Unlocking the Mysteries of the Comma Before “Since”

In the intricate tapestry of language, punctuation marks are the threads that weave coherence into our sentences. Among them, the comma holds a place of particular significance, often acting as a subtle cue for pauses, clarifications, or separations. One area where the comma’s usage can perplex even seasoned grammarians is its placement before the word “since.” This seemingly innocuous punctuation choice can stir debates and raise questions about proper grammar. In this exploration, we delve into the enigma of the comma before “since,” unraveling its nuances and shedding light on its correct application.



A Clarification

The conundrum of whether to employ a comma before “since” is one that has puzzled many writers. The answer, however, lies in the context and intended meaning of the sentence. When “since” is used as a conjunction to denote time or cause, the decision to use a comma hinges on the structure of the sentence and the relationship between its components.

Deciphering the Rule: When to Use the Comma

  1. Temporal Cues: When “since” is employed to indicate time, serving as a conjunction between clauses, the inclusion of a comma is typically unnecessary. For instance:
  • She had been practicing yoga since sunrise. In this example, the absence of a comma before “since” is justified as it serves to connect the dependent clause “She had been practicing yoga” with the temporal cue “since sunrise.”
  1. Causal Connections: Conversely, when “since” is used to express causation, implying a reason or explanation, the inclusion of a comma becomes imperative. Consider the following example:
  • Since you’ve already eaten, I won’t prepare dinner. Here, the comma before “since” delineates the causal relationship between the clauses, indicating that the reason for not preparing dinner is the fact that “you’ve already eaten.”

Navigating Ambiguity: Instances of Ambiguous Usage

While the guidelines for using the comma before “since” may seem clear-cut, certain instances can still introduce ambiguity. One such scenario arises when “since” is employed in its adverbial sense, indicating an intervening period. In such cases, the presence or absence of a comma can alter the interpretation of the sentence.

  • Without comma: She had been away since last Christmas. In this instance, the absence of a comma suggests that she has been absent continuously since the previous Christmas.
  • With comma: She had been away, since last Christmas. Conversely, the inclusion of a comma before “since” implies a temporal break, suggesting that her absence began at some point subsequent to last Christmas.


The enigmatic placement of a comma before “since” serves as a testament to the intricacies of language. While the rules governing its usage may appear straightforward, nuances and exceptions abound, requiring writers to navigate them with finesse. By understanding the contextual cues and semantic nuances at play, one can wield the comma before “since” with precision, enhancing the clarity and coherence of their prose. In the ever-evolving landscape of language, mastery lies not only in adherence to prescribed rules but also in the discernment to recognize and embrace its nuances.