Can a sentence start with it anyway?

Comma and subordinate clause: you need to know that

Be careful, it is nested in this text! Because it's about main and subordinate clauses. Even if you should keep your correspondence as simple as possible - compound sentences can often not be avoided. The commas must be in the right place so that your addressee can still see what's going on. How well do you know the subject Comma and subordinate clause according to the new spelling?

How do you recognize the subordinate clause?

Before we jump into the puzzle of placing commas in subordinate clauses, one thing must of course be clarified: What is a subordinate clause? Quite simply: A subordinate clause is that part of a compound clause that is dependent on another part, the main clause. A subordinate clause cannot stand on its own - it does not make sense without the main clause. An example of a compound sentence with a subordinate clause and a main clause is the following statement:

"Please remember (main clause), that the letter to Mr. Eulinger still has to be sent (subordinate clause). "

You can often recognize a subordinate clause by the fact that it is introduced by a pronoun or a connective word (conjunction).

  • Subordinate clause introduction with pronouns: "Mr. Briecke is the colleague (main clause), the took over the management of the sales department last year (subordinate clause). "
  • Subordinate clause introduction with conjunction: "Thank you (main clause), that They all appeared (subordinate clause). "

Another characteristic of subordinate clauses is the special word order. In most cases, the specific activity word (finite verb) is at the end of the subordinate clause - unlike in the main clause.

“Mr. Engler comes Later today to the office (main sentence) because he has a doctor's appointment Has (Subordinate clause)."

Comma and subordinate clause: the basic rule

And that brings us to the first rule for simple compound sentences. If the subordinate clause is before or after the main clause, the sub-clauses are separated by a comma. If a subordinate clause is inserted into a main clause - it does not come before or after the main clause, but rather interrupts it - it is enclosed by commas.

  • Subordinate clause before the main clause: "That we were able to further increase sales is a great success."
  • Subordinate clause after the main clause: "It is a great success that we were able to further increase sales."
  • Inserted subordinate clause: "The increase in sales that we recorded last year is a great success."

Comma rules for subordinate clauses of equal rank

Incidentally, it can also happen that two subordinate clauses of equal rank are subordinate to a main clause. In such cases you have to separate the subordinate clauses with a comma. The only exception: there is a connective word between the subordinate clauses, e.g. B. “and”, “or”, “as well as”. Then leave out the comma.

  • Two equally important subordinate clauses with commas: "Please ask whether everything is going smoothly, whether the delivery will arrive on time!"
  • Two equally important subordinate clauses with a connective word: "Please let us know how much the goods will cost and how quickly you can deliver."

There are also clauses in which two subordinate clauses that are not of equal rank are subordinate to a main clause. This means that one of the subordinate clauses is dependent on the other, so it doesn't make sense without the other. In such a case, there must be a comma between the two subordinate clauses.

"The project can only be successful if all of the colleagues who work in our department get involved."

With the shortened subordinate clause, you decide for yourself

In everyday language, so-called abbreviated subordinate clauses used in formulas often appear. These are subordinate clauses that are actually incomplete, but which have established themselves as common formulations through frequent use. It is not absolutely necessary that you put a comma here. Examples of such abbreviations are the expressions "if possible" or "as usual" in the following sentences:

  • "Please answer [,] if possible [,] this week." (With a non-shortened subordinate clause, the sentence would read: "Please answer, if possible, this week.")
  • "Important letters are checked [,] as usual [,] by two members of the management."
What to do with a subordinate clause introduced in several parts

The so-called multi-part subordinate clauses, e.g. E.g. “as that” or “instead of that”. It is often not clear whether there has to be a comma between the parts of these additions. As a basic rule, the Duden specifies that you do not have to use a comma, as these sentences show:

  • "The letter is too important to be sent in the normal mail."
  • "The intern should rather take a few notes instead of asking anew every day."

However, there are some special cases in which the comma can appear after the new spelling. It then clarifies the pronunciation and marks a pause in the sentence. From this can rule are z. B. the following expressions concerned:

  • assumed that: "Assuming [] that Ms. Moldova is absent tomorrow, could you replace her?"
  • provided [] that: "You can come later tomorrow, provided [] that Ms. Moldova is back in the house."
  • depending on [,] whether: "I can look after the trainee tomorrow, depending on [] whether Ms. Moldova is back or not."
  • no matter [,] which: "No matter [] which products you order from us, you pay no shipping costs."

Extra tip: You will find all the current rules in our section on the new spelling.