Comma Before or After But [Comma Grammar Rules]

There is no doubt that the English language is full of complicated grammar rules! There are spelling rules, tone of voice rules, and even rules based on geography. However, knowing how to use a comma correctly is among the hardest. In this post, we’ll teach you the answer to the following question: Comma before or after but? Read on to master these punctuation rules in your writing!

Should I Put My Comma Before or After But?

person thinking about using but after a comma

It can take a new writer some time to master all the comma rules in English grammar. When it comes to comma usage around the word ‘but’ there are a few things to consider.

Tip: It all depends on how the word but is being used in the sentence. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Independent Clauses – When but is used to connect two independent clauses, there should be a comma before.
    • For example: “I wanted to go to the park, but it was raining.”
  • Contrasting Statement – When but is used to introduce a contrasting statement, there should be a comma before.
    • For example: “The weather was beautiful, but I didn’t feel like going outside.”
  • Items In A List – When but is being used to connect two items presented in a list, there should be a comma before.
    • For example: “I bought apples, bananas, and oranges, but I couldn’t find any pears.”
  • Used as a Conjunction – When but is used as a conjunction, like yet vs but, to connect two different words, phrases, or clauses then there should not be a comma before but.
    • For example: “The movie was long but enjoyable.”

Commas are an important part of sentence structure. The best way to determine whether to use a comma is by examining the context of the sentence & see if it is necessary to clarify the meaning or flow of the sentence.

Sentence Examples

Here are some examples of complete sentences using a comma before or after but!

  1. “I wanted to go to the beach, but it was too cold to swim in the water.”
  2. “I had a lot of homework to do, but I decided to take a break go for a run to break things up.”
  3. “I usually eat a salad for lunch, but today is feeling like a fast food type of day!”
  4. “I tried to fix the leaky faucet myself, but I ended up hiring a plumber to do it correctly.”
  5. “I wanted to go to the concert, but my friends were not available.”

Comma use is very important! However, many writers ask is punctuation grammar? It turns out they are not exactly the same thing!

When To Use A Comma Before But

Comma rules can be tricky. Just look at the However punctuation rules if you need an example of that. As we already mentioned, there are several situations when writers want to use a comma before the word “but“:

  • Connecting two independent clauses
  • Introduce a contrasting statement or word
  • Connect items in a list

Here are a few more examples to understand when this comma rule applies.

  • I went to the mall and bought shoes, shirts, and sweatpants, but I could not find a jacket I liked. (Correct Use)
  • I went to the mall and bought shoes, shirts, and sweatpants but I could not find a jacket I liked. (Incorrect Use)

When To Use A Comma After But

It is rare to see a comma used after ‘but‘ in a complete sentence. This is why commas can be tricky, just check out the “Yes, please” grammar rules if you don’t believe me! However, there is one major instance where it is appropriate for ‘but’ to be followed by a comma.

When “but” is being used to introduce a phrase or clause that provides more information. In other words, when but is followed by a word that acts as a distruptor. In this specific context, the comma can actually simplify the sentence & make it easier to read.

  • “I wanted to go to the park, but, as it turned out, it was closed for renovations.”
  • Mark originally agreed, but, unsurprisingly, he did not pay attention to what I told him & changed his mind.

In general, I try to minimize using a comma after but. In informal writing, it can over complicate the sentence structure.

When Is A Comma Not Needed?

I want to caution writers to avoid overcomplicating their writing. Just because you are aware of punctuation rules does NOT mean you need to use them in every sentence!

There are several situations when using a comma is not needed. There are several situations in which a comma is not needed. Here are a few examples:

  • For short and simple sentences
  • When a phrase is modifying a noun or verb

Commas can be great for joining an independent and dependent clause, but they should not be overused! In my experience, WordTune & Grammarly tools can make comma usage simple.

Independent Clauses vs Dependent Clauses

In order to master punctuation rules, you need to have a firm understanding of what an independent clause and a dependent clause is.

Independent Clause – A group of words that can stand independently on its own as a complete sentence. It contains a subject and a verb, and expresses a fully formed thought. Two independent clauses could be written as two complete sentences.

  • “I went to the store.”

Dependent Clause – A group of words that CANNOT stand on its own as an independent or complete sentence. A dependent clause does not express a complete thought.

  • “Although it was raining, I decided to go for a walk.” In this sentence, the dependent clause “although it was raining” cannot standalone on its own.

You can also change dependent clauses into independent clauses by adding just a few simple words.

Other Comma Rules

There are many other situations when commas can be used aside from around the word “but”. Here is a list of the most basic comma rules.

  1. Separating items in a list: Commas are used to separate three or more items in a series.
  2. Setting off introductory elements: Commas are used after introductory words, phrases, or clauses at the beginning of a sentence.
  3. Separating coordinate adjectives: Commas are used to separate two or more adjectives that modify the same noun equally.
  4. Setting off nonessential information: Commas are used to separate nonessential or nonrestrictive phrases or clauses. These are elements that can be removed from the sentence without changing its essential meaning.
  5. Joining independent clauses: Commas are used before coordinating conjunctions (such as “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” “for,” “yet,” and “so”) when they are used to join two independent clauses (complete sentences).
  6. Separating quotations: Commas are used to separate dialogue or quoted material from the rest of the sentence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a comma punctuation?

A comma punctuation is a mark of punctuation that is used to indicate a pause or break in a sentence. It is typically used to separate words, ideas, or phrases within a sentence. For example “I went to the store, and I bought some apples.”

Why is it called a comma?

The word “comma” comes from the Greek word kómma, which means “to cut”. The comma was originally used in manuscripts to indicate a pause in the text.

What are the 4 types of commas?

There are four main types of commas that people use regularly.
1. Listing comma: Use a comma to separate items in a list.
2. Joining comma: Use a comma to join two independent clauses.
3. Gapping comma: Use a comma to show that you have omitted material from a sentence.
4. Bracketing comma: Use a comma to set off parenthetical matters.

What is the first rule of commas?

The first rule of commas is to use them after introductory clauses. For example, “Additionally, Mark must be fired because of his disobedience”.

The Bottom Line

By now you should be a master of this comma rule! Comma’s can be used in a lot of different situations and they can be even more tricky when used around the word but. If the word but is used to joining two independent clauses, no comma is needed! And if you wrote a sentence and want to know if is this gramatically correct, try using our FREE tool! It can really make things easy.