Comma Before Such As | Rules & Examples

The prepositional phrase “such as” is used to introduce examples or to specify something about the phrase it modifies.

  • There’s a comma before “such as” when it introduces examples that could be left out.
  • There’s no comma before “such as” when it introduces essential identifying information
Examples of when to use a comma before “such as”
“Such as” introducing examples (comma) “Such as” introducing identifying information (no comma)
Many types of animals, such as fish and seabirds, live in marine environments. Animals such as dogs and cats make good household pets.
The book touches on a number of complicated topics, such as music theory, brain chemistry, and artificial intelligence. I enjoy learning about topics such as history and technology.
Tip
Try a simple trick to confirm whether you need a comma: remove the “such as” phrase. If the sentence still expresses the same basic meaning, add the comma. If not, no comma is needed. When in doubt, double-check with the punctuation checker.

“The book covers a number of complicated topics” expresses the same point as the original sentence, but “I enjoy learning about topics” is so vague that it’s not really expressing any clear point. The “such as” clause is essential in the latter sentence, so there’s no comma.

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Comma before “such as”: Introducing examples

“Such as” is frequently used with a similar meaning to “for example” or “for instance,” to introduce an example or a list of examples. When used in this way, “such as” introduces a nonrestrictive clause (or nonessential clause): one that could be removed without affecting the basic meaning of the sentence.

Nonrestrictive clauses are normally separated from the rest of the sentence with commas. If you’re not sure whether your “such as” clause is nonrestrictive, try removing it and seeing whether the sentence still makes the same point:

    • Transitive verbs, such as “give,” “buy,” and “need,” are followed by at least one object, which represents the thing or person affected by the action.
    • Transitive verbs are followed by at least one object, which represents the thing or person affected by the action.

    We can see that the sentence without the “such as” clause is still expressing the same meaning as the original sentence; it just doesn’t provide specific examples anymore.

    When you add a comma before the “such as” phrase, you must also add one after it unless it appears at the end of the sentence (in which case it’s just followed by a period). Don’t forget the second comma:

    • The park is home to a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, fishing, and picnicking that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.
    • The park is home to a variety of recreational activities, such as hiking, fishing, and picnicking, that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

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    No comma before “such as”: Identifying information

    “Such as” is also used to provide information that is needed to clarify whom or what the sentence is about. The “such as” clause is attached to some part of the sentence (e.g., the subject) to identify it. This kind of “such as” clause is called a restrictive clause (or essential clause).

    Restrictive clauses are not separated from the surrounding text by commas, and they can’t be removed from the sentence without changing the meaning. A good test, again, is to try removing the “such as” clause. If doing so makes the sentence unclear or changes the meaning, then no commas are needed:

    • Words such as “give,” “buy,” and “need” are classed as transitive verbs.
    • Words are classed as transitive verbs.

    The sentence with the “such as” clause removed doesn’t make sense. It seems to suggest either that all words are transitive verbs (not true) or that some unspecified number of words are (not really a meaningful statement).

    So it’s clear that the “such as” clause is restrictive—it’s essential to the sentence’s meaning because it defines which words are being referred to. Therefore, it shouldn’t be preceded by a comma.

    Is there ever a comma after “such as”?

    Whether or not you’ve used a comma before “such as,” it’s wrong to place a comma directly after it: “such as” should be immediately followed by the words it introduces, without any punctuation in between.

    • I enjoy various genres of music, such as, jazz, indie rock, and hip hop.
    • I enjoy various genres of music, such as jazz, indie rock, and hip hop.

    Other punctuation with “such as”

    It’s also wrong to use a colon directly after “such as.” Colons are commonly used to introduce lists of examples, but a colon must always come at the end of a complete sentence. Since it never makes sense to end a sentence with “such as,” using a colon here is a mistake:

    • There are many countries I still want to visit someday, such as: Japan, Brazil, Canada, and India.
    • There are many countries I still want to visit someday, such as Japan, Brazil, Canada, and India.
    • There are many countries I still want to visit someday, such as the following: Japan, Brazil, Canada, and India.

    People occasionally make the mistake of adding a semicolon before or after “such as.” Both are wrong. A semicolon normally connects two independent clauses, and “such as” doesn’t work as either the beginning or the end of an independent clause, so using a semicolon makes no sense:

    • There are many countries I still want to visit someday; such as Japan, Brazil, Canada, and India.
    • There are many countries I still want to visit someday, such as; Japan, Brazil, Canada, and India.

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    Worksheet: Comma before “such as”

    Test your knowledge of when you need a comma before “such as” by completing the worksheet below. Just add commas wherever you think they’re needed to the example sentences, and then check them against the answers provided.

    1. Letters such as “p” and “t” are referred to as consonants.
    2. Influenza has a number of common symptoms such as coughing and headache.
    3. The company offers a wide range of products such as electronics and home appliances at affordable prices.
    4. Themes such as love and death can be found in art and literature throughout history.
    5. Historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King serve as an inspiration to many modern-day activists.
    1. Letters such as “p” and “t” are referred to as consonants.
      • Here, you don’t need any commas, because the “such as” phrase is restrictive: it’s needed to identify what letters you’re referring to.  Surrounding it with commas would incorrectly suggest that all letters are consonants.
    1. Influenza has a number of common symptoms, such as coughing and headache.
      • In this sentence, you need a comma before “such as,” because it introduces a nonrestrictive clause (a list of examples that are not essential to the sentence’s meaning).
    1. The company offers a wide range of products, such as electronics and home appliances, at affordable prices.
      • Commas are needed around “such as electronics and home appliances,” since it’s a nonrestrictive clause. The object is already identified by “a wide range of products,” and the following phrase just provides some examples that aren’t essential to the statement.
    1. Themes such as love and death can be found in art and literature throughout history.
      • No commas are needed here. Adding commas around the “such as” phrase would turn this into a statement about “themes” generally, making it too vague to be meaningful.
    1. Historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King serve as an inspiration to many modern-day activists.
      • Again, no commas are needed: “such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King” is a restrictive clause. Without it, the sentence would just refer to historical figures in general, which is unlikely to be the intention of the statement.

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      If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

      Sources in this article

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      This Scribbr article

      Caulfield, J. (2023, October 26). Comma Before Such As | Rules & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/commas/comma-before-such-as/

      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.