For many writers, especially those still starting out, the rules governing grammar and punctuation may seem esoteric and strange.
Also, if you’ve ever had the displeasure of coming across a stickler for the rules, you are always left with the impression that those who don’t follow grammar rules to the letter might as well not try writing in English at all.
However, this is not accurate. If anything grammar and punctuation rules are there to help with comprehension and to support the overall meaning of the writing.
In fact, a lot of times, writers will punctuate their sentences according to what makes the reader’s life easier.
Sometimes, a writer might place a comma just to give the reader a chance to breathe, even if the rules don’t strictly say that a comma should be placed in that spot.
So, bearing in mind that punctuation and grammar are all about meaning, let’s try to answer a simple question.
Should we use a comma with “yet”?
“Yet” is one of those words that can play more than one role. When acting as an adverb, then you don’t need to use a comma unless the sentence structure dictates so. Alternatively, when it is acting as a conjunction, it will probably need a comma either before it or after it, depending on where it shows up in the sentence.
That’s the short answer, but you’re not here for the short answer, are you?
So, let’s delve deeper together.
Understanding the different parts of speech formed by “yet”
As mentioned earlier, “yet” can either be an adverb or a conjunction. Let’s start with the case of it being an adverb.
”Yet” the adverb
When “yet” is used as an adverb, it can have one of several meanings.
For starters, it can be used to signify the present time, in which case it is usually used with negative verbs or interrogatory statements, aka questions.
When used with statements, the notion is that even though something hasn’t happened up until the statement was made, it is expected to happen at some point in the future.
And, when used with questions, it is used to wonder whether something has happened at the moment the question is posed or not, the implication being that it will happen eventually.
In this example, the subject still hasn’t called up until the statement was made. Yet, the author expects him to call at some point.
This is probably one of the most famous questions asked by children around the world who find themselves on a long trip.
Here, “yet” is used to ask whether they have arrived at the moment the question is being asked. But, even if they still haven’t arrived, they are bound to arrive at their destination at some point in the future.
Another definition of “yet” the adverb is that there is still time for something to happen.
In the above example, the speaker isn’t sure whether the subject of the sentence will call or not. All we, the listeners know, is that he hasn’t called, but there is still time for him to call.
One more definition of “yet” the adverb is that something is true when compared to earlier or previous actions or endeavors. (If this seems vague, the example will clear things up.)
In this example, the author is saying that when compared to all over her other previous miles, this is the fastest one so far. Ergo, “yet” here has the same definition as “so far.”
It is worth noting that this particular “yet” is usually paired with a superlative to enable a comparison with earlier times.
Here’s another example just to drive the point home.
You could literally rewrite the above sentence as follows.
And, the meaning remains exactly the same.
There is another sense where “yet” is used to talk about earlier times. In this case, it is still used to confirm that something has been true since earlier times, but it isn’t used with any superlative adjectives.
In the above example, “yet” is used to let us know that the people in question have been living in Egypt ever since they traveled to it back in the early 1990s.
Interestingly, “yet” can be combined with other words to form phrases. For example, you have the phrase “yet another” which means “in addition” or “again.”
This is a simple way of saying the team has been on a losing streak and that they have again lost another match.
Another phrase you can create with “yet” comes about if you add the word “again.” “Yet again” isn’t only used to indicate that something has been happening repeatedly, but it is also used to show exasperation.
The speaker is obviously tired of the fact that their car keeps breaking down on them.
However, before we move on, there is one unique fact worth pointing out. Of all the uses of “yet” as an adverb, only the phrase “yet again” can be brought to the front of a sentence without having to change the sentence structure.
If you wanted to do the same thing with “yet another,” you would have to change the entire sentence structure.
To make it work, we had to convert the sentence into the passive structure.
Does “yet” the adverb need a comma
As you may have noticed, the answer is predominantly no. “Yet” as an adverb fits seamlessly into a sentence, and there is no reason to separate from the rest of the sentence using a comma.
The only exception is “yet again,” specifically when we decide to bring it at the beginning of a sentence.
In this case, it behaves like any other adverbial phrase that you put at the head of a sentence and needs a comma after it to separate from the main clause.
Otherwise, the only reason to follow “yet” with a comma is if the sentence structure itself dictates it.
In this example, the comma following “yet” is there because it precedes the coordinating conjunction “but” and separates the two independent clauses.
”Yet” as a conjunction
There are several types of conjunctions.
“Yet” falls into the category of coordinating conjunction, making it one of the “FANBOYS.”
If you don’t know what the “FANBOYS” are, these are the seven main coordinating conjunctions, which are “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or,” “yet,” and “so.”
The word “FANBOYS” is nothing more than a clever mnemonic device used to remember these conjunctions.
So, what can “yet” tie together?
Well, several things really. “Yet” is used to show contrast, so as long the two things being tied together differ in some significant way, you can probably use “yet.”
It can tie two adjectives together.
Here, “yet” plays the same exact role played by “but,” making them interchangeable.
Even though “yet” here also plays the role of showing contrast, you can’t really replace it with “but” because it would just sound weird.
“So near yet so far” is a well-known expression, and it would grate against the listener’s ears if you were to use “so near but so far” instead.
“Yet” can also tie two phrases together.
In this example, “yet” ties two participial phrases together.
You can even use “yet” to tie two verbs.
And, of course, you can use it to tie two independent clauses together.
In this example, you have two complete sentences, each of which can stand on its own. Yet, you can always create a compound sentence with the help of “yet.”
Finally, “yet” can come at the beginning of a sentence. Although it may not tie two independent clauses in this last case, it still shows the relationship between the preceding sentence and the succeeding one.
Does “yet” the conjunction need a comma?
In all the above use cases, “yet” needs a comma in only two cases. The first one is when it is tethering two independent clauses together. In this scenario, the comma comes before “yet.”
And, the other case is when it comes at the beginning of a sentence, in which case the comma comes after “yet.”
Other than those two cases, “yet” doesn’t need a comma.
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.