Learn English with videos – How to use the comma

Good morning everyone!

How are you today? Excited to learn how to use the comma correctly? We knew it! This is a fantastic lesson from TED, explaining how the comma works.

The text seems long and might be a little difficult, but when you watch the video, it will all become a lot clearer and easier!


First, go get a pencil and paper to take notes. Ready? Ok, now follow the steps:

1. Read the text
2. Understand the vocabulary
3. Watch the video
4. Do the exercises!


Commas are tricky things, especially when subordinates and conjunctions are involved. If you can remember a few basic rules, a simple law of physics and some common scenarios, you will be able to use commas correctly.

I like to think of the different parts of our sentence as characters. Let’s meet a few of them: the tiny conjunctions, the mighty subordinates and the clever comma.

Conjunctions are small and nimble. They are words that connect clauses, words and phrases. You can easily remember the conjunctions by remembering the acronym FANBOYS. The conjunctions are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so. Because they’re so small, more often than not, they require the help of a comma, but not always.

Subordinates, on the other hand, are the WWE heavyweight champions of sentences. They are words that connect two unequal things, dependent and independent clauses. Subordinates make it very clear what is being prioritized in a sentence. Commonly used subordinates are: although, because, before, however, unless and even though. Because subordinates are all about power, they can do a lot of heavy lifting by themselves. But, of course, sometimes even the strongest among us need some help from our clever friends. Because our clever comma is so nice, she often roams her neighbourhood looking for some community service to do.

Today, as soon as she leaves her house, she sees a subordinate lifting the weight of two complete sentences, one on each arm:

Bartheleme loves engagin in political debate even though he usually loses.

The comma asks the subordinate needs some help. Well, we know that subordinates are the WWE heavyweight champions of sentences. They can easily hold the weight of these two complete sentences because they are distributed evenly on both arms.

So, when the comma asks if it can help, the subordinate is appalled at the idea of needing assistance. “No thanks, maybe next time!”

So the comma continues on. Soon, she sees a couple of subordinates attempting to lift the weight of sentences directly in front of themselves.

Even though Batheleme loves to sing he never sings in front of others.

The comma asks the subordinates if they need help. They might not want to admit it, but this time the subordinates do need help. Complete sentences weigh quite a bit. Simple physics tells us that it’s easier to balance heavy objects if the weight is evenly distributed. So while the subordinates are quite capable of balancing two complete sentences when carrying the weight on both sides, they’re having trouble picking just one up.

The comma rushes over to help the struggling subordinates, but how will she help? When subordinates begin sentences, the comma will place herself directly after the first thought or complete sentence.

Even though Batheleme loves to sing, he never sings in front of others.

After helping the subordinates, our comma heroine continues on and spots a conjunction holding the weight of two complete sentences.

Bartheleme was accepted into the University of Chicago and he is on the waitlist for Stanford University.

The comma asks te conjunction if he needs help. Of course he does! Hurry! The comma rushes and places itself before the conjunction.

Bartheleme was accepted into the University of Chicago, and he is on the waitlist for Stanford University.

FANBOYS aren’t as militant as subordinates, for this reason the commas don’t have to fall in live behind the FANBOYS. FANBOYS are corteous creatures. They allow the comma to go ahead of them.

Helping others is hard work! On her way home, our comma sees a conjunction holding up the weight of a complete sentece and a fragment sentence.

Bartheleme is going to major in molecular biology or intepretive dance.

The now-exhausted comma asks the conjunction if he needs help lifting the items. This is one of the rare occasions where a conjunction doesn’t need the help of a comma. The conjunction assures the comma that help isn’t needed, which is good for the comma because by now, all it wants to do is go home and rest up for another day of vigilant sentence constructing.


Tricky – using or likely to use dishonest tricks.

Scenarios – a description of what could possibly happen.

Mighty – having or showing great strength or power.

Clever – intelligent and able to learn things quickly.

Nimble – able to move quickly, easily, and lightly.

Clauses – a part of a sentence that has its own subject and verb.

Require – to need (something).

Roam – to go to different places without having a particular purpose or plan.

Evenly – adverb that means balanced.

Appalled – to cause (someone) to feel fear, shock, or disgust.

Assistance – help.

Admits – to say usually in an unwilling way that you accept or do not deny the truth or existence of (something).

Spots – to see.

Hurry – to move, act, or go quickly.

Rushes – to move or do something very quickly or in a way that shows you are in a hurry.

Militant – having or showing a desire or willingness to use strong, extreme, and sometimes forceful methods to achieve something.

Courteous – very polite in a way that shows respect.

Rare – not common or usual : not often done, seen, or happening.

Vigilant – carefully noticing problems or signs of danger.



Ok, now for the fun part: go to the following link on the TED website and complete the multiple choice.

Let us know how many you got right!

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