Skip to main content

Commas After Introductions

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Introductory Clauses

Introductory clauses are dependent clauses that provide background information or "set the stage" for the main part of the sentence, the independent clause. For example:

If they want to win, athletes must exercise every day.

(introductory dependent clause, main clause)

Because Smokey kept barking insistently, we threw the ball for him.

(introductory dependent clause, main clause)

Introductory clauses start with adverbs like after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, when, etc.

Introductory phrases

Introductory phrases also set the stage for the main action of the sentence, but they are not complete clauses. Phrases don't have both a subject and a verb that are separate from the subject and verb in the main clause of the sentence. Common introductory phrases include prepositional phrases, appositive phrases, participial phrases, infinitive phrases, and absolute phrases.

To stay in shape for competition, athletes must exercise every day.

(introductory infinitive phrase, main clause)

Barking insistently, Smokey got us to throw his ball for him.

(introductory participial phrase, main clause)

A popular and well respected mayor, Bailey was the clear favorite in the campaign for governor.

(introductory appositive phrase, main clause)

The wind blowing violently, the townspeople began to seek shelter.

(introductory absolute phrase, main clause)

After the adjustment for inflation, real wages have decreased while corporate profits have grown.

(introductory prepositional phrases, main clause)

Introductory words

Introductory words like however, still, furthermore, and meanwhile create continuity from one sentence to the next.
The coaches reviewed the game strategy. Meanwhile, the athletes trained on the Nautilus equipment.
Most of the evidence seemed convincing. Still, the credibility of some witnesses was in question.

When to use a comma

Introductory elements often require a comma, but not always. Use a comma in the following cases:

  • After an introductory clause.
  • After a long introductory prepositional phrase or more than one introductory prepositional phrase.
  • After introductory verbal phrases, some appositive phrases, or absolute phrases.
  • If there is a distinct pause.
  • To avoid confusion.

When not to use a comma

Some introductory elements don't require a comma, and sometimes the subject of a sentence looks like an introductory element but isn't. Do not use a comma in the following cases:

  • After a brief prepositional phrase. (Is it a single phrase of fewer than five words?)
  • After a restrictive (essential) appositive phrase. (See our document on appositives.)
  • To separate the subject from the predicate. (See below.)

Each of the following sentences may look like it requires a comma after the opening segment (marked with an x), but the opening segment is really the subject. It's sometimes easy to confuse gerund- or infinitive-phrase subjects like the following with nonessential introductory phrases, so be careful.

Preparing and submitting his report to the committee for evaluation and possible publication[x] was one of the most difficult tasks Bill had ever attempted.
To start a new business without doing market research and long-term planning in advance[x] would be foolish.
Extracting the most profit for the least expenditure on labor and materials[x] is the primary goal of a capitalist.