Comma Before or After And | Rules & Examples

In English, you must put a comma before “and” when it connects two independent clauses. A clause is independent when it could stand on its own as a sentence—it has its own subject and verb.

Example: Comma before “and” connecting two independent clauses
Jagmeet walks to school, and Rebecca takes the bus.

But when “and” connects two verbs with the same subject, you shouldn’t use a comma.

Example: “And” connecting two verbs with the same subject
Jagmeet walks to school and arrives late.

In this case, Jagmeet is the subject who performs both actions (walking and arriving).

Note
The same rules apply to using commas with the other main coordinating conjunctions, namely commas before and after “but”, and commas before or after “or.”

Comma before “and” connecting independent clauses

You can recognize that you need a comma before “and” when you’re connecting two clauses with separate subjects and verbs.

This applies even when the second subject is a pronoun referring to the same person or thing as the first subject, or when the second clause repeats the same verb from the first.

Examples: Comma before “and” connecting independent clauses
  • Veronica loves watching movies, and she goes to the theater at least twice a week.
  • Bob went to church on Sunday morning, and he handed out flyers in the afternoon.
  • It rained yesterday, and it didn’t rain today.

But it’s often better to simplify phrasings like these by omitting the second subject. This way, you remove the need for a comma and make the sentence less repetitive.

Examples: Simplified phrasings with no comma required
  • Veronica loves watching movies and goes to the theater at least twice a week.
  • Bob went to church on Sunday morning and handed out flyers in the afternoon.
  • It rained yesterday and not today.

Most style guides do make an exception for short sentences where the two independent clauses are simple and closely related. In these cases, the comma is optional.

Example: “And” connecting two short independent clauses
  • Janice speaks and Justine listens.
  • Janice speaks, and Justine listens.

When you don’t need a comma before “and”

As a conjunction, “and” can also connect all kinds of different words: adjectives, verbs, nouns, and so on. When “and” joins two words like this, rather than joining two full independent clauses, it’s incorrect to use a comma.

Example sentences: “And” connecting verbs, adjectives, etc.
  • Jeremy, and Paul have three cats.
  • Jeremy and Paul have three cats.
  • The wallpaper was blue, and green.
  • The wallpaper was blue and green.
  • To support my friend, I listened to him, and gave advice.
  • To support my friend, I listened to him and gave advice.

However, at the end of a list of three or more items, a comma may be used before “and.” This is called the Oxford comma (or serial comma). It’s usually recommended to use it.

Example: Oxford comma
Jeremy and Paul have three cats: Whiskers, Daisy, and Tom.

When do you need a comma after “and”?

As a general rule, you don’t need a comma after and. Even if you start a sentence with an introductory “and,” you should not place a comma after it.

  • The future is bright. And, it’s coming faster than you think.

The only occasion when a comma might appear after “and” is when the sentence is interrupted at that point by a parenthetical phrase set off by commas.

Example: Comma after “and”
  • I go jogging three times a week, and, when my friends are available, we play soccer.
  • The headphones are broken and, for all intents and purposes, useless.

Worksheet: Comma before or after and

Do you want to test your knowledge about when to use a comma before or after and? Use our practice worksheet below. Just insert commas into the sentences wherever you think they’re needed, and then check your work against the answers provided.

  1. He traveled to France on Thursday and she followed on Friday.
  2. Julia and I are going to a concert and Siobhan might join us.
  3. My favorite vegetables are broccoli cucumber and zucchini.
  4. The old man sighed and walked away.
  5. My partner cooks and I clean.
  6. I’m surprised and to be honest disappointed.
  1. He traveled to France on Thursday, and she followed on Friday.
    • The “and” here connects two independent clauses, so a comma is needed.
  1. Julia and I are going to a concert, and Siobhan might join us.
    • The first “and” just connects the two subjects, so there’s no comma. The second “and” introduces a second independent clause, so a comma is used.
  1. My favorite vegetables are broccoli, cucumber(,) and zucchini.
    • The first comma is necessary to separate the first two items in the list. The one before “and” is an Oxford comma. The Oxford comma is optional, but most style guides recommend using it.
  1. The old man sighed and walked away.
    • The “and” here connects two verbs with the same subject (the old man), so there’s no comma.
  1. My partner cooks(,) and I clean.
    • This “and” connects two independent clauses, but since they’re very short and closely linked, the comma is optional.
  1. I’m surprised and, to be honest, disappointed.
    • Here a comma appears after “and,” because the phrase “to be honest” is inserted parenthetically. Another comma appears afterwards, to close this parenthetical phrase.

 

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

Caulfield, J. (2022, November 09). Comma Before or After And | Rules & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/commas/comma-before-or-after-and/

Sources

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes for Scribbr about his specialist topics: grammar, linguistics, citations, and plagiarism. In his spare time, he reads a lot of books.