Using commas with words is quite a pain in the neck. We think we know what to do, yet at times we don’t.
This very dilemma happens to be true with the word “sometimes,” an adverb of frequency that also means “occasionally.”
This article, however, would like to focus only on when to use a comma after “sometimes” to address the issue better.
Let’s get right into it.
When does a comma come after “sometimes”?
A comma after “sometimes” is needed when it begins the sentence and aims to modify the whole sentence rather than just the main verb. Also, a comma is needed after “sometimes” midsentence when using it at the end of the first clause in compound and inverted complex sentence structures.
Using a comma after the adverb “sometimes”
“Sometimes” is an adverb of frequency like “usually,” “never,” and “always.” It is a flexible word and can be used anywhere in the sentence.
We sometimes feel lonely.
We feel lonely sometimes.
“Sometimes” means “not all the time” or “occasionally.” It is used to suggest that actions or events take place at an uncertain amount of time intervals.
This adverb can be used pretty much everywhere, but it only entails post-comma placement when it is either in the initial or medial sentence position.
Logic would tell us that a comma can never be used to end a sentence, which is also why “sometimes” cannot have a post-comma at the end of the sentence.
Below, you’ll find out exactly whether or not to place a comma immediately after “sometimes” as well as the circumstances that should guide your decision.
Comma after “sometimes” at the beginning of the sentence
When writing, there are specific cases in which we would need to put a comma beside a word. These cases are caused by both grammatical and stylistic reasons.
Using “sometimes” at the beginning of the sentence means that you use it as an introductory adverb of frequency.
In these cases, a comma after sometimes is used to create emphasis on the time reference as well as to pace the reading accordingly.
When this is done, the writer wants to suggest that “sometimes” is modifying the whole sentence rather than just the verb.
It can even start a question, for instance. When it happens, it creates a delaying effect that can induce imagination as well as assist time reference.
Sometimes, do you feel like life is hard because you can never undo your past?
When a reader reads the example above, he or she gets prompted to pause and reflect on the question being asked.
By the way, the question of whether an adverb goes before or after the verb in sentence construction also confuses many.
Feel free to debunk this grammar mystery here: Should an Adverb Go Before or After the Verb – The Answer
A comma after “sometimes” at the beginning of the sentence should also occur when it is followed by a direct address.
In formal writing contexts, a comma before or after a direct address should always be used. This helps in making the sentence’s meaning unambiguous.
This means that when “sometimes” comes before or after a direct address, a comma should automatically be used, such as when it is the first word of the sentence.
For clarity’s sake, a direct address is a name that we use to directly refer to a message receiver. It can also be a name title like “ma’am” or a term of endearment like “sweetie.”
Another case that we would need a comma after sometimes at the beginning of the sentence is when it is followed by a parenthetical piece of information.
Parentheticals are ideas that are added to enhance the meaning of sentences rather than make them grammatically complete.
Hence, removing a parenthetical idea from the original sentence is possible, leaving a grammatically complete thought afterward.
Sometimes, whether we like it or not, we cannot easily take control of our lives.
The parenthetical expression in the sentence above is “whether we like it or not,” which comes after the introductory adverb “sometimes.”
If we remove this phrase, we are still left with a grammatically-correct construction as follows: Sometimes, you cannot easily take control of your life.
The comma after “sometimes” should stay, though, because it is needed to set off the introductory element.
Comma after “sometimes” in the middle of the sentence
“Sometimes” may also appear in the middle of the sentence. Whenever this happens, there is a need to use two commas beside it – one before and one after.
Sentence structure also affects our comma decisions. This very concept is something we should have a good grasp on to be able to decide correctly.
There are three main types of sentences according to structure, namely, the simple, the compound, and the complex types.
A simple sentence is made up of one independent clause – something that bears at least one subject and one predicate in its basic form.
A compound sentence is made up of two independent clauses. These clauses are linked with a coordinating conjunction.
Coordinating conjunctions are those that we need to build compound sentences. They go by the acronym “FANBOYS” which stands for “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.”
Comma usage with FANBOYS is not really that hard to master because the rule of thumb is to always use one when you need to tie up two clauses together.
When “sometimes” comes at the end of the first clause in the middle of the sentence, a comma should be used after it.
This comma should also come before the coordinating conjunction, such as “and,” “but” or “or.”
The comma before “and” in the example above is always necessary even if “sometimes” isn’t the last word of the first clause.
This is because of how the sentence is constructed. For more information about sentence structures, it would be best to check out our beginner’s guide to syntax from a previous post.
Meanwhile, a complex sentence is made up of two clauses too, but one of them is dependent on the other to make sense.
In other words, one independent clause and one dependent clause are necessary to build this type of sentence.
To build complex sentences, we would need subordinating conjunctions such as “because,” “unless,” “although,” and “since.”
In a regular complex sentence structure, meaning the one in which the independent clause comes before the dependent one, no comma should be used at all.
However, in an inverted complex sentence structure, a comma becomes necessary at the end of the first clause, which is now the dependent one.
This type of sentence structure is easy to spot because it begins with the conjunction you need to build the sentence.
That said, if and when “sometimes” happens to be the last word of the frontal dependent clause, then a comma after it becomes necessary.
Here’s how that works:
Since you can be a bit aloof sometimes, you should consider talking more to people.
As you can see, the dependent clause comes before the independent clause in the example, making it a complex sentence type.
Also, “sometimes” happens to be the last word of the frontal clause that is headed by the conjunction “since.”
Hence, the comma at the end of the first clause, which also happens to end with “sometimes,” is necessary.
No comma after “sometimes” when…
Now that we’ve learned when to use a comma after “sometimes” and the conditions that we need to consider, let us also look into the cases in which no comma should be used at all.
In the next subsections, you’ll also find out when to avoid a comma when “sometimes” appears at the beginning and in the middle of the sentence.
We can also avoid using a comma after “sometimes” at the beginning of the sentence when we don’t want to emphasize the time reference.
Without the comma, the writer also wants to imply that “sometimes” is modifying the main verb rather than the whole sentence.
This also means that you can freely move “sometimes” around the sentence as you wish.
In the example sentences above, we can understand that “sometimes” aims to modify the verbs “win” and “learn.”
And, we can also observe that starting the sentence off with “sometimes” also creates a more dramatic effect than placing it either in the middle or end of the sentence.
When “sometimes” comes at the beginning of the sentence but is part of a longer phrase, no comma should also come after it.
This also means that you don’t want “sometimes” to interrupt the flow of your sentence and treat it as part of the introductory element instead.
When we aim to use “sometimes” as a regular adverb of frequency in the middle of the sentence to modify a verb, no comma should also be used.
This means that “sometimes” acts as an essential element that completes the meaning of the sentence rather than just an accessory.
In the example above, “sometimes” modifies “feel” and describes how often the subject wants to perform the given action.
Take note, however, that while sometimes can be placed before the verb, it cannot come after it, and therefore, the following sentence would be incorrect:
Frequently Asked Questions on “Comma After ‘Sometimes’”
Is there a comma after the word “sometimes”?
A comma after “sometimes” is necessary when it is used as an introductory adverb of frequency. A comma after “sometimes” is also required when it appears right before the conjunction in a compound sentence as well as at the end of the frontal dependent clause in an inverted complex sentence.
Can you start a sentence with “sometimes”?
Starting a sentence with “sometimes” and other adverbs of frequency like “usually,” “occasionally,” and “normally” is always possible. This means that “sometimes” is being used as an introductory expression, and it also requires a comma afterward.
Is “sometimes” an adverb?
“Sometimes” is an adverb of frequency like “never,” “usually,” “seldom,” “rarely,” and “often.” These adverbs are used to suggest “how often” an action or event happens. “Sometimes” is quite a flexible adverb because it can go in the initial, middle, or final position in a sentence.
At this point, using a comma after certain words like “sometimes” shouldn’t feel like having ants in your pants anymore.
Yes, there have been several rules listed in this post, but as long as you paid enough attention to details, you’re all good to go.
Now, don’t be afraid to write your next email or essay. Most of all, you should not let punctuation concerns block your way.
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.