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Where to Put Comma Before or After But: Rules and Examples

Written by Helen Burgos
Posted: July 9, 2024
Last update date: July 19, 2024
3 min read

Need help with commas? Discover the correct placement of comma before or after but. See examples and guidelines in this article.

Comma before or after but

The placement of commas can occasionally cause misunderstandings in grammar and punctuation. Writers and editors frequently face the dilemma of putting a comma before or after but. This obviously trivial detail can significantly affect the meaning of a phrase and its structure. Luckily, now all of them can use a grammar checker.

Even so, to learn the inner workings of punctuation, let’s explore cases that illustrate the correct placement of a comma before or after but.

Comma Sense: When to Include a Comma Before But

Commas serve as tiny punctuation heroes providing our words a sense and direction. A widespread concern is how to use a comma before but.

Example 1: Contrasting Ideas

Putting a comma before but while contrasting two concepts in a sentence is necessary. Here are a few samples:

  • Anna studied all night, but she couldn’t remember anything.

The comma clarifies the line between intense study and memory loss.

  • He was tired, but he still managed to finish the marathon.

The comma highlights the opposition between his fatigue and his accomplishment of finishing the marathon.

Example 2: Joining Independent Clauses

Put a comma before but when joining two independent clauses (sentences that can stand alone) together. Check this illustration:

  • He worked hard, but he couldn’t finish the project.

The comma helps the reader understand that the two complete concepts are connected yet independent by dividing them into two sentences.

Example 3: Opening Statement or Clause

A comma is required when the word but follows an opening phrase or sentence.

  • In spite of his efforts, but he couldn’t win the race.
  • After a long day at work, but he still had to cook dinner.

The comma marks the end of prepositional phrases “In spite of his efforts” and “After a long day at work” and sets the reader for the main sentence.

Boost the impact and readability of your sentences by learning the easy punctuation rules above. Remember, fixing common grammar mistakes helps to improve your writing.

When to use a Comma After But?

Actually, there is only one situation when we can use a comma after but. The only scenario in which you should have a comma after but is if there is an interrupter. An interrupter is a word or phrase used to highlight or qualify what was said and to express mood or tone.

  • But, to her surprise, the restaurant was fully booked for the evening.
  • But, in the end, they got another dog.
  • But, without hesitation, he jumped at the opportunity to achieve his lifelong dream.
  • But, in a twist of fate, their paths crossed again years later, reigniting a long-lost connection.

No Comma Before or After But in Simple Terms

Commas are important, yet they are not always necessary when the word but is presented. Let’s review these simple principles for working with but without commas.

Bringing Together Independent and Dependent Clauses

No comma when using but is required when it joins an independent clause to a dependent clause. For the whole meaning, the dependent clause depends on the independent one. Think about the following instances with such a but usage:

  • He would have attended the concert, but for the severe illness.
  • They would have won the game, but for the contentious call by the referee.
  • She would have bought the outfit, but for its enormous price.

The second part cannot stand alone as a complete sentence in these cases, making it a dependent clause. As a result, leaving off the comma is the right move.

The Issue Is Resolved: A Comma When Using But

Bravo! Today, we set out to solve the comma puzzle of whether to place it before or after the word but. And now you know how to put a comma before and after but. Just keep in mind to place a comma before but whenever you want to join two independent sentences. The words will move naturally and make sense if you do this. You’ll quickly conquer punctuation errors if you remember this fundamental!

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