these expressions, the word time is the main noun. You cannot say “ago” or “back” by themselves. So you need two words.

…some time ago…
…some time back…

Often when you can remove the word some, you want two words because time is the main word.

…I spent some time with her last week.
…There was some time between the two visits.

Sometime, as one word, means an indefinite POINT in time; some time, as two words, means an indefinite PERIOD of time.

…We left sometime later.
…I will see you sometime after she leaves for work.

Happy punctuating!


“Different From” or “Different Than”

The word “than” always involves a comparison form — either an “er” on a word or the words “more” or “less.” It can only compare.

…larger than that…
…louder than I thought…
…wiser than I…

…more comfortable than that one…
…more appropriate than what he said…
…more suitable than what she chose…

Since “different” has no comparison form, it has to be “different from.”

Happy punctuating!


Upcoming CSR/RPR English Prep Class

Need to brush up on English for an upcoming exam? Here is a five-hour review class, covering all of the salient points of grammar and punctuation with plenty of practice material — the first two Saturdays of May.

More information and registration here:

Happy punctuating!


Spotting Dependent Clauses, Part 2

Though there are some nuances I am omitting here, picking out a dependent clause is about finding the subject and verb and then checking for a word out in the front that goes with that subject and verb.

The thing that makes this a bit easier is that there are really a limited number of words that start dependent clauses:

relative pronouns: who, whom, whose, which, that
subordinate conjunctions: after, before, until, unless, if, as, as if, as though, when, where, whether, because, since (and some others)

Here are some samples of dependent clauses:

…that he is here…
…when we arrived at the house…
…because there were so few left…
…who is coming here tonight…
…though I am not sure of the date…

There is much to learn about these clauses. I will be giving a four-hour seminar later this year on how to find clauses and what to do with them once you find them.

Happy punctuating.


Spotting Dependent Clauses, Part 1…

The difference between a dependent clause and a prepositional phrase is that the clause has a subject and a verb.

…We will meet after dinner. (phrase)
…We will meet after we eat. (clause)

…I have not seen him since Friday. (phrase)
…I have not seen him since we met in Barcelona. (clause)

The difference between a dependent clause and an independent clause (a sentence) is that a dependent clause has a word out in front of it that keeps it from standing alone.

…He left early. (independent clause)
…because he left early (dependent clause)
…whether he left early (dependent clause)
…if he left early (dependent clause)

So when you are looking for dependent clauses, you are looking for one of these intro words and a subject and a verb.

To be continued…

Happy punctuating!