Have you ever been pestered by how punctuation marks work?
And, have you ever wished you never had to consult Dr. Google for comma placement rules, because you know for a fact that these are supposed to be a no-sweat core skill?
This post addresses comma-related linguistic nuances altogether with the usage of the word “provided” in the written language.
Read on to know the nitty-gritty of the comma before “provided” in particular.
Should we place a comma before “provided”?
Several circumstances guide the comma placement before the word provided. A pre-comma is inserted when it introduces a parenthetical statement and when it follows either a parenthesis or a nonrestrictive clause. In addition, a comma may also precede provided when it functions as a conditional conjunction either in lengthy sentences or in legal clauses. However, a comma is not placed before provided when it acts as a verb, adjective, introductory element to a frontal clause, and used in a restrictive clause.
Comma before “provided”: In-depth analysis
A comma before provided is used when it introduces a parenthetical expression and when it comes after a parenthesis.
Moreover, a pre-comma is also necessary when provided subsequently follows a nonrestrictive relative clause.
Provided is preceded with a comma, too, when it is used as a conjunction in lengthy sentences and legal provisos.
To understand further, let’s look at each sub-section in detail.
A parenthesis is a stylistic device used to drive emphasis and persuasion both in writing and oral speech.
Parenthetical expressions may come in words, phrases, clauses, or even a whole paragraph in written texts.
These statements are grammatically insignificant, yet they add interesting meaning to the text.
As parenthetical statements are only additional elements, they are singled out with commas wherever they are inserted in a sentence.
Therefore, a comma must precede provided when it introduces a parenthetical statement, either mid-sentence or towards the end.
After a parenthesis
As explained above, parentheses are encapsulated with commas to mark their segregation from the rest of the text.
Parenthetical statements are also peripherally independent from the original sentence, therefore, they need not follow the sentence’s syntactic structure.
Put simply, it means that one can insert even incomplete accidental thoughts midway such as in the example below.
After a nonrestrictive clause
With regards to syntax, a nonrestrictive clause is a term referring to an adjectival clause that defines a noun.
It is otherwise known as a relative clause or an adjective clause.
It normally follows the subject which is also offset with commas to emphasize its grammatical insignificance.
Syntactically speaking, this type of clause is functionally similar to the parenthesis in stylistics, which was elaborated earlier.
Commas also set off an adjective clause in a sentence to mark its grammatical dispensability.
Thus, the closing comma in an adjective clause should also precede provided when it is used afterward.
The word provided may also be used as a conjunction which means “if and only if.”
This, therefore, denotes a stronger lexical meaning than “if” alone, and at the same time, it implies a more formalistic and essential tone.
However, when a writer opts to use it, a pre-comma is placed to disambiguate a particularly lengthy sentence.
The pre-comma also prompts the reader of the emphasis that the clause entails.
Hence, the clause is stylistically treated as a parenthetical statement in this case, which would not lacerate grammaticality when removed.
Lengthy sentences generally have to be accordingly cut off with commas so as to prevent misinformation and obscurity of meaning.
“Provided that” in legal writing
As mentioned, the conjunctive sense of provided is not ordinarily used in everyday English.
In legal writing, however, provided that is invariably used as a conjunction that introduces conditional clauses or provisos.
A proviso is a clausal condition found in legal documents such as contracts, wills, deeds, and leases.
Provided that is used to set limitations or exceptions that would determine the validity or invalidity of an agreement.
Modern legal drafters who support the use of plain language in legal documents cringe at the use of provided that as it is viewed as semantically ambiguous and polysemous.
This means that this connector is obviously discouraged to eliminate legalese, which is the obscure and highly technical form of legal language.
When is a comma inessential before “provided”?
A comma is not necessary before provided when it functions either as the main verb or an adjective in the sentence.
Similarly, a pre-comma is also inessential when it starts a sentence off, particularly in a frontal dependent clause, and when it is part of a restrictive clause.
Let’s tackle each circumstance further.
When provided is used as a verb
Provided is the simple past and the past participle form of the verb “to provide.”
It is mainly a transitive verb that fundamentally means to make something available, or simply just to give something to someone.
In its verbal sense, a comma is unnecessary no matter which tense inflection it takes.
This should remain true for as long as it is used as the main verb in the clause and does not fall within the pre-comma guidelines stated earlier.
When provided is used as an adjective
Although quite infrequent, provided may be syntactically recognized as an adjective in sentence construction.
This is realized when it modifies a succeeding noun, especially in formalistic writing registers such as medical scripts, legal documents, and other scholarly articles.
Most people would hesitate using it adjectivally as it is not typically used in casual texts and oral conversations.
Even if it is not as common as its verbal sense, it is not incorrect to use it as an adjective for as long as the type of audience is considered.
When provided is part of a frontal dependent clause
Conjunctions may also start a sentence especially when it introduces a dependent clause.
When a dependent clause is used to provide initial context, a comma must separate it from the main clause that follows afterward.
This rule generally applies to other frontal dependent clauses as well.
Provided in a restrictive clause
Contrary to the nonrestrictive clause explained several sections ago, a restrictive clause is information considered to be essential to the meaning of the whole sentence.
Commas should not be placed around a restrictive relative clause, which is the opposite rule to nonrestrictive clauses
When the clause is removed, the remaining words would make up an incomplete grammatical and semantic sense.
Put simply, commas must not segregate a restrictive clause because they would represent grammatical dispensability.
Hence, the remaining words would fall apart when the restrictive clause is removed.
Polysemous words like provided denote multifaceted stylistic and syntactic functions per se.
On that note, several guidelines also dictate whether or not a punctuation mark should also be placed adjacently.
Despite the exhaustive punctuation guidelines, which are just made available for a quick reference, the written language should be treated as a living organism that constantly thrives with civilization.
Ergo, linguistic rule adjustments and transformations may perpetually apply, which are observable either in the near or far future.
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.