Execute cannot be pardoned: we deal with punctuation in English

Many students believe that punctuation is the same in all languages. It would seem that the punctuation marks are the same (unless there are inverted in Spanish, and everyone has different quotes), why not use them by the same rules? The answer is simple: it is impossible syntactically. All languages ​​have a different sentence structure, therefore it is not possible to apply uniform punctuation rules to all languages ​​at once. And then, whose rules apply? In the rules of the Russian themselves are confused Russian. And Russian punctuation in the English text is generally unnatural. Consider the most common mistakes of Russian students.

Deciding to learn a foreign language, sooner or later you will encounter the fact that you have to write something on it. At high levels, you will already learn how to formulate a thought and will try to write with beautiful long sentences. Here are just an inexperienced student who has never studied even the basics of English punctuation any teacher or carrier will see a mile away. After all, students often write essays in English, placing punctuation marks on the principle of the Russian language. We will not describe in detail and meticulously all the rules of English punctuation, but concentrate on the most frequent mistakes.

Too many commas

You heard right. In English, too, there are enough rules for putting commas, but Russian students, bearing in mind the lessons of their native language at school, shove the unhappy comma wherever it is not necessary. Most often, “not necessary” happens in a subordinate clause, when the desire to put a comma before the union “which” or “to” is downright irresistible. To begin with, the subordinate clauses in English are divided into defining and non-defining (definitional and non-defining). Determinatives help us understand the meaning of the sentence, and not definitive give additional information, without which the sentence would still be grammatically correct.

Let's see how this works with examples:

I'm going to wear that skirt that I bought in London.

In this sentence, a comma is not needed, despite the presence of two grammatical foundations ( I'm going to wear and I bought ). Why? Because the clause gives me the necessary information to understand. If I remove this part of the sentence, I’ll have “I'm going to wear the skirt” , and this is not exactly the right sentence. It has a definite article “the” , but it is not explained what kind of skirt it is. A better option would be “I'm going to wear a skirt” or “I'm going to wear this skirt” .

Thus, the subordinate clause explains exactly which skirt I'm going to wear, and this is important information for understanding. While in the following example, everything is somewhat different:

My grandfather, who is 87, goes swimming every day.

As you can see, here the commas are enough for the Russian student to breathe out with relief. And all because the subordinate clause contains additional information, removing which I won’t lose either the meaning or the grammatical correctness of the whole sentence:

"My grandfather goes swimming every day."

Most often, Russian-speaking students are confused with the word which , which means "who." If you need to write a sentence with this word, take a look at your subordinate clause (it just starts with which ): how important is the information for understanding? Mentally remove the subordinate clause and see what remains. Is the remaining sentence grammatically correct? Is there an unsubstantiated "hung" definite article?

If you have a very high level of English, remember that the word which can introduce a non-definitive subordinate clause, which contains some additional thought about the whole sentence, and not just one word.


Chris did really well in his exams, which is quite a surprise.

It was a surprise that Chris coped with the exams, and the pronoun which refers to the whole sentence “Chris did really well in his exams” , not just the word “exams” ).

London, United Kingdom, has always been the place I wanted to visit.

Here which refers to the same word - London.

Direct speech design

Recall how this is done in Russian.

“How old are you?” They asked me.
“It was necessary to prepare in advance,” the teacher shrugged.

If the direct speech ends with a question (or exclamation) sign, then after the quotes we immediately put a dash. If the sentence is a narrative, then we do not put an end. We close the quotes, put a comma after them and then a dash. And even if there is no “he said,” “she replied,” and other things, we will still put the dot behind the quotes. Many Russian-speaking students retain the same rules by making out English direct speech, but the rules in English are different. First, the dot remains within quotes:

'He's very clever, you know.'

If we have a speaker, the sentence will look like this:

"They think it's a more respectable job," said Jo.

The comma, which we usually put out for quotes, remains inside them, and the dash is completely absent.

At higher levels, consider that the English have a way to keep quotes when dividing a long sentence into paragraphs. For example, if someone tells something, and the story takes a couple of pages, it is logical to divide it into paragraphs. And if in the Russian text the narrative will go like a solid text, then in English the quotes will be opened in every paragraph. At the same time, they will not close in the previous paragraph.

Exclamation marks

It is impossible to imagine Russian without exclamations. We even greet in official letters from the heart: “Hello, Ivan Ivanovich!” Or “Dear Ivan Ivanovich!”, What can we say about the exclamations in the monologue. Admiration, indignation, bewilderment: at the end of all such proposals, we put an exclamation mark.

In English, everything is somewhat different. Of course, strong emotions can be conveyed with an exclamation mark: “I'm so excited!”, “What a day!” . However, if we are talking about a formal text, then exclamation marks should be avoided here, so as not to be considered an unrestrained person. Formal greetings never end with exclamation marks, and yours, for example, indignation, can be expressed without extra punctuation.

It is interesting to note that in our country exclamations are intonationally different from ordinary declarative sentences and sound higher, and in English they are equally read in a descending tone. Also, the rules of English prescribe not to use a combination of interrogative and exclamation marks, while in Russian this is possible. In English, however, you have to decide what is more important and leave one sign.


Russian students are quite often mistaken with a dash when writing English texts. The basic rule of setting a dash in Russian is: “A dash is placed between the subject and the predicate, expressed by the noun in the nominative case. For example: Oak is a tree. Optics is a branch of physics. ” Surely in school you were told that in such sentences a dash is put instead of the verb “is”. With us this verb is omitted, and a dash is put in its place, and in English this verb is present in such sentences, and it cannot be omitted. By the way, this is why Russians are so hard to get used to the fact that the verb to be in English is used in all such cases: we have something in the language. You can't say “Oak - tree” in English. It is necessary to use the verb to be in the necessary form, and not to forget about the article.

There are more than a dozen rules for using a dash in Russian. In English, they are an order of magnitude smaller, and in general this punctuation mark is not used very often. Using the dash, you can show an incomplete thought (we have an ellipsis for this):

I wish you would — oh, never mind.

A double dash is sometimes used instead of brackets:

Mr. It is not always possible to have it.

We reviewed the most frequent punctuation errors of Russian-speaking students. Do not forget that in English there are much more rules of punctuation, and they really differ from Russian ones. If you have to take an exam or need to write a formal text, learn at least the basic rules for the placement of punctuation marks and be sure to check written not only for spelling, but also for punctuation.

For those who want to pump English

Readers of the blog give a coupon for 500 rubles for the purchase of a subscription, which includes 8 types of training and weekly mailings about English grammar and vocabulary - "Vitaminki" and "Buns".

And for unlimited and perpetual access to all features of the site there is an “All Inclusive” tariff (the discount does not apply).

Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/409041/

All Articles