Sue Kline’s Grammar Hotline

Clear answers to your pressing questions about English usage.
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A selection of questions received recently:

In this sentence, do you need to add a comma before the word “which”?
“He presents his subjects as mundane objects devoid of apparent meaning which is postmodern in its nihilistic attitude towards art and originality.”
I’ve been trying to figure this comma problem using a book called “The Grammar Bible” but have not been successful.
Stephanie W., Las Vegas, NV

 Answer: Well, the answer is partly “yes.” You do need a comma before a clause beginning with the word “which” as the clause is considered to add information not essential to the meaning of the sentence. But to be used correctly, the word “which” must have a noun antecedent – a word to which it refers.

You could remedy this way: “His approach is to present his subjects as mundane objects devoid of apparent meaning, which is postmodern in its nihilistic attitude towards art and originality.” While still a bit clumsy, the sentence has a clear antecedent in the word approach, the antecedent amplified by your additional explanation, “which is postmodern in its nihilistic attitude towards art and originality.”

Categories: Comma, Grammar