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]

Punctuation Between Main Clauses


The most frequent punctuation mistakes occur between main clauses. These include the following:

The basic principle in English is that every complete main idea must have some punctuation at the end of it.  In most cases, this will be a full stop.  But in those cases where the writer wishes to continue with more complete main ideas joined in the same sentence there must still be some punctuation to indicate the end of the first main idea and the start of the second.

If you wish to join main ideas in the same sentence, you have two choices: either join the main ideas with a conjunction (and, but, or, so, for, and yet) and put a comma before the conjunction, or else put a semi-colon at the end of the first idea and the start of the second.

Some students become so worried about this mistake that they insist on putting a comma before every and, just to be safe. This leads to unnecessary punctuation. Remember that a comma comes before the conjunction (and, but, or, so, yet, for) only where a full stop is equally appropriate. So if you are not sure whether to include a comma or not before a coordinating conjunction, try putting a full stop there. If that creates a fragment, then you do not need any punctuation. If the full stop makes sense, then you need the comma (or the full stop).

Note that if you are using semi-colons to separate the main parts of a compound sentence, the semi-colon comes at the break between the two main clauses. This is the case even if there is a word like however, moreover, furthermore, therefore, consequently, and so on linking the two.

2.0 Exercise in Punctuating Compound Sentences

Put commas or semi-colons or full stops where necessary to separate the main clauses in the following groups of sentences. Get rid of any comma splice mistakes as well.  Notice that some of the examples may not require any punctuation.

1. He cut the meat and the dog ate it.

2. He and the dog ate the meat and the biscuits.

3. The accident took place at 10:00 pm the police did not arrive until 11:30 pm

4. I am going away this week end so I will not be able to go to the party.

5. I am going away this week end I will not be able to go to the party.

6. I am going away this week end therefore I will not be able to go to the party.

7. I am going away this week end I will therefore not be able to go to the party.

8. Alexander faced many obstacles between him and the throne of Macedon however he set about achieving his goal eagerly.

9. The original experiment and the follow up studies confirmed and strengthened the professor's theory and the unfamiliar assumptions upon which it was based.

10. You did not do very well on the original test you can try again however.

3.0 Exercise in Punctuating Compound Sentences

Supply appropriate punctuation between the main parts of the compound sentences in the following passage. Correct any comma splice mistakes.

The heroine in this story faces a difficult situation and has few immediate resources at hand to cope with it but she does not hesitate to set about finding a solution. She begins by taking stock of her situation she looks around for some way of getting out of the attic and eventually discovers an old crow bar, with this she removes the floorboards at one end of the room. Then she ties together some old curtains in a trunk and creates a makeshift rope, however the first attempt to use it doesn't work the post to which she ties the rope gives way just as she is starting to go down it and she hurts herself but she perseveres. On the next attempt a part of the curtain fabric rips before she sets off she is however not discouraged and keeps trying. Eventually she succeeds in getting out and reaching the floor below, however she finds this space also locked up so she has to go back for the crow bar. She climbs back up and returns with the tool then she breaks open the door to the downstairs room and finds herself in a long corridor without light, nevertheless she keeps going and finally discovers some stairs. She walks down these into the hall and finds the front door open so she escapes and can run away from her father's mansion, however in a later chapter he captures her again and takes her back to the place but I haven't read past that section so I'm not sure what happens next.

4.0 Exercise in Punctuating Compound Sentences

Provide appropriate punctuation between the main clauses in the following passage. If necessary correct any comma splices.

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and moved early in his professional life to London there he began writing plays in the 1590's and his work soon caught the attention of other artists some of them became jealous of Shakespeare's popularity Robert Greene was clearly bitter about Shakespeare's growing fame and wrote a sarcastic comment about it. We know very little about Shakespeare's personal life however there are many details of his professional work these include certain legal matters and the record of licensing and publishing of his work. We know that he worked as a producer and also as an actor moreover he was writing plays for a number of years at a very fast rate. At some point around 1600 Shakespeare's father and son died the son's name was Hamnet thus several critics have wondered about possible connections between the particular mood of Hamlet and events in the life of the playwright for the play was written in the same period. During Shakespeare's working life the tastes of the theatre-going audience were changing and the style of the plays was changing also the last ones are much more theatrical they often rely upon special effects of the sort more common in indoor theatres in those spaces one can control more easily the lighting and certain types of theatrical machines. Sometimes special effects could be dangerous for example in a production of Henry VIII a cannon shot set the theatre afire and it burned to the ground Shakespeare gave up writing plays about 1612 and retired to Stratford, there he died in 1516 and was buried in the local church. At his death Shakespeare was probably not the most popular playwright in England one hundred and fifty years later however the situation was very different his reputation as the greatest of all English poets was secure.

5.0 Exercise in Punctuating Compound Sentences

Supply appropriate punctuation between the main parts of the compound sentences in the following passage. Correct any comma splice mistakes.

Aristotle was born in Olynthus but moved at an early age to Athens, his father had been court physician and had stood by the royal family at a critical time, King Philip was probably therefore very supportive of Aristotle. In Athens Aristotle became a pupil in Plato's Academy for many years and was the most famous of Plato's pupils. When Plato died Aristotle was not chosen to succeed him so he left Athens for Abydos. He gathered around some other students from the Academy and they together set about biological studies in this relatively remote area. Aristotle was later recalled to Macedonia and became the tutor of the young prince Alexander this was the start of a life-long collaboration between the two men. Aristotle then moved back to Athens, he set up his own school called the Lyceum. For years he lectured and published, none of the published works has survived however. Aristotle continued Plato's philosophical project but disagreed in some respects fundamentally with Plato however it is not the case that Aristotle's theories are directly contradictory to Plato's, in any case Plato's theories change considerably so we cannot identify a particular position as something Plato held to throughout. Aristotle fled from Athens when Alexander died and moved close by to Epirus, he continued with his scientific experiments. He was particularly interested in marine life and he spent time investigating the tides, this study however cost him his life, according to some stories he was drowned.

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