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.
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).
The only time you’ll ever use a comma before ‘but’ is when connecting two independent clauses.
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.’
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.
Hopefully, you find that as straightforward as me, but we’ll still take a look at some examples to illustrate further.
She likes milk chocolate, but she appreciates white chocolate, too.
Time flies when you’re having fun, but it goes so slowly when you’re bored.
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.
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:
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