- 1 Does “since” take a comma before it?
- 2 A deeper dive into “since”
- 3 What about “ever since”?
Does “since” take a comma before it?
Seeing as “since” is a subordinating conjunction, it doesn’t need a comma before it, especially if it is coming at the end of a sentence. However, “since” can do more than tie a subordinate clause with an ordinate one. “Since” can also function as both a preposition and an adverb. Yet, in both of these cases, it doesn’t warrant a comma before or after it, at least under normal circumstances.
A deeper dive into “since”
Before talking about “since” the conjunction, let’s start with the easy stuff.
”Since” as a preposition
When “since” acts as a preposition, it is used to denote temporality. It lets us know that something takes place has or hasn’t been taking place after a certain time. If this seems too vague for you, then the following examples will clear things up.
I haven’t spoken to Stan since the wedding.
Here, “since” refers back to the wedding and lets us know that after the wedding and until this very moment, the speaker hasn’t interacted with Stan.
Since attending the seminar, her skills have vastly improved.
In the next example, we are tying the improvement of her skills to her attending the seminar. That said, it’s important to stress that the relationship here is temporal. In other words, before attending the seminar, her skills weren’t improving, but after the seminar, things changed.
Nevertheless, for many people, the above temporal connection amounts to a causal one.
After all, what could have caused the increase in her skills if it weren’t the seminar? Yet, to prove to you that “since” here is used to mark time not cause, let’s look at one final example.
Since the beginning of 2019, her skills have vastly improved.
There is one important thing that needs to be highlighted.
When “since” comes as a preposition, the verb tense of the main clause is the present perfect. We will talk more about this later on.
Does “since” the preposition need a comma?
When “since” comes at the end of a sentence to start a prepositional phrase, it doesn’t need a comma. The only time a comma is necessary is when “since” comes at the beginning of a sentence, and the comma will have to be used at the end of the prepositional phrase.
He has changed his view on a lot of things since reading the book.
In the above sentence, “since” comes after the main clause, so there is no need for a comma before it.
Since reading the book, he has changed his views on a lot of things.
When we change around the order of the sentence and bring the prepositional phrase “since reading the book” at the beginning, we have to follow the prepositional phrase with a comma to separate it from the main clause.
”Since” as an adverb
The second use of “since” is as an adverb. “Since,” in this context, doesn’t precede a prepositional phrase. Instead, it exists on its own, modifying its verb.
We used to be great friends in college. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen him since.
In this example, “since” modifies the verb “have seen” and answers the where. Its effect is also temporal here, used to mark time. In fact, “since” here refers to a point in time that has been mentioned earlier, which is “college” in the above example.
She used to get good grades until she started high school, but her academic trajectory has changed since.
It is important to point out that “since” the adverb keeps pretty close to the verb it is modifying. For example, you can’t take this adverb and place it at the beginning of the sentence. “Since” has to come after the verb and not that far from it.
Does “since” the adverb need a comma?
Again, the answer is a clear no.
If anything, seeing as “since” stays pretty close to the verb it is modifying there really is no space to place a comma in the first place.
They used to travel a lot before the pandemic, yet they haven’t left the country since.
”Since” the conjunction
When “since” ties to different clauses together, it acts as a subordinating conjunction.
This means that one clause becomes the dependent clause, the subordinate one, while the other clause acts as the main or independent one, also known as the ordinate clause.
Now, all you need to know is that a subordinate clause cannot show up on its own. You need a main clause for the entire sentence to make sense.
When I was traveling.
This sentence on its own does not make much sense. What happened while I was traveling?
When I was traveling, I met a lot of interesting people.
Now, the sentence is complete and the whole thing makes sense.
With this in mind, “since” acts as a subordinating conjunction, one that can be used for either temporality or causality.
“Since” for temporality looks like this.
Since I started going to the gym, I have been feeling a lot better.
In the above sentence, “since” acts in a similar fashion to “since” the preposition. It marks a certain point in time and lets us know that something has been going on since that moment.
So, in the above sentence, the moment in time is when I started going to the gym, and what has happened after that is that I have been feeling a lot better.
Alternatively, here is how “since” can function as a causal conjunction.
Since they needed to pass the exam, they asked their professor which lessons to focus on.
In this example, there are two parts. You have the reason and the action, the action being the main clause. The reason is that they needed to pass the exam, and it is preceded by “since.”
Alternatively, the main action is that they asked their professors which lessons to focus on.
Here are a few more examples. See if you can figure out whether “since” is acting in a temporal or causal fashion.
Since he joined the army, he’s become a lot more disciplined.
Since the weather was hot, they chose to stay inside.
Since he felt ill, he decided to call in sick.
Since they were children, the Baudelaires have had to suffer a series of unfortunate events.
If you want a hint to figure out which is which, here is a quick tip. When “since” acts in a temporal fashion, you will usually find the main clause containing a verb in the present perfect tense or some other similar variation.
However, this will not necessarily be the case with “since” for causation.
Here is the quick answer sheet for the above examples. The first one is temporal, the second is causal, the third is causal, and the fourth is temporal.
Does “since” the conjunction need a comma before it?
When it comes to subordinate clauses, you do not need a comma if the clause comes at the end of the sentence.
This applies to all subordinate clauses, not just “since.”
Kanye has been rapping since he was a child.
However, if the subordinate clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, then you will need a comma to separate it from the main clause.
Since the dog was anxious, it kept barking.
That said, for our “since,” this simply signifies that a comma before since is not necessary when since is used as a conjunction.
What about “ever since”?
A very close relative to “since” is “ever since.”
The rules that apply to “since” equally apply to “ever since.” That said, this also means that ever since is not preceded by a comma, just as is the case with “since.”
As a matter of fact, there is no real difference, and the only noteworthy thing is that “ever” is an intensifier that gives the meaning of temporal continuity.
“Ever since” lets us know that starting from a given point in time, something has been true.
If you’re not quite clear on what all of this means, the following examples should clear matters for you.
Since reading the book, he has changed his views on a lot of things.
We have already seen this example above when we were talking about “since” the preposition.
However, what I want you to notice here is that the main clause uses the present perfect tense of the verb, “has changed.”
A quick word on verb tenses
The present perfect is used to connote continuity, that something has been going on for a while or that something in the past still affects the present somehow.
This makes the present perfect different than both the present simple and the past simple tenses, where the verb just lets us know that something has happened without any reference to continuity.
Here are two quick examples to drive the point home.
Molly fixed the car.
All the above example lets us know that Molly fixed the car sometime in the past. Beyond that, we have no further information.
Molly has fixed the car.
Not only does this sentence let us know that Molly has fixed her car, but it also lets us in on the fact that these fixes should still be in effect today.
So, going back to the above example, the use of the present perfect, “has changed his views,” lets us know that his changed views are still with him to this day, affecting how he leads his life.
Now, let’s see “ever since” in action.
Ever since reading the book, he changed his views on a lot of things.
In the latter part of the above example, the main clause, we can get by with only the past simple tense, something we couldn’t have done with “since” alone. Why?
Well, “ever since” gives us the continuity we need, so using the present perfect tense at this point would be superfluous.
You see, “ever since” also tells us that he still carries his changed views to this day and that they have left an imprint on how he leads his life.
That said, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use the present perfect tense with “ever since.”
There are plenty of situations where you will need to use this tense. The purpose of the above examples was only to illustrate the effect of adding “ever” to the equation.
In the example we just looked at, “ever since” acts as a preposition.
It can also function as a conjunction or an adverb.
Yet, when acting as a conjunction, “ever since” is always used for a temporal effect, never a causal one. Let’s look at a few examples to clear things up.
Ever since she could remember, she’s wanted to become an astronaut.
Here, “ever since” is a subordinating conjunction, one that ties two clauses together. It also plays a temporal function in the sentence.
I almost had an accident when speeding with the car, so I stopped speeding ever since.
In this last example, “ever since” is an adverb that lets us know when I stopped speeding.
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.