Description: In this short video, we will cover the usage of the common punctuation, the comma (,) on the GMAT.
Use of Comma on GMAT
In this brief article we will cover the usage of the common punctuation, the comma (,) on the GMAT. Understanding the correct usages of the comma will go a long way towards helping you identify incorrect answer choices and parse the meaning of sentences on GMAT sentence correction.
1. Used to Separate Items in a List
The most common usage of the comma is to separate elements in a list. To understand this concept, please take a look at the following example.
Example 1 – Rose can speak English, French, and German.
Here, the sentence conveys that “Rose” can speak three languages, and the list of these languages is “English, French, and German”. Additionally, please remember that since this is a list of more than two elements, there is a comma after the second last element; this comma is called the oxford comma.
2. Used to Join Two Independent Clauses
Commas can also be used alongside one of the FANBOYS conjunctions to join two independent clauses. These FANBOYS conjunctions are seven coordinating conjunctions, “for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so”. To understand this concept, please take a look at the following example.
Example 2 –Jack has great soccer skills, and he is a great team man.
Here, “Jack has great soccer skills” and “he is a great team man” are two independent clauses and have been joined by a comma followed by the conjunction “and”.
3. Used to Join a Dependent Clause and an Independent Clause
Commas can be used to link a dependent clause with an independent clause. To understand this concept, please consider the following example.
Example 3 – Because Henry is conscious about his fitness, he swims everyday.
Here, “Because Henry is conscious about his fitness” is a dependent clause, and “he swims everyday” is an independent clause; this means that the two can be joined with just a comma. Please remember, a comma is not strong enough to join two independent clauses, but it is strong enough to join an independent clause to a dependent clause.
4. Used to Link a Modifying Phrase and its Relevant Noun
A critical concept on the GMAT, a comma can be used to link a modifying phrase to the noun it modifies. To better understand this important concept, please take a look at the following example.
Example 4 – Conscious about fitness, Henry swims everyday.
Here, “Conscious about fitness” is a modifying phrase, and it will refer to the noun that comes after the comma, “Henry”. The reverse is also true; if the noun comes first and the modifying phrase follows the comma, this concept still holds true; phrase will modify the noun before the comma.
5. Used to Show a Cause – Effect Relationship
A comma can be used to show cause-effect relationships. This is another important GMAT concept; to understand it better, please take a look at the following example.
Example 5 – Scientists discovered a vaccine, putting an end to the epidemic.
Here, “Scientists discovered a vaccine” is a cause, and “putting an end to the epidemic” is an effect; the comma plays the role of establishing this cause-effect relationship. See, the introduction of the present participle (“verb+ing” – “putting” in this case) after a comma, generally leads to a cause-effect relationship.
We can flip the structure of this sentence, as well. Please take a look.
Example 6 – Discoveringa vaccine , scientists put an end to the epidemic.
Here, you have the present participle in the cause part. So, the sentence takes the form of “cause + comma + effect”, which is equally valid. In the first case, the effect had the present participle, and in the second the cause has the present participle, either way, the comma plays of showing a cause-effect relationship.
Imagine, if the comma could not be used in this fashion, many more words would be needed to convey the same meaning. The above sentence would have to be written along the lines of “Scientists discovered a vaccine, and as a result, put an end to the epidemic. “ These extra words can be avoided by simply utilizing the construction “comma + present participle”. So, the usage of a comma to show a cause-effect relationship is a very important one.
This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to the Experts’ Global Stage One Sentence Correction videos.