At least once in our lifetime, punctuation marks have tripped us up.
Some punctuation marks may be pretty easy to use, but others might just be trickier like semicolons, colons, and commas.
Commas may not seem that threatening in our ordinary reading and writing days.
They do become a burden, though, when they appear in standardized exams such as the SAT and English proficiency tests.
Well, since we can’t necessarily run away from them, then we had better understand the rules that dictate their usage.
Today we will tackle “Comma before with.” When, if ever, does a comma go before “with” and why? When is it wrong or unnecessary?
Let’s dive right into it!
Do you need a comma before with?
Since ‘with ‘is a preposition, no commas should generally come before it. A comma may be placed before ‘with’ only if it appears as an introductory parenthetical element (mid-sentence or towards the end). No commas are needed when ‘with’ is used as an adverbial adjunct at the predicate part of the sentence.
This preposition also has multiple meanings, thus making it a simple yet polysemic word, which will be tackled in detail later.
As explained briefly just a couple of sentences ago, a comma does not usually go with the preposition with.
This is the general yardstick for all prepositions because their main task is to link individual word entities within a sentence.
An exception to the governing rule may only apply when this preposition is utilized as a nonessential sentence element.
These nonessential or nonrestrictive expressions are inserted for explanation purposes. Stylistically, they are known as parentheses.
Parenthetical components may be made up of a word, a phrase, or a clause inserted in the sentence.
These expressions may come across to the readers as either accidental or intentional thoughts of the writer.
Interestingly, removing parentheticals from a sentence doesn’t impact its grammatical correctness. Therefore, they are considered optional elements in terms of grammar.
Comma before with when ‘with’ is used as a parenthetical element
Commas have to be used to segregate the first and last parenthetical components from the rest of the sentence when they are inserted midway.
Therefore, a comma must come before with when it introduces a parenthetical phrase.
One thing to bear in mind, though, is that prepositions are to be generally followed with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase.
A parenthesis may also come towards the end of the sentence and still require a post-comma placement.
When is a comma not necessary before with?
The straightforward answer here is…most, if not all the time.
While prepositions can be preceded by various parts of speech, the subsequent complements are generally expected to be noun phrases.
This means that prepositions serve as wood screws linking one minimal sentence part to another.
Prepositions are polysemic words, meaning they can have multiple meanings which makes them nonetheless difficult to identify cross-linguistically.
With, a highly polysemous single word-preposition and a proximal relative to “by”, has an agentive or instrumental function.
It, therefore, acts as a means to indicate the person or object that leads to a result or an end product.
Since, with comes with multiple denotations, we can also deduce its metaphorical function that is only intelligible by context.
The succeeding sub-sections provide its specific usages together with examples.
With as an indicator of accompaniment (among)
With as an indicator of harmony (along with)
With as an indicator of instrument or means (by)
With as an indicator of possession (having)
With as an indicator of manner
With as an indicator of exception (despite)
With as an indicator of belongingness (employed by)
With as an indicator of material or ingredient
Furthermore, most of the examples above syntactically function as adverbial adjuncts.
Adverbial adjuncts are adverb phrases that are semantically essential yet grammatically dispensable to the sentence.
They provide extra meaning or detail and are often found in the predicate part of the sentence, specifically post-verbs.
Here’s a summary for you of what we learned in today’s article. I put all the data into a table, as I do believe that the info is easier to digest this way!
|Generally, no comma before "with"||Ex: The old woman lives with her cats.|
|Ex: Let me pay you with cash.|
|Ex: The dog walks with a limp.|
|Ex: Fiona decided not to be with Google anymore.|
|Ex: My version of enchiladas is made with ground goat meat.|
|Ex: The Joneses are with the Wilsons in the lakehouse.|
|Ex: He expertly surfed with the barrel of waves.|
|Ex: Mr. Harrison is the man with the pacemaker.|
|Ex: With all of my father’s lapses, mom had forgiven him.|
|Ex: This shirt should go well with khaki pants.|
|Ex: She talks with oozing eloquence.|
|Ex: Martha left eBay a year ago. She’s with Amazon now.|
|Ex: This desk has been treated with epoxy resin.|
|Comma before "with" when "with" is introducing a parenthetical element||Ex: Luna hungrily pushes her food bowl, with her injured snout and front leg, towards the Pedigree sack, barking lightly at me after reaching a halt.|
|Ex: Despite her dementia, Gertrude knowingly squeezed her long-lost lover’s hand on her deathbed, with twinkling eyes and decreasing heartbeats.
It is fairly natural and common to sometimes get caught up with comma placement rules.
As far as multiple meanings are concerned, prepositional-decisions do further exacerbate the issue as well.
On this note, it is important to consider the relativity of linguistic literacy to time and exposure.
This means that the more we use the English language, the more fluent we become, minus the major consideration of both grammatical and semantic hard rules.
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.