Do You Need a Comma Before 'But'?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on March 24, 2023

Are you wondering whether or not to use a comma before ‘but’? If so, look no further. After this article, you’ll know exactly when to and when not to.

In short:

  • Use a comma before ‘but’ when connecting two independent sentences.
  • Every other time, don’t use a comma before ‘but.’

Using a Comma Before 'But'

The rules around this are actually pretty straightforward, so that’s the good news. You’ll quickly learn when to use or not to use a comma before the word ‘but.’

The first thing to know is that ‘but’ is a conjunction, and the rules I'm going to outline below about using a comma before it also apply to other conjunctions, such as ‘for,’ ‘yet,’ ‘and’ (except in the case of the Oxford comma).

When to Use a Comma Before ‘But’

The only time you’ll ever use a comma before ‘but’ is when connecting two independent clauses.

As a reminder, an independent clause is a complete sentence with a subject and a predicate that makes sense on its own.

I want to help, but I don’t know where to start.

The sentence above contains two independent clauses joined by the conjunction ‘but.’ How you can tell they’re both independent clauses is that if they stood on their own, they would still make sense. They don’t need each other to make sense. That’s why there’s a comma before ‘but.’

When Not to Use a Comma Before ‘But’

To know when not to use a comma before ‘but’ is pretty simple: unless it’s the circumstance described above (connecting two independent clauses), never use a comma.

Let me illustrate with an example of a sentence that uses the word ‘but,’ but no comma precedes it:

I want to get some strawberries but not right now.

Sentence Examples

Hopefully, you find that as straightforward as me, but we’ll still take a look at some examples to illustrate further.

Examples of a Comma Before ‘But’

She likes milk chocolate, but she appreciates white chocolate, too.

I understand your reasons, but if I were you I’d have taken the job.

Time flies when you’re having fun, but it goes so slowly when you’re bored.

Examples of no Comma Before ‘But’

I’m grateful for your offer but no thanks.

We heard you received a bonus but not him.

They received not one but two offers.

Concluding Thoughts

Well, that concludes this article on the rules around using a comma before ‘but.’ I hope you agree with me that it’s pretty straightforward and that you should find this easy to use in the future.

Here’s what we’ve learned today:

  • Use a comma before ‘but’ if connecting two independent clauses.
  • Don’t use a comma the rest of the time.

If you liked this article and found it helpful, you might also like our other articles on our Grammar Rules blog. Check it out!

We encourage you to share this article on Twitter and Facebook. Just click those two links - you'll see why.

It's important to share the news to spread the truth. Most people won't.

Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

Add new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Newsletter
Receive information on
new articles posted, important topics, and tips.
Join Now
We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.