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Question
This has confused me a lot. When to use comma before which and when not? For example, let's take a look at the following sentences:-



1a) She tried to separate me from her, which is not possible.

1b) She tried to separate me from her which is not possible.


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2a) The shoe is dirty which I bought from store.

2b) The shoe is dirty, which I bought from store.


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3a) He ignored her, which hurt her
.
3b) He ignored her which hurt her.

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4a) He committed a crime which can not be justified in any way.


4b) He committed a crime, which can not be justified in any way.

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5a) She disregarded my advice, which surprised me.


5b) She disregarded my advice which surprised me.

Respected Amy, people say that this sentence needs a comma before which. But " which surprised me" isn't a clause right? Can you explain me?

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When to use comma before which when not?

Thanks.

Answer
Hello Den,

interesting question here, and not an easy one, I might add.

The use of a comma before "which" is a difficult topic even for some native speakers,but let me try to clarify things for you.


1a) She tried to separate me from her, which is not possible. >>> correct
1b) She tried to separate me from her which is not possible.

2a) The shoe is dirty which I bought from store.
2b) The shoe is dirty, which I bought from store. >>> correct

(better yet: The shoe, which I bought from the store, is dirty.)

3a) He ignored her, which hurt her. >>> correct
3b) He ignored her which hurt her.

4a) He committed a crime which can not be justified in any way. >>> correct
4b) He committed a crime, which can not be justified in any way.

5a) She disregarded my advice, which surprised me. >>> correct
5b) She disregarded my advice which surprised me.

"which surprised me" is a clause; it has an implied noun: (which) her action, and a verb: surprised, so it is a sentence.

When to use comma before which when not?

As a rule, if the information in the relative clause (the one starting with "which") is "restrictive" you don't need to use a comma there, if the info is not restrictive, then a comma should be used.

What do I mean by "restrictive" - the info in the clause is necessary to identify the person/thing it describes, it's not just some info you can remove.
If the info following "which" can be removed, yet the overall sentence doesn't lose meaning, then you need a comma before "which".

Fore more information regarding the proper use of commas before "which" please see the following sites:


http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/which_that_who_comma_or_not.htm

http://www.grammarly.com/answers/questions/17353-use-of-comma-before-which-and-b

http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/which_that_who_with_commas.htm

Feel free to follow up with me if you still have questions about this topic.

Best,

Amy

English as a Second Language

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Amy Baker

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I can answer question about grammar, spelling, syntax, idioms, reading and/or writing that pertain to English as a Second Language. I am knowledgeable about both TOEFL and IELTS.

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I'm a certified ESL teacher with 12 years of experience teaching K-12 and adults.

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