Never give up; it's such a wonderful life. (rane_ab) wrote in punctuators,
Never give up; it's such a wonderful life.
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punctuators

Comma or semi-colon?

Should it be:

Harry fancies that if he keeps really, really quiet, he can hear the wind outside, [...].

Or:

Harry fancies that if he keeps really, really quiet; he can hear the wind outside, [...].

I always thought you should use a comma when faced with an if-clause, but I'm not sure whether to use a semi-colon anyway because of the "really, really quiet" bit.

Help, please?
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No, it shouldn't be a semicolon there -- you'll be breaking up the idea of the sentence if you do. I think you might be confusing the instance in which you replace a comma with a semicolon in a list because the list items already have commas (e.g. Montreal, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; and Calgary, Alberta), but "he can hear the wind outside" isn't part of a list.
Oops! Forgot to change my default icon to something a little nicer! Don't let the Doctor get you down.
*laughs* I don't mind the doctor too much, since I don't know him. (I'll just assume he's being snarky in a humorous way. ;) )

Thanks for your help, you've reassured me! :D
Comma.
Thanks!
Personally, I probably wouldn't use anything there:

Harry fancies that if he keeps really, really quiet he can hear the wind outside, [...].

I looked on several sites and couldn't find anything that said that there should be a comma in this case. The closest I found to something saying *not* to use a comma was this page, which says:

Commas do not set off subordinate clauses unless some specific comma rule applies, namely they are clauses in a series, or the clauses are functioning as appositives, nonrestrictive modifiers, or introductory adverb clauses.

Incorrect: He told me that I had better come, so that they would avoid serious trouble.
(Not a series. Not an appositive, nonrestrictive modifier, or introductory adverb clause.)

Correct: He told me that I had better come so that they would avoid serious trouble.


But I think it's unclear enough that you could get away with a comma if you'd rather. Definitely not a semi-colon, though.
Course, the quoted rule (Commas do not set off subordinate clauses unless some specific comma rule applies, namely they are clauses in a series, or the clauses are functioning as appositives, nonrestrictive modifiers, or introductory adverb clauses.) is a grammatical mess anyway, so.

But no to the original question; that gets a comma, not a semi-colon.
Hee, I hoped thought as much.

Thanks for your help! :-)
OK, I did find this page, which says:
Use a comma after dependent clauses beginning with one of the following words: although, when, as, because, while, though, if, since.

So it looks like, yes, a comma is necessary. You I learn something new every day....
*laughs*

Isn't there a difference between British and American English regarding comma's, too? At least I seem to recall such a discussion. I also seem to recall people couldn't agree on much. *g*

But thanks very much for all your help and research! It's most appreciated! :D
I'm bad at remembering rules that involve trigger words, I only knew that you should (but don't necessarily have to, I believe) put a comma if the 'natural' order of a sentence (independent clause -> dependent clause) is reversed or otherwise changed.

I've noticed that lately, more and more people make the "mistake" of leaving the comma out, and it annoys me a lot :) because I don't get the meaning of a sentence immediately if that's the case; I have to re-read it in order to be able to process it (the function of the comma in these structures is, after all, that of a separator.. it's a means of improving readability.)

I don't mind missing commas as much if an introductory element is very short (like.. three words or less), but if it's longer, my brain won't register the transition from subordinate clause to main clause, and I'll end up confused. :) I, personally, love commas, and I try to use them whenever/wherever that's possible. Unfortunately for me though, I've become so used to the comma rules in English that I can't set them correctly in German anymore (which bothers me. A lot. Not only because I find it embarrassing, but also because I was once perfect at German grammar and spelling. Gah.)
Heh. I'm so used to French and Dutch, which, like German, has pretty solid rules where inserting comma's is concerned. English, with its loose comma rules, makes the mind boggle. I generally tend to use comma's when they feel right (which, I think, mostly means I apply the French comma-rules, since English sentence-structure is more similar to French than Dutch). :p Usually I end up with a text laden with comma's, and I have to go over the sentences one by one afterwards, checking which comma's I could possibly erase without compromising the meaning of the sentence. I wonder if there is another language out there with as vague comma-rules as English. :-)

In any case, thanks for your opinion on the matter! :o)