Grammar Review Exercises

[The following exercises have been prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.  These pages are in the public domain and may be used, in whole or in part, by anyone, without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged.  Last revised April 2002]

Miscellaneous Uses of the Comma


The following are the most frequent places where commas are commonly used. Please make sure you understand each of these:

  1. between main clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, so, yet, for);

  2. to indicate non-restrictive modifiers and phrases or clauses in apposition;

  3. to separate an introductory subordinate clause or phrase from the main clause;

  4. to separate the items in a list of more than two items (including the last two);

  5. to indicate parenthetic expressions and transitional phrases (e.g., in my opinion, however, in any case, by contrast, nevertheless);

  6. to separate the items in a full date or address (e.g., 27 September, 1938, in Valparaiso, Chile)

  7. to set up direct quotations (e.g., She said, "I was to blame");

  8. to clarify the sense.

Make sure you also understand the importance of getting rid of unnecessary commas.  Unless you have a specific reason for including  comma, then don't put one in.

Notice that in a normal English sentence, there will rarely be a single comma between the subject and the verb or between a verb and the object.  Where commas occur in such cases, they will normally occur as a pair around some non-restrictive or parenthetic element (like a pair of brackets).

2.0 Exercise in Commas

Put commas in the following sentences, where appropriate.  Make sure you have a clear reason for the addition (in accordance with the list above).

1. As this article points people like animals can become disturbed if they are denied the space they need.

2. Once you have seen the evidence you will in my opinion agree that he is guilty.

3. When I give you the signal make sure you start the car drive down the street and pull up in the parking space beside the store.

4. Mr. Tom Jackson the Vice-Principal of our school was the person who introduced the rules about attendance after he had been given instructions to do so by the District Superintendant Ms Camille Smythe.

5. Ibsen's play A Doll's House features two main characters Nora and Torvald who are married to each other.

6. Students who are ineligible for scholarships can still apply for these special bursaries but they will have to wait until September to do so.

7. My eldest brother John who is a professional football player will get us tickets to the championship game which is going to be played in Toronto.

8. The Prime Minister of Canada Jean Cretien made a speech in the House of Commons yesterday September 23 at 3:00 p.m.

9. After reading the report which you gave me yesterday I changed by mind but according to the original memordanum it's too late for me to do anything about it.

10. The evidence described in the article "New Risks Possible with Exedran" which was published last month raises some doubts about the product at least in the minds of consumers so we need to reduce the number of orders for this product.

3.0 Exercise in Commas

Supply commas where appropriate in the following passage. Look out also for the correct punctuation of compound sentences (i.e., check that the punctuation between main clauses is correct, as you did in the previous two exercises).  In some cases, this means that you will have to alter the existing punctuation.

When I read Shakespeare's play Hamlet I find the conduct of the main character Hamlet frequently puzzling and I keep having to stop for a while to think about what he is doing and why, this exercise is both intriguing and often frustrating. On the one hand I like certain things about Hamlet for example his "philosophical" tendency which appears most frequently in his soliloquies often comes up with thought-provoking images which are quite memorable, on the other hand there are many things which I dislike intensely for example his brutality towards women his constant manipulation of other people his morbid sense of death and his moodiness his sense of humour strikes me as decidedly odd even warped at times. Nevertheless I remain fascinated by his mind which is always churning over something and by his verbal dexterity which I have to admit is very funny even if it is also at time very cruel. The instructor claims that this is a very ambiguous complex and disputed play and I can well understand why, there is just so much pulling us in different directions. Sometime I feel great sympathy for the King of Denmark Claudius the brother of the murdered king who is in my view a loving husband to his wife Gertrude mother of Hamlet and ex-wife of the dead king but then I remember that Claudius is a murderer and dissembler and my sympathy which was generally quite strong evaporates. Polonius the Chief Minister of the king is another character who is difficult to figure out, sometimes he seems something of a buffoon always making a fool of himself but then at other times he appears very shrewd conniving and intelligent, he likes to spy on people especially his family and is clearly uneasy if he does not know what is going on. When he uses his daughter Ophelia to try to trap Hamlet I sense he is really quite callous ready to sacrifice his children's feelings to his political duties but his children it strikes me genuinely love and respect him and he does seem to care for them in his own way, so once again  I don't know quite where to put my sympathies. As I say it is a confusing piece it may be fascinating but it certainly takes some effort to sort out just what one thinks about these characters.

4.0 Exercise in Commas

Supply commas where necessary in the following passage. Get rid of any unnecessary commas.

I really enjoyed watching the World Cup of Soccer last July the best international tournament I have ever seen. Although soccer is not a major TV sport over heren at least not yet TSN provided good coverage and the commentary was generally interesting and informed. I watched almost all the early games and didn't miss any of the quarter finals semi-finals and the final. In many cases the quality of the game wasn't as good as one might hope for but the intensity of crowd which was something I was not used to really livened things up and made every match exciting. My favorite teams were Nigeria England France Holland and Brazil but I also started cheering on the Croatians who were such amazing underdogs. There is however one thing that really irritates me and that is the shootout the way that the teams obtain a result if the game is still tied after full time and overtime, it's silly to make the whole thing come down to penalty kicks. One person the one who misses the shot emerges as the bad player of the game no matter how he might have performed in the actual game. If people want professional soccer to catch on in North America then they should do something about that stupid rule because North Americans like a result which is determined on the playing field not in some silly procedure governed by luck and I got tired of the advertisements especially the ones for Mastercard Burger King and Gillette, you'd think that companies which had spent an enormous amount to sponsor the tournament would pay a little more for some variety in their advertisements so that people who watch all the games don't get infuriated with the endless repetitiveness of the long monotonous and familiar pitch. Apart from those two things which are not major complaints however everything about the tournament was exciting enjoyable and intense I can't wait until the next World Cup.


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