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When(in english) and the comma

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When(in english) and the comma

Postby datdo » Fri 12.01.2006 12:33 am

since nobody is up for making a topic...I, a native speaker, will.

When is there a comma before "when"? Is "I was waiting for the train, when I saw my friend." correct written english? How about "My favorite part of the book was when Maria died." I was just wondering this...
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby zengargoyle » Fri 12.01.2006 1:37 am

since you are a native speaker :)

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/commas.htm

i would think "I was waiting for the train, when I saw my friend." to be incorrect. no need for a comma, but to me it seems to be the case of extreme contrast.

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_comma.html

1. She was late for class, because her alarm clock was broken. (incorrect)
2. The cat scratched at the door, while I was eating. (incorrect)
3. She was still quite upset, although she had won the Oscar. (correct: extreme contrast)

the usage of a comma in this case is more like a dramatic pause... you only use it when the first part and the second part are far enough from each other that they become like the punchline of a joke.... so to me, this use of the comma is more like "i would pause here when speaking this sentence for dramatic effect" than any sort of hard grammatical rule.
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Zounoko » Fri 12.01.2006 1:47 am

Here's my opinion. I'll give what support I can for it, but I didn't find anything absolutely on point in Strunk and White or a couple of other places I checked.

I was waiting for the train, when I saw my friend.


I don't care for that comma. But the reason is a bit complicated.

If you had written:

I was waiting for the train when I saw my friend.

(without a comma) that would be both correct and straightforward. An equivalent sentence would be, "While I was waiting for the train, I saw my friend." In this case, "when" is used to say that the two things happened at the same time.

However, because you inserted that comma, my guess is you are saying something closer to "I was wating for the train, and then I saw my friend." That comma makes me feel that something changed at the moment you saw your friend.

To put it in technical terms, in my version of the sentence (without a comma), "when" is a subordinating conjunction doing its normal job of introducing a subordinate clause. You don't put a comma in front of a subordinate clause. If you *do* put a comma there, you are treating "when" as a coordinating conjunction, giving it the job of separating two independent clauses. There are lots of lists of coordinating conjunctions on the web. The ones I saw did not include "when," and there's a reason for that.

To my ear, this use of "when" is very informal and better suited to conversation than writing. If I were writing that first A and then B happened, "when" is not the conjunction I'd use to separate them.

Your second example

My favorite part of the book was when Maria died.


is interesting.

I'd analyze "when" in that case as a subordinating conjunction introducing a subordinate clause that functions as a noun. There's nothing wrong with it, and it certainly doesn't need a comma. But it still strikes me as being an informal construction.

That's my 2 cents worth.

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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby datdo » Fri 12.01.2006 2:16 am

"He hit the ball well, but he ran toward third base."


It took me a good minute before I realized that they used "but" because you're not supposed to run toward third base....

Some essays look as though the student loaded a shotgun with commas and blasted away


lol. I've seen many essays like that.

Give your instructor five dollars for each comma you use in an essay. Your instructor will return five dollars for each comma used correctly. You should come out even. This technique for cutting down on unwanted commas has been heartily endorsed by every English instructor who has tried it.


Teachers endorse it because they make a profit off of their student's mistakes....

Anyway, back on subject, I noticed that for Microsoft Word *says* that you must have a comma before "when" when it is used as a conjuction for two independant clauses...maybe
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Zounoko » Fri 12.01.2006 2:30 am

Anyway, back on subject, I noticed that for Microsoft Word *says* that you must have a comma before "when" when it is used as a conjuction for two independant clauses...maybe


This makes sense.

If you want to combine two independent clauses into a single sentence, you put a comma and a coordinating conjunction between them. If you are determined to use "when" as a coordinating conjunction, then you need that comma.
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Tspoonami » Fri 12.01.2006 6:44 pm

In places where I would pause in speech, I write a comma.

普通、話のちょっと待つ時にはcommaが書きます。
Sometimes I think that I'm afraid of thinking, and that scares me.
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby coco » Fri 12.01.2006 9:06 pm

datdo wrote:
Mike Cash wrote:
y0ungkwang wrote:
Do you want grammatical corrections? If so, there is always a comma before "which" if you use "that" you don't need a comma.



Please don't tell such bogus misinformation to someone who might take it seriously.


no he is right...in a way. "Which" always has a comma before when it is used as a conjunction<sp> for two phrases that can be sentences separately.


datdo wrote:
I kill cats which is bad. == bad(need comma)
I kill cats, that kill humans. == bad( comma never with" that")
I kill cats. The people do not like it. == ok but can be better.
I kill cats, which the people do not like. == good(and true unfortunately. jk)

From this thread.

Would you please explain more about this? or should it be new thread?
--
tjd wrote:
Now to add more confusion to the debate:

"Use commas to set of nonrestrictive elements. Do not use commas to set off restrictive elements. . . Because it contains essential information, a restrictive element is not set off with commas.

Restrictive: For camp the children needed clothes that were washable.

A nonrestictive element describes a noun or pronoun whose meaning has already been clearly defined or limited. Because it contains nonessential or parenthetical information, a nonrestrictive element is set off with commas.

Nonrestrictive: For camp the children needed sturdy shoes, which were expensive.

NOTE: Use "that" only with restictive clauses. Many writers prefer to use "which" only with nonrestrictive clauses, but usage varies"

-The Bedford Handbook sixth edition by Diana Hacker. (dianahacker.com/bedhandbook)

Appearantly it's not a question of using "that" or "which", but is instead a question of whether or not the clause is restrictive.
Last edited by coco on Mon 12.04.2006 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby zengargoyle » Fri 12.01.2006 10:36 pm

datdo wrote:
Anyway, back on subject, I noticed that for Microsoft Word *says* that you must have a comma before "when" when it is used as a conjuction for two independant clauses...maybe


never trust Microsoft Word. it's so notoriously bad that certain linguists have made a little game out of finding mistakes in written articles that can be tied directly back to the grammar check feature of Microsoft Word. :)


coco wrote:
datdo wrote:
Mike Cash wrote:
y0ungkwang wrote:
Do you want grammatical corrections? If so, there is always a comma before "which" if you use "that" you don't need a comma.


Please don't tell such bogus misinformation to someone who might take it seriously.


no he is right...in a way. "Which" always has a comma before when it is used as a conjunction<sp> for two phrases that can be sentences separately.



on which vs. that, i fall into the group that believes that the choice of word (that or which) and the use of the comma as punctuation are two seperate things that various style guides and teachers have wrongly *squished* into a single rule.

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/002124.html
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/002146.html
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002531.html
http://www.languagehat.com/archives/002125.php

all of these links have very interesting analysis of the 'which or that and comma or not' dilema. along with various snarks about the grammar checker of Microsoft Word. :)

(both languagelog and languagehat are fantastic blogs if you're interested in odd grammar or linguistics. i visit them once every couple of weeks or so and end up spending hours reading... because they are *that* interesting).

The only case of which I have direct knowledge occurred in 1972.
The only case, of which I have direct knowledge, occurred in 1972.

the comma as punctuation is what marks a restrictive or nonrestrictive clause. if you have commas, it's a nonrestrictive clause.
A tackle, which endangers the safety of an opponent, must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

this following of the "rule" that you use a comma with 'which' transforms the meaning of this sentence into: "A tackle must be sanctioned as a serious foul play." or the incorrect analysis that "A tackle endangers the safety of an opponent and therefore must be sanctioned as a serious foul play."

however: "A tackle which endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as a serious foul play." is just peachy.

to say that one should use 'that' instead of 'which' is one of those things that sounds like a good idea, but there are enough cases where 'which' can not be replaced with 'that' to make it a guideline and not a rule.

from http://www.languagehat.com/archives/000809.php, a good quote from 1906:
... This ignoramus, in bunching his points at the end of his book, intimated two truths{ne, that punctuation is, to a large extent at least, a personal matter; the other that punctuation may be good without being scientific.


so i'm with Mike Cash on this one. the 'rules' of various Style Guides in requiring a comma before 'which' or changing 'which' to 'that', are erroneous in their simplicity. there is no hard rule, the comma carries the "restrictiveness", not the combination of 'comma and "which or that"'.
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Zounoko » Fri 12.01.2006 11:44 pm

In what Zengargoyle wrote, I agree with this:
the comma carries the "restrictiveness", not the combination of 'comma and "which or that"'.


But I'd like to see an example of this:
there are enough cases where 'which' can not be replaced with 'that' ...


In restrictive clauses?? I doubt it. But give me some examples and I could be persuaded.

That said, I feel strongly that putting a comma before a restrictive clause is highly annoying to me as a reader. So is omitting the one before (and after, if needed) a nonrestrictive clause. In both cases, it sometimes forces me to reread the sentence to figure out what the author intended, which is the worst thing a writer can do to me.

By comparison, mixing up which and that is trivial. Still, some writers seem to have decided to just use which in every case, probably because they can't tell a restrictive clause from a jackhammer. It comes off sounding pretentious at best and ignorant at worst, and that's probably the reason for the rule about never using which in a restrictive clause.

As for Tspoonami's comment that
In places where I would pause in speech, I write a comma.


I wish you luck with that. Most people I know who say that end up using commas badly. But there are a few who seem to have internalized the rules rather than learning them, and maybe you're one.

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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby zengargoyle » Sat 12.02.2006 12:47 am

Zounoko wrote:
In what Zengargoyle wrote, I agree with this:
the comma carries the "restrictiveness", not the combination of 'comma and "which or that"'.


But I'd like to see an example of this:
there are enough cases where 'which' can not be replaced with 'that' ...


In restrictive clauses?? I doubt it. But give me some examples and I could be persuaded.


there's one in my post... :)

'that' can not be used with a preposition.

The only case of which I have direct knowledge occurred in 1972.
The only case, of which I have direct knowledge, occurred in 1972.


you can not replace either the restrictive or the nonrestrictive version of 'which' with 'that'.

* The only case of that I have direct knowledge occured in 1972.

such a jumble would require: "The only case that i have knowledge of occured in 1972." which is forbidden by the same Style Guide that says "replace 'which' with 'that'." the same generally holds for other 'wh-???' words, "who", "what", "when", "where", "why", ...

when the utterance holds the questionability of a 'wh-???' word are the cases when a substitution of 'than' for 'which' would not hold.

now you could go down the road that there are utterances that can not be transcribed into a written form having proper grammar and/or structure. then you would find that there are things that can be said that can not be written, which is just too sad to consider.
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Zounoko » Sat 12.02.2006 3:02 am

Zengargoyle: -- Yeah, I saw that when I went and read the blog. There definitely is a class of restrictive clauses that cannot use "that." Thanks for pointing it out.

That said, I still prefer "that" for restrictive and "which" for nonrestrictive clauses as a rule of thumb. 

But it occurs to me that cocoさん and other Japanese speakers might be somewhat confused about the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. I say that because when I look in my dictionaries under "which" I find a mishmash of examples using restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.

Also, I am not 100% sure I know how to express a nonrestrictive clause in Japanese.

A restrictive clause is easy:

The movie (that) I saw was good.
私が見た映画は楽しい。

Nonrestrictive though...
That movie, which I saw, is good.
? あの映画は私が見たが楽しい。
? あの映画は私が見て楽しい。

Those are guesses based on the nonrestrictive-clause 例文 I saw in the dictionaries I consulted.

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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby coco » Mon 12.04.2006 1:38 am

Zen-san Zounoko-san thanks for explanation.
I have never seen the words such as "nonrestrictive clause(非制限節)"or "restrictive clause(制限節)" before.

To me, it seems to take more than (at least) 5 years to understand the difference between "which" and "that".

I feel as if I was 5 years child, who got lost in front of an university.
----

英語を勉強している方、教えている方へ。

なんちゃって和訳に挑戦してみます。
非制限節は、翻訳サイトに現れるようにカッコ書きでいいのでしょうか。
That movie, which I saw, is good.
あの映画(こないだ見たやつ)は、いいよ。
晋三, who won the lottery, is my uncle.
晋三さん(この間、宝くじを当てた)は、私の叔父です。

A tackle, which endangers the safety of an opponent, must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

非制限節だと 
タックル(対戦相手の安全を脅かすもの)は、深刻な反則だと認められるに違いない。
これが制限節だと A tackle that endangers 〜. になって  
対戦相手の安全を脅かすタックルは、深刻な反則(だ)と認められるに違いない。
という感じなのでしょうか。意味そのものが間違ってますか。
会話の場合には、話す前に不要かどうか選別してるんですかね。
「どっちでもいいことだけど」的付け加えなのでしょうか。謎。
is just peachy
peachy …これも新鮮(笑)。

というわけで、私には難易度が高すぎる質問をしてしまい手に負えなくなってきましたが、この件に関して、質問を続けたい方は、どうぞ続けてくださいませ。

英語教育に携わっている方には以下のPDFがおもしろそうです。
やはり時代とともに、変わるものですね。浦島太郎の気分。
http://sizcol1.u-shizuoka-ken.ac.jp/~ki ... 3_1_03.pdf
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Mon 12.04.2006 10:09 am

Zounoko: In Japanese there is no syntactic or grammatical difference between a restrictive and a nonrestrictive relative clause. I think that's why Japanese speakers find them difficult in English. (You can construct artificial Japanese sentences that show the difference but they don't result in natural Japanese).

"A tackle, which endangers the safety of an opponent, must be sanctioned as serious foul play."
非制限節だと 
タックル(対戦相手の安全を脅かすもの)は、深刻な反則だと認められるに違いない。
これが制限節だと A tackle that endangers 〜. になって  
対戦相手の安全を脅かすタックルは、深刻な反則(だ)と認められるに違いない。
という感じなのでしょうか。意味そのものが間違ってますか。


I think you're right. If you have the commas in the sentence, the meaning is that all tackles are considered foul play -- the "which endangers the safety of an opponent" is just providing the reason why, and is not an essential part of the sentence. Basically in a clause like this, you can remove it and still be left with a good sentence ("A tackle must be sanctioned...")

But if it were "A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned..." the meaning would be that most tackles are fine, but that *only* tackles that endanger the safety of an opponent are illegal. In this case the clause cannot be taken out.

In speech we represent this by pausing before the commas.
-Chris Kern
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RE: When(in english) and the comma

Postby Zounoko » Mon 12.04.2006 11:04 am

-> cocoさん -- Thanks for that link. I read a bit of it last night, but was too tired to get very far. I'll definitely read it in more depth soon.

In Japanese there is no syntactic or grammatical difference between a restrictive and a nonrestrictive relative clause.


Can you provide any source for that, Yudan-san, or is it from your own observation. Not a challenge -- a question.

In any case, it seems to me that restrictive clauses are easy to understand for everyone. The issue is nonrestrictive ones. So I've been thinking about it.

First, it seems to me that nonrestrictive clauses are primarily a written form. Yeah, we might say them on occasion, but their native habitat, as it were, is writing, especially formal writing. (This is in contrast to restrictive clauses which are perfectly at home even in informal speech, as in "That's the cat that was in the... I mean, you know, the one I told you about?")

A nonrestrictive clause is a way of folding two sentences together. Datdo had it right when he (she?) gave the two examples:

I kill cats. The people do not like it. == ok but can be better.
I kill cats, which the people do not like.


Like any other sentence, the sentence folded in should have a purpose. Say I combine the sentences:

The human brain weighs, on average, 3 pounds.
The human brain consumes about 25% of a resting person's energy intake.

Obviously the reason for the first sentence is to make a contrast with the second and give a feel for the disparity between the brain's size and importance. I could combine them in various ways, for instance:

The human brain weighs, on average, 3 pounds, but it consumes about 25% of a resting person's energy intake.

The human brain, which weighs, on average, 3 pounds, consumes ...

The reason for writing the sentence one way vs. the other would be to vary the sentence structure to make a piece of writing less monotonous.

Keeping that in mind, let's look at one of coco-san's examples.

晋三, who won the lottery, is my uncle.


This is the sort of thing that could be either a restrictive or nonrestrictive clause, depending on the conversational context.

A. Do you know 晋三-san?
B. 晋三-san? (1) If you mean 晋三-san who won the lottery, he's my uncle.

That's a restrictive clause.

To make it non-restrictive in a sensible way... hmm. OK.

"I'm really lucky. Everybody in my family is lucky. My grandparents were supposed to be vacationing in Phuket when the tsunami hit, but they had to cancel their plans. (2) And 晋三-san, who just won the hundred-million-yen lottery, is my uncle."

Of course that last sentence could also be written:

"(3) And my uncle 晋三-san just won the hundred-million-yen lottery."

The reason to choose version (2) might be that 晋三-san had received lots of newspaper coverage, so that everyone knows who he is. If I don't expect my listener to recognize the name 晋三-san, I would probably choose version (3).

I hope that clarifies things a little.

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RE: カンマと非制限節

Postby coco » Tue 12.05.2006 7:15 am

Yudan-Taitekiさん。Zounoko さん。ご説明、ありがとうございます
非制限節と制限節について、やはり理解できていませんでした。
最初は口語的挿入かと思いましたが、そうでもなさそうですね。
どんどん難しくなってくる。

お二人の説明を分かる範囲で解釈すると、
「なんちゃって和訳」を少し変えた方がよさそうに思えてきました。

・非制限節
A tackle, which endangers the safety of an opponent, must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

タックルは深刻な反則と認められるに違いない。対戦相手の安全を脅かすから。(付け足し情報)

・制限節
A tackle that endangers 〜.
対戦相手の安全を脅かすあのタックルは、深刻な反則だと認められるに違いない。 (限定を強調した形)
にすると、いいのかな? これだと that が「あの」として機狽オそうですね。

(制限節・非制限節の前に、そもそも意味が合ってるかどうか大いに疑問。間違いがあれば、どなたでも遠慮なくご指摘ください)

カンマと非制限節(まさに今回のテーマ)に関して
比較的分かりやすい説明がありました。
http://eng.alc.co.jp/newsbiz/hinata/2005/06/post_63.html
比較的分かりやすいだけで、理解にはほど遠いのですが。

nonrestrictive clauses とrestrictive clauses の関係は
不定冠詞 a と 定冠詞 the の関係に 発想として似ているように思えますが、
どうなんでしょう…。
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