Understanding proper use of comma or no comma in a series

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Thank you in advance for your help!  I'm trying to understand what rules of grammar apply to a particular sentence.  Here is the unruly sentence:

 

You may do A, but only if B or C happen to D.

 

My question relates to B.  Is the following interpretation of the above correct? You may do A, but only on two conditions: (1) if D happens to B or (2) if D happens to C.

 

What are the proper rules of grammar in this instance? Does the meaning change if a comma is placed before the "or"?

 

Thank you!

asked May 09 '13 at 13:41 Sam Christensen New member

1 answer


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Your sentence does not contain a series, so the rules for the placement of the Oxford comma do not apply (A series is three or more items, not two).

 

No comma should be placed between B and C. Adding a comma at that point does not change the meaning. It only makes the sentence wrong.

 

When you do have a series -- A, B, or C -- you should always emply the Oxford comma.

 

I hope this helps.

link comment answered May 09 '13 at 19:12 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

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