2

In English, I can never remember where to put the comma when using the conjunction word, but.

For example:

  1. I'd like to stay home and read a book, but I need to pick up some cat food.

  2. Jenny asked not once, not twice, but three times to see the open house that weekend.

  3. But where is Godot?

I'm pretty sure the first example is right. Can anybody confirm the different comma configurations of the 'but' in the second and third?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjunction_(grammar)

This helps, but not sure they covered the correct comma placement.

  • Both answers below are great. I think Thomas does a little better job at explaining the proper grammar for consistent conjunctions, and Olin provides a nice follow up example. Gonna accept Thomas' because I think he may have posted first. Please lemme know if I am wrong. Thanks! – 4m1r May 10 '16 at 21:01
  • In the spirit of fairness, we were both answering at the same time. Olin managed to get his out first. – Thomas Myron May 10 '16 at 21:49
5

The first and second examples are correct. The third example is actually more of a sentence fragment. If you are presenting it like it is written in, say, dialogue, then no comma is necessary, unless of course you wish to show a pause (As though you wrote "But" he said "where is Godot?"). If you wrote "I know where ______ is, but where is Godot?" then the comma would be required. Otherwise, it would be best to present it simply as "Where is Godot?". Hope that answers your question.

  • 2
    It's probably worth pointing out that the third example ("But where is Godot?") heavily implies that more was said before, in turn making the fragment an informal extension of the sentence said before it. It's almost an example of dialogical in medias res. – Neil Fein May 10 '16 at 0:27
5

The word 'but' follows the same rules as any other conjunction, just like 'and' or 'or'. It's a word that joins two phrases.

All of your examples are correct. The first phrase ends with a comma, and the second phrase starts with the conjunction. Your first two sentences follow this rule perfectly. There is no comma in the third sentence, and as far as I know, neither should there be.

Based on your wording, you might be thinking that the word 'but' requires a comma at all times. It does not. Treat it like any other conjunction.

  • 1
    Perhaps one should add the third example works because it's a question (or if it were an exclamation!). – Stu W May 10 '16 at 16:40

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