Comma Usage Practice Questions

1. Stephen was away at camp, but we met his mother, father, sister, and brother.
A. Stephen, was away
B. was away, at camp
C. sister and brother
D. No error

2. They lived in a large rambling house across the street from the school.

A. across the street, from
B. rambling, house
C. large, rambling
D. No error

3. He was a sickly underdeveloped baby.
A. underdeveloped, baby
B. sickly, underdeveloped
C. He was, a sickly
D. No error

4. Will you John be willing to take on this project?
A. Will you, John, be
B. Will you, John be
C. Will you John, be
D. No error

5. We are as you may be aware very excited about the upcoming renovations.
A. We are as you may be aware, very
B. We are, as you may be aware, very
C. We are, as you may be aware very
D. No error

6. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., had two sons named Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King, III.

A. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., had two sons named Dexter Scott King, and Martin Luther King, III.
B. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had two sons named Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King, III.
C. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. had two sons named Dexter Scott King and Martin Luther King III.
D. No error

7. I liked the colors blue and green and red was Doug’s favorite.
A. blue, and green and red
B. blue, and green, and red
C. blue and green, and red
D. No error

8. You can help me with this, can’t you?
A. You can, help me
B. You can help me, with this
C. You can help me with this can’t you?
D. No error

9. She said, “How do you do?”
A. She said “How do you do?”
B. She said “How, do you do?”
C. She said “How do, you do?”
D. No error

10. He considered the proposal, but did not actually adopt it.

A. He considered, the proposal but did not actually adopt it.
B. He considered the proposal but did not actually adopt it.
C. He considered the proposal but, did not actually adopt it.
D. No error

Answers – Comma Usage

1. D: This sentence is punctuated correctly. Commas are used to separate items in a series of three or more words or word groups. Using a comma to separate the subject and the verb is incorrect. Separating the adverb (“away”) from the prepositional phrase (“at camp”), which both modify the verb “was” and indicate where, is incorrect. Omitting the last comma before “and brother” makes the meaning of the sentence unclear. It makes it seem as though the sister and brother are a single entity.

2. C: When using two adjectives that could have “and” between them (“large and rambling”), separate the adjectives with a comma. If “and” cannot be inserted, no comma is used. Consider the sentence “They own an expensive summer home.” You would not say “They own an expensive and summer home.” “Across the street from” is a prepositional phrase modifying the noun “house.” It indicates where and provides a connection to “the school.” Interrupting this phrase with a comma is incorrect. The adjectives modify the noun “house.” There is no reason to put a comma between “rambling” and “house.”

3. B: When an adjective ending in “–ly” is used together with one or more adjectives, separate it from the other adjective(s) with a comma. (An “-ly” word is an adjective, not an adverb, if you can use it without the other adjective. “He was a sickly baby” without the adjective “underdeveloped” is still a complete sentence, so “sickly” is an adjective here. However, in “The walls were painted a sickly green,” the word “sickly” is an adverb modifying the adjective “green.” The sentence is incomplete without “green.” In this case, no comma is used.) Placing a comma between “underdeveloped” and “baby” is incorrect; commas are not inserted between the last (or only) adjective and the noun it modifies. Commas are not inserted between a copula or linking verb (“was”) and its complement (“a sickly…”).

4. A: When directly addressing someone by name in the middle of a sentence, surround the proper name (“John”) or title (e.g. “Doctor”) with commas. Placing a comma before the name but not after it is incorrect. Placing a comma after the name but not before it is also incorrect. The only times one comma is used are (1) when the name is at the beginning of the sentence (“John, will you do this?”) and (2) when the name is at the end of the sentence (“Will you do this, John?”).

5. B: When a phrase or clause interrupts the flow of a sentence, set it off by placing commas before and after it. “As you may be aware” interrupts the statement “we are very excited” and separates the linking verb “are” from its complement “very excited.” Putting only one comma after the interruption is incorrect, as is putting only one comma before the interruption.

6. C: While it is still very common to see commas used before and after “Jr.” and “Sr.,” commas are no longer required after these abbreviations. Moreover, a comma has never been needed before numbered name suffixes like “II,” “III,” “IV,” etc. A comma is not used before “and” when it connects only two names or words. Commas are only used when a series consists of three or more words or word groups.

7. C: A comma can be added to this confusing sentence to make its meaning clearer. In this sentence, blue and green were the colors the author (“I”) liked, while Doug’s favorite color was red. Without the comma after “blue and green,” the sentence reads “blue and green and red.” This makes it difficult to understand that “red was Doug’s favorite” is an independent clause that is separate from “I liked the colors blue and green,” which is the first independent clause. Placing a comma between “blue” and “green” is incorrect. They are part of the same phrase modifying “colors,” are only two words, and are already separated by the conjunction “and.”

8. D: It is correct to use a comma to separate a declarative clause from a question within the same sentence. It is incorrect to place a comma between an auxiliary verb (“can”) and a verb (“help”). It is incorrect to place a comma between “help me” (verb and object) and “with this” (a prepositional phrase modifying “help”). It is also incorrect to write this kind of sentence with no comma at all.

9. D: It is correct to use a comma to introduce a quotation shorter than three lines. (Longer quotations are introduced with a colon, and are indented.) Omitting the comma before the quotation is incorrect. Placing a comma between the adverb “How” and the auxiliary verb “do” is incorrect, as there is no reason to separate them. There is also no reason to separate the auxiliary verb “do” from the subject “you” with a comma. There is no pause within the quotation. There are no parts to set off within the quotation. Finally, the meaning of the quotation is not unclear.

10. B: When a sentence contains two verbs but only one subject and the subject is not repeated before the second verb, do not use a comma. If the word “he” had appeared between “but” and “did not actually adopt it,” then you would use a comma to separate the two independent clauses. Because the subject is not repeated, the second clause is dependent. It is incorrect to place a comma between the verb “considered” and its object “the proposal.” It is incorrect — and a common error — to place a comma after “but” instead of before it when a dependent clause follows.

 

Last Updated: June 3, 2019