Grammar Basics – The Comma with Descriptive Phrases

Here we are with yet another lesson dealing with the comma. I think when you realize how many blog posts, articles, and Style Guides are dedicated to comma usage, you begin to understand why this little punctuation mark is such a bother.

Today, I want to talk about using commas with descriptive phrases.

Basically, there are two types of descriptive phrases – one is considered essential, and the other is non-essential. The difference between these two phrases comes down to the emphasis of what is being described, the noun serving as the subject of the sentence.

When the phrase is essential to the meaning (and often the identity) of the noun it belongs to, a bracket of commas is NOT appropriate.

The reason for this is because without the descriptive phrase, the noun isn’t complete.

Conversely, when the descriptive phrase is non-essential and isn’t needed to identify the noun, then the phrase is set off with commas.

Here are some examples:

In the sentence,

      The man with the gray and black moustache is my husband.

      (The descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is how the husband is identified – therefor it is essential information, and NO commas are used.)

In this sentence,

      My hubby, with the gray and black moustache, threw the ball for the dog.

      (In this instance, the descriptive phrase, ‘with the gray and black moustache,’ is NON-essential because it is already clear that the subject of the sentence is ‘my hubby’ – therefore it is non-essential information, and commas are required to set it apart from the rest of the sentence.)

Next time, we will cover Commas with Introductory Words and Phrases.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' 'Innocent for the Moment,' and 'Moment by Moment.' This is a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. Additionally, I've written a collection of short stories about my dogs, Howie and Bernie - with a 2nd Collection coming in late 2021. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2021 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on on August 1st of 2021. (The 2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology is currently available on - the collection includes 30 stories, written by 18 different Authors from three continents.) I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 37 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

One thought on “Grammar Basics – The Comma with Descriptive Phrases

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