A simple sentence just has one subject and verb and is called an independent clause. He will stay home, is an independent clause, so we need to put the comma in front of or. In the last sentence, Paul will go to a movie or stay home, do we have a subject after the conjunction?
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This lesson is on conjunctions and how to punctuate sentences that have conjunctions in them. First, you need to remember three types of sentences in English. A simple sentence just has one subject and verb and is called an independent clause. A compound sentence is made up of two simple sentences, or two independent clauses. Those two independent clauses are joined together and one way to join them is with a conjunction, like and, and a comma. A complex sentence has one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Here are the conjunctions that we’re talking about in this lesson. These are called coordinate conjunctions, and there are seven of them. And, but, or, nor, yet, so, and for. Those conjunctions help us to connect things. In the first sentence here, Sam and Pete washed their faces. Sam and Pete is the subject and they are connected with the conjunction and. In the next sentence, Sam washed his face but not his hair. But, is the conjunction and this is joining face and hair. In the next sentence, The computer is old and broken. The conjunction, and, is joining the two adjectives, old and broken. In the next sentence, We will go to the park or the market. Or, is the conjunction, and it’s joining the two parts, the park, and the market, both of which are nouns. In the last sentence, She bought apples, pears, and grapes. Here we have three nouns and we are connecting them with the conjunction, and. Notice in the first sentence we had two nouns, Sam and Pete, and we had the conjunction and. We don’t use a comma because there are only two nouns joined. In the last sentence, we have apples, pears, and grapes. Because we have three or more nouns, we do use commas between each one. And you should notice that all of these sentences are simple sentences. Simple sentences don’t use a lot of commas. Now let’s look at compound sentences. Here we’re using conjunctions to joins two sentences instead of two words. In the first sentence, Ben washed his face, and he combed his hair. Our first sentence or independent clause is, Ben washed his face. The other independent clause is, he combed his hair. Both of those are simple sentences and they could stand alone by themselves. But we’re joining them to make a compound sentence. And we used the conjunction, and. When we join two independent clauses with, and, we must put a comma in front of and. Look at the next sentence. Again we have two independent clauses. The first one, Jeff ate an apple. The other simple sentence is, Alex ate a pizza. We’re joining them with the conjunction, but. So we must put a comma in front of but. The next one, The bank is closed, is our first simple sentence. We can’t cash the check is our other simple sentence. And here we’re joining them with a conjunction, so. Again, we put a comma before that conjunction. And finally, There was no air conditioning, is the first sentence. We were cool is the second sentence. And we’re joining these two sentences with the conjunction, yet. So we put a comma in front of the conjunction. Here we have four compound sentences. And notice that they all have a conjunction with a comma in front. Here are some other examples. Each of these has two sentences joined with a conjunction, and a comma in front of the conjunction. One thing I want to point out, if you’re wondering, how do I know if I have two sentences? After the conjunction you should have a full sentence a complete sentence. So we have, Matt read a book. That is a complete sentence because Matt is the subject and read is the verb. That’s why we need to put a comma in front of and. Look at the next one. After the conjunction we have, Julie rides a bike. If you’re not sure that’s a complete sentence, take it by itself and find the subject and verb. Julie is the subject. Rides is the verb. So that is a complete sentence. Because it’s a complete sentence, we put that comma in front of but. And on the third one, after or, we have, he will stay home. He is a subject. Will stay is the verb. That is a complete sentence. So now I have to put that comma in from of or. And on the last sentence, I tried to bake a cake, yet I failed. What do we have after yet? We have the subject, I, and the verb, failed. That’s a sentence, it’s very short but it has a subject and a verb. So that is our second independent clause. And we need to put the comma in front of yet. Now, if I did not have a subject after the conjunction, I would not have a compound sentence, and I would not put a comma with the conjunction. Look at these sentences and you’ll understand. In the first one, James did his homework, and Matt read a book. We already said this is a compound sentence and that’s why we have to put that comma in front of and. We knew it’s a compound sentence because we had the subject Matt after the conjunction. But in the next sentence, James did his homework and read a book. After the conjunction, and, do we have a subject? No, because it’s the same subject as the beginning of the sentence James. This, and, is just connecting two verbs. So this is not a compound sentence, and it does not use a comma. This is just a simple sentence with a compound verb. Look at the next pair. Amy walks to school, but Julie rides a bike. Again, we have the subject Julie after the conjunction, so we put the comma before but. That’s a compound sentence. But in the next sentence, Amy walks to school but drives to work, this is not a compound sentence because it doesn’t have two independent clauses. It only has one subject, Amy, and the two verbs, walks and drives. So do not put a comma in front of but in this sentence. And look at the last pair. Paul will go to a movie, or he will stay home. After the conjunction, or, we have the subject, he. He will stay home, is an independent clause, so we need to put the comma in front of or. In the last sentence, Paul will go to a movie or stay home, do we have a subject after the conjunction? No, we don’t. After, or, we just have a verb, so this is not a compound sentence. Our subject is Paul and the compound verb is, will go, or, stay. And that makes a simple sentence, and we don’t need to put a comma. Now check your understanding. Pause the video and decide if these sentences need to use a comma or not. Write them on your paper and put the comma in the correct place. Some of the sentences don’t need any commas. Again, pause the video while you do this exercise. Check your answers now. You’ll see the commas in red. Notice number one didn’t use a comma because it just had a compound noun. It’s a simple sentence with a compound noun. The second sentence used commas. It’s a simple sentence, but remember, if we have a series of three items or more we have to use commas. So we used them here. The third sentence does not use a comma. It does not have two sentences. If you look after, and, there’s no subject. Number four, also doesn’t use a comma. Because again, after but, there’s no subject. This is another simple sentence with a compound verb. On the fifth sentence, there’s still no comma. Because again, after the conjunction, there’s no subject. There’s no independent clause after that conjunction. This is just a simple sentence with a compound verb. The next sentence we have a comma. We have the independent clause, The bus was late. And then after the conjunction, we have another independent clause, I decided to take a taxi to work. That’s a complete sentence. It has a subject, I, so we do need to put a comma in front of the conjunction. The last two sentences also do not have commas. Did you get tricked on the last sentence after the conjunction, and? We had, then, but then is not a subject. So you should not put a comma there. Let’s review. Remember, you don’t use commas when you have only two nouns or only two verbs or only two adjectives. You do use commas when you have a series with three or more items. So that could be three nouns or three adjectives or five verbs, then you would use a comma. You would put a comma after each item. And you do use a comma when you have two simple sentences. We can call them two independent clauses joined with a conjunction. That makes a compound sentence, and you do need a comma before the conjunction. Watch the video again or do some practice exercises.
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