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Comma after “finally” — The Ultimate Guide

Comma after “finally” — The Ultimate Guide

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We use commas to make sentences easier to understand. They group words to help us better understand how the different parts of a sentence work together.

In some sentences, leaving out a comma can make it genuinely impossible to figure out which of two possible meanings the sentence might have.

In other sentences, if you forget the comma, it might be easy to figure out the meaning from context, but you might inadvertently make the reader laugh at the silly alternate meaning!

Commas also tell us when there should be a slight pause when reading a sentence.


Do you need a comma after “finally”?

“Finally” needs to be followed by a comma when it comes at the beginning of a sentence or independent clause. When it occurs in the middle of a sentence it should not be followed by a comma if it is restrictive. It usually should be followed by a comma if it is nonrestrictive. However, you may want to set “finally” apart from the rest of the sentence with commas even when it is restrictive in some cases, such as if you want to indicate a pause around the word for emphasis. It should also be followed by a comma in a few very limited circumstances that require commas for all words, such as introducing speech or as part of a list.

“Finally” at the beginning of a sentence or independent clause

The rule about introductory words or phrases at the beginning of a sentence or independent clause is that they should be followed by commas.

Here are a couple of examples of “finally” coming at the beginning of a sentence:

Finally, the game was over.
Finally, Alice told us that she was not going.

Finally, it stopped raining enough for us to make a dash to the car.

When a sentence contains a second independent clause with an introductory word or phrase, there should also be a comma.

Here are a few examples:

Millicent had been wanting a pet for many years, and finally, she got a kitten.
They hiked uphill for six hours; finally, they reached the summit of the mountain.
I did not know who kept calling me; finally, I just answered the phone.

Comma after finally: The Definitive Guide


“Finally” as a restrictive or nonrestrictive word

A word or a phrase is considered “restrictive” if it is essential to the meaning of a sentence. It is considered “nonrestrictive” if it can be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning.

They nodded their heads, finally understanding what the man was trying to tell them.

“Finally” gives essential information, telling you that there was some delay in their understanding.

“Finally” is also used to indicate that something is done definitely, conclusively or in a way that means there will be no change. When it is used in this way, it is also restrictive:

This schedule hasn’t been finally approved.

Here is an example of “finally” used as a nonrestrictive word:

They started the test, finally, after a delay of two hours.

The second part of the sentence tells you that there was a delay, so “finally” just emphasizes the delay but is not essential information.

However, when it comes to the word “finally,” this restrictive/nonrestictive rule is a little bit tricky for a couple of reasons.

One of those reasons has to do with where “finally” is sometimes placed in a sentence.

Another is that in some sentences, whether or not “finally” is essential to the meaning of the sentence is not entirely clear.

Furthermore, sometimes, you might actually place commas around “finally” in a sentence to emphasize its importance even though it is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

The good news is that this actually leaves some of the decision-making about whether or not to put a comma after “finally” up to you.
< Let's look at some examples to make this easier.  

When “finally” comes between the subject and verb

Take a look at these two sentences:

They started the test.
They finally started the test.

In the second sentence, it would be relatively easy for you to pinpoint “finally” as a restrictive word because it gives you some extra information that the first sentence does not. It tells you that the test happened after a delay.

However, let’s add a little something to the end of those sentences.

They started the test after a two-hour delay.
They finally started the test after a two-hour delay.

If you were looking at the second sentence and trying to decide if the “finally” in the first example is restrictive or nonrestrictive, you might find it difficult.

“Finally” does not really add extra information here because the sentence already tells you that there was a two-hour wait.

If you removed it from the sentence, you would still know that a thing happened after a long delay.

However, “finally” is a type of adverb. When you use a single adverb after a subject and before the verb that it modifies, it generally is not followed by a comma.

Therefore, when you see “finally” in this position in the sentence, it should not be followed by a comma even if it does not add extra information. It takes the role of a restrictive word when it sits this close to the verb it modifies.

Using a comma after “finally” to indicate a pause

A comma is also used to indicate that the speaker is pausing. Sometimes, this pause can add emphasis.

There are times when “finally” is, strictly speaking, restrictive because it gives essential information but you want there to be a pause around “finally” to emphasize the word even more.

Take a look at the difference in these sentences:

They closed the restaurant and went home.
They closed the restaurant and finally went home.
They closed the restaurant and, finally, went home.

The first sentence does not suggest at all that closing the restaurant was delayed in some way. In the second sentence, “finally” conveys this information, so it is restrictive, and there is no comma.

What about the third sentence? The commas indicate that you would speak or read this sentence with slightly different emphasis.

You could pause dramatically around “finally” to emphasize that it was particularly late. In that situation, you would use the comma to indicate this pause in speech even though it is restrictive.


When a comma after”finally” is optional

In some texts and especially informal writing, you might sometimes see the comma after “finally” left out even when it is nonrestrictive.

The rule about comma usage in these situations is not a strict one, and it may be up to the writer’s discretion to decide how essential the word is to the meaning of the sentence or whether there should be a dramatic pause around the word.


Other times “finally” needs to be followed a comma

There are two other times when “finally” might be followed by a comma, and these are times when the same would be true of any word.

In general, when you are introducing a piece of dialogue, you use a comma after the dialogue tag, or the phrase that introduces the dialogue.

>When “finally” indicates something happening at last, it would usually be placed between the subject and verb, so there would not be a comma:

She finally said, “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

However, remember that “finally” can also mean something that is conclusive or decisive.

If you want to indicate that someone is saying something decisively, you might use finally at the end of the tag followed by a comma:

She said finally, “I don’t care what anyone says. I believe you.”

“Finally” would also be followed by a comma in a list of several items just as any other word would be:

Some examples of conjunctive adverbs are consequently, finally, therefore, certainly and meanwhile.