When you should and shouldn’t use a comma after the word “recently.”
There are a lot of complicated rules in the English language, but commas certainly take the cake.
No matter how familiar you are with commas, there are some that can really trip you up.
In this article, we’ll look at the word “recently” as it relates to commas.
Do you need a comma after “recently”?
Because “recently” is an adverb, we must follow the comma rules for adverbs. When adverbs are used to modify a single word, you should not follow them with a comma. However, if an adverb like “recently” is placed at the beginning of a sentence or a clause, a comma is required.
The purpose of the comma in this case is to show that the word modifies the entire clause or the entire sentence, rather than a single word.
Because grammar is flexible with regards to adverbs, it is possible to move “recently” from the beginning of a sentence and avoid the use of a comma if desired.
The meaning and part of speech of “recently”
To understand the comma rules for a word, it’s important to keep in mind the word’s meaning and its part of speech.
“Recently” is an adverb, a type of word that modifies a verb, adjective or adverb.
If it appears at the start of a clause or a sentence, “recently” is a “sentence adverb” or “introductory adverb,” meaning it modifies the entire linguistic unit rather than a single word.
Regardless of where it’s placed, “recently” describes the word or clause it modifies in relation to the present time.
If something happened recently, that means not much time has passed between the action and now.
When used to refer to a group of words, “recently” can also be used to mean that a change has happened in the recent past which has had a lasting effect.
Recently can appear pretty much anywhere in a sentence.
“I haven’t seen him recently.”
Here, “recently” shows that someone has not been present in the recent past. The word being modified by the adverb here is the verb “seen.”
“Recently, it’s been harder for me to find work.”
The word “recently” modifies the rest of the sentence rather than a single word. Here the word shows not that a single thing happened once, but rather that the remainder of the sentence is an ongoing condition.
Using commas with recently
Whether you will need a comma after “recently” depends on its place in the sentence and its function.
When placed at the beginning of a sentence, “recently” will always require a comma after it.
On the other hand, if “recently” modifies a single verb, adjective or adverb, it will only require a comma after it if there is some other grammatical reason for one.
In other words, the word “recently” itself does not require a comma after it unless it falls at the beginning of the sentence, but there may be other reasons you need to follow it with a comma.
Recently at the start of a sentence
When “recently” appears at the beginning of a sentence, it modifies the entire sentence. The same is true for the beginning of clauses.
In these cases, recently follows the rules for introductory words or phrases. These rules require that you follow the introductory word with a comma to set it off from the sentence.
Put simply, when “recently” appears at the beginning of a sentence or the beginning of a clause you need a comma after it.
This not only separates it from the rest of the sentence, it makes clear to the reader that the word modifies everything that follows.
However, note that overuse of “recently” at the beginning of a sentence can make your writing appear stilted.
“Recently, fast food has not satisfied me.”
“Recently, crime has been rising.”
In both of these examples, the word “recently” is followed by a comma because it modifies the entire sentence.
Recently to modify a single word
Unlike at the beginning of a sentence, when “recently” modifies a single word it does not typically require a comma after it.
This is because the word needs to be closely associated with the word it is modifying, and separating it with a comma would have the opposite effect.
However, note that there are cases where you may need to add a comma after “recently” for other reasons, such as to separate two independent clauses from one another when the second starts with a coordinating conjunction like “and” or “but.”
It is important to understand that the comma does not need to follow “recently” because of the word itself in these cases, but because of other grammar rules.
“I recently learned that the moon has an atmosphere.”
Here, recently modifies the single word “learned.” It is not followed by a comma.
Moving “recently” to avoid a comma
If you want to avoid having a comma after “recently” when it appears at the start of a sentence or clause, you can do this by moving the word to the end of the clause or the end of the sentence in which it appears.
“Crime has been rising recently.”
“Fast food has not satisfied me recently.”
Examples from earlier in the article that placed “recently” at the beginning of the sentence have here been rewritten to place the word at the end, instead. Notice that a comma is no longer after the word “recently.”
Again, though, a comma could be required after “recently” here for other reasons.
For example, “Fast food has not satisfied me recently, so I will order a salad.”
Here, the comma is required because these two independent clauses are joined by the coordinating conjunction “so,” and not because of the word “recently” itself.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.