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“This in turn” — Comma Usage Rules Explained in Great Detail

“This in turn” — Comma Usage Rules Explained in Great Detail

Although one of the main functions of commas is to introduce more clarity into a sentence, sometimes it can feel like they just exist to make writing more confusing!

One reason for this is that you may learn a comma rule and then see writing that breaks it, even printed in newspapers, magazines and books.

The reason for this is that some comma rules are more flexible than others. The rule about commas and the phrase “this in turn” is flexible.
 

How are commas used with “this in turn”?

As a general rule, you need a comma after “this” and after “turn” in the phrase “this in turn.” “In turn” is a nonessential phrase, so it should be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas. However, if the absence of the commas doesn’t affect the sentence’s clarity, you may leave them out.
 

“This in turn” with commas

“This in turn” shows a relationship of both time and cause and effect between one sentence or part of a sentence and the next.

It may come as the second half of a sentence if the first half of the sentence is about the thing that happened first.

If the previous sentence is about the thing that happened first, it usually comes at the beginning of the next sentence.
 
“This” is usually the subject, and it refers to the incident from the previous sentence or the earlier part of the sentence.

“In turn” is a nonessential phrase that comes in between the subject and verb.

Because nonessential phrases are supposed to be set apart from the rest of the sentence with commas, it has commas around it.

While the phrase “in turn” emphasizes the relationship of this sentence or part of the sentence to what has come before, it could be removed without affecting the sentence’s meaning.

 

“This in turn” at the beginning of a sentence

In the examples below, you can see the relationship of the second sentence, which begins with “this in turn,” to the first.

Lia was behind on all her homework. This, in turn, led to her falling further behind in understanding the material.
The ground was frozen, so we scattered seed for the birds. This, in turn, helped them get through the cold winter.

Notice that if you take “in turn” out of one of these sentences, it does not change the meaning, so you know that it is nonessential:

This led to her falling further behind in understanding the material.

 

“This in turn” in the middle of a sentence

“This in turn” might also come in the middle of a sentence to show the relationship of the second part of the sentence with the first part.

Notice that in the sentence below, there is a semicolon before “this” because you are joining two separate sentences:

She threw more matches onto the coals; this, in turn, ignited the flames.

You can join two sentences using a comma, but there has to be a conjunction with it as well. Therefore, you would never have a comma before “this” because it needs to come before the connecting conjunction.

You can see that is the case in the sentences below:

The wind blew hard across the water, and this, in turn, caused the sails to unfurl.
The man kept telling her jokes, and it was this, in turn, that finally cheered her up.
The dog tried to dig under the fence, but this, in turn, only exhausted him.
 

“This in turn” without commas

If you want to make sure that you are always correct, you can put commas around “in turn” as in the examples above.

However, as long as the clarity of the sentence is not affected, this is partly a matter of style.

Some style guides and organizations emphasize using as few commas as possible, and some people simply prefer to use fewer commas too.

Even when commas are not used for clarity, they can be used to indicate a pause in a sentence. You might want to remove commas to eliminate this pause:

The basement flooded. This in turn meant our back yard flooded too.
We stayed out all night, and this in turn caused Claudia to worry about us.
It has not rained much in the past six months; this in turn means the ground is very dry.

Commas when used to indicate a pause can help add emphasis.

In the example above about the flooded basement, you can add commas if you really want to drive the point home that your basement flooded.

To better understand the difference, it may help to reread the sentence out loud both with and without commas:

The basement flooded. This in turn meant our back yard flooded too.
The basement flooded. This, in turn, meant our back yard flooded too.

Do you hear the difference?

The sentence without the commas might be one that you use when the flooded back yard is only the beginning of your troubles.

Without commas, there is a feel of greater urgency and faster speech in the sentence and a suggestion that you might go on to mention other things that went wrong as well. For example, you might add:

And then the water started coming in the backdoor. Soon there was a foot of water on the first floor!

In the second example, with the commas, the climax of the story might be that the back yard flooded, so you might deliver this news a little bit more slowly with the commas to help you for emphasis on “in turn.”