Point rules

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The comma ( plural : commas or commas ), Austrian comma , used in the written language to parts of a set demarcate. This gives texts a clearer structure that is adapted to their meaning, which makes reading considerably easier.

The rules for setting commas are different in different languages. In common is that a comma separates weaker than a point and that a comma important to the meaning of a sentence can be. The rules can be used to highlight speech pauses and to delimit or mark groups of words or parts of sentences . Often instead of commas may alternatively semicolon , point or indent to be set, as well as brackets are possible.

German comma rules

In the German language, commas are set according to grammatical rules instead of phonetic ones , as is done in some other languages ​​to mark pauses in speech. However, the grammatical rules regularly - albeit not necessarily - mean that a comma is placed where a speech pause is inserted in the spoken language, since the speaking rhythm often follows the grammatical structure of a sentence.

The comma rules for the German language are set out in the official German spelling rules. Rules and vocabulary set out in paragraphs 71 to 79, last revised in 2006. On March 2, 2006, the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs unanimously decreed that this new set of rules should be applied nationwide in schools from August 1, 2006 - with a one-year transition period.

Correctly placed commas make reading easier. Misplaced or missing commas may impede the flow of reading (a possible consequence: garden path sentence ), or the meaning of a sentence distort (possible consequence ambiguity ).

Example: "Petra did not inherit the jewelry but her husband."

There are two possible interpretations:

"Petra inherited the jewelry, but not her husband."
"Petra did not inherit the jewelry, but her husband did."



If parts of a sentence (which can be one-word or multi-word parts of a sentence) with the same syntactic function are listed or linked, they can be separated either by conjunctions or by commas. The simultaneous use of conjunction (especially “and”, “or” and “as well as”) and comma is, however, excluded in enumerations, unless the main clauses are consecutive and connected with a conjunction; then you can put a comma to clarify the structure of the whole sentence. (Example: "Take the money [,] or leave it." → Conjunctions )

"We have a dog and a cat and a mouse and a bird."

becomes so to

"We have a dog, a cat, a mouse and a bird."

This also applies if you want to combine independent, grammatically complete sentences ( main clauses ) (for example due to their close content-related proximity) to form a complex.

“She tore the door open. She saw the dead. She screamed."

becomes so to

"She tore the door open, she saw the dead man, she screamed."

You can also write abbreviated (but less dramatic depending on the occasion)

"She tore the door open, saw the dead man and screamed."

This rule also applies to lists that are structured with bullets :

The woman
  • ripped open the door
  • saw the dead and
  • screamed.

If the individual parts of a list are complex, you can also use the semicolon :

The woman
  • tore open the door which, contrary to the regulations, was not locked;
  • hurried in with great strides;
  • On entering the room saw that the jewelry was missing and that in the middle of the room there was a dead person whom she could not recognize at first sight, and screamed in horror.

For conjunctions in the manner of an enumeration

The comma is also used between parts of sentences that are connected by conjunctions in the manner of an enumeration, for example at

  • on the one hand on the other hand …
  • on the one hand on the other hand …
  • partly ..., partly ...
  • not only / just ..., but (also) ...
  • although ... but / however ...


On the one hand he wants everything , on the other hand he doesn't want to give anything for it.
He's not just blue , he's totally drunk.


Appositions are enclosed in commas:

"Peter Meier, 70 years old , used to be the CEO."

The addition “70 years” is added. The sentence could also be constructed the other way around:

"Peter Meier, former CEO , is 70 years old."

Appositions can sometimes be quite complex and longer than the main clause:

"Schimmelpilz AG, a German company with a long and eventful history , still exists."

However, if the suffix is ​​part of a name, there is no comma.

"Heinrich the Lion was buried in Braunschweig."


Parenteses (insertions) are enclosed in commas if they are not already enclosed with dashes :

"One day, it was in the middle of summer , it was hailing."

Subordinate clauses

Subordinate clauses are separated by commas. The subordinate clauses include the sentences connected by means of a conjunction or, in this case, specifically: subjunction and the relative clauses .


"Everyone ran away when the undead climbed out of the grave."
"We put on clothes because we don't want to be naked."
"The car I bought last week is already broken."

The part of the sentence I bought last week is an inserted relative clause delimited by commas.

"Peter knew that it couldn't go well ."

Here is an object set . The question is: what did Peter know?

Finally, commas are also used in indirect questions and when rendering indirect speech in a part of a sentence:

"He asked me where the train station was ."
"He admitted that he did not know Greek."

In certain cases, words that introduce a subordinate clause can be separated by an additional comma.


"She was wavering, possibly because she was drunk."
"She was always wide awake, no matter when she got up, and was therefore able to work well."
"She couldn't read, let alone (,) that she could write without errors."

Comparative sentences

The comma separates comparative clauses, a form of adverbial subordinate clauses, which are introduced with “as” or “as”, from the parent clause.


"She worked as long as she planned to."
Sentence 1: She worked just as long. Sentence 2: She had intended to.

However, if the part of the sentence to be compared is not a complete sentence, the comma is omitted:

"I like milk ice cream better than fruit ice cream ."
"I'm just as smart as you."

Infinitive group

An infinitive group is usually delimited with a comma, an infinitive group within a sentence with two commas. According to the reformed German spelling, this comma must be used if one of the following two cases occurs:

  • The infinitive group is introduced with um, without, instead of, instead of, except as (§ 75 (1)). Examples:
“She didn't try so hard to leave now. "
“She trained without sweating. "
"She exercised instead of eating the ice cream she bought ."
  • The infinitive group depends on a noun, correlate or reference word (§ 75 (2 and 3)). Examples:
"He was surprised by the night watchman while trying to break into the safe."
"He made the plan to leave secretly."
"Anita loves to sleep late."
"He hadn't thought of disappearing now."
"He hadn't thought of leaving now."

The examples so far have all contained an extended infinitive . If there is a non-expanded, simple infinitive , the comma may be omitted according to the reformed German spelling, provided that there are no misunderstandings (§75 E 1 ).

"She had long since made up the plan (to) leave."
"The fear (of) falling () paralyzed his steps."
"Thomas didn't think of () going."

In all other cases , the comma may (but does not have to) be used if this serves the structure or is to rule out misunderstandings (§75 E 2 ).


Just like with the extended infinitive , it is also with the participle (I and II):

"Reading an exciting book, she did not notice that it was starting to rain."
"When we arrived at our destination, we went straight to the hotel."

Also permissible according to the new spelling:

"Reading an exciting book, she didn't notice that it was starting to rain."
"When we arrived at our destination, we went straight to the hotel."


conjunction When listing sub-clauses of equal rank , groups of words or words (i.e. not listing separate sentences), conjunctions are always used without a comma. (§ 72) When enumerating sentences of equal rank, "one generally does not use a comma." (§ 72) - However, "one can use a comma to make the structure of the whole sentence clear." (§ 73)
and "He got up and left." "He got up (,) and then she went." (→ see also below)
or "Give me a hat, a coat or something like that." "Give me a hat, a coat (,) or I'll go away without anything."
respectively resp. "The training or further training leads to the conclusion." "Then she got tired (,) or soon she fell asleep."
as well as / like (= and) "Training and subsequent advanced training lead to the goal."
either ... or "They either appear on time or they don't appear at all." "Either there was silence (,) or they disappeared immediately."
not ... yet "You will not rest or rest until the end." "The coffee didn't taste (,) nor was the café cozy."
both ... and / as well "Both he and his wife liked the cake very much."
neither ... nor "She doesn't know his phone number or address." "There was no word of thanks (,) nor did he say anything at all."

The sense of the “optional rule” of commas between main clauses connected with “and” (“independent clauses ”) is evident in longer constructs. For example, with the sentence “The police arrested the main suspect and his wife and their three children, who were in the same apartment, had to see this” only through the predicate (“had to”) of the second main sentence, readers can determine that “and “A new main sentence began and the police did not arrest the wife and children. A comma is attached in front of the “and” according to § 73 and it is clear why the old regulation was allowed as a variant.

As well have a point or a semicolon , the "and" replace ( "Police arrested the main suspect. His wife ...") or clearer than a comma first from the second law disconnect ( "Police arrested the main suspect. And his wife ... "). It is therefore always necessary to ask how meaningful it is to connect two main clauses through a conjunction and how this is structured syntactically . The responsibility of legibility is ultimately borne by the authors and the editing department .

Most daily newspapers and book publishers continue to regularly place commas in front of conjunctions, contrary to § 72, but not common children's book publishers ( e.g. Oetinger or Thienemann ), which removed voluntary commas from existing texts after the 1996 reform.

Rankings of adjectives

If two adjectives following one another are not equal, there is no comma between them.

Example: “the general economic situation”. When checking whether two consecutive adjectives are of equal importance or not, a rough replacement test can be carried out: Can it make sense to insert an “and” between the adjectives in question? If so, the words in question are of equal importance and a comma must be used - if no, they are not. Application to the example mentioned: Is the “general economic situation” a “general and economic situation”? No, the situation is not general and economic. So there is no comma between “general” and “economic”. Such a replacement test, however, requires a sure instinct in the language.

Often, by adding or leaving out a comma, the writer can make it clear whether or not he wants the adjectives used to be of equal importance. The difference becomes clear in the following example:

1. New , environmentally friendly processes are used in production.
2. New environmentally friendly processes are used in production.

In sentence 1 the adjectives “new” and “environmentally friendly” both relate to the noun “method”, both adjectives have the same rank. Sentence 1 can be paraphrased as follows:

1'. In production, processes are used that are new and environmentally friendly.

In sentence 2, however, the first refers to the second adjective. Theorem 2 can be paraphrased as follows:

2 '. Environmentally friendly processes are used in production, which are new.

In such cases, adding or omitting the comma between consecutive adjectives marks a difference in content. This is also clear when you read the sentence out loud with correct emphasis: If you take a break after “new” and emphasize the following “environmentally friendly”, write a comma. In this example, the comma becomes “audible”, so to speak.

See also the following sentences: 3) Would you like to put on your new green sweater today? Sinn: There are several new sweaters. One is green. 4) Would you like to put on your new green sweater today? Sense: Someone has a variety of sweaters, one of which is firstly new and secondly green. 5) My old mean boss is also my new mean boss. 6) My old, mean boss is about to retire.

Examples from Duden:

"With a comma:

  • a sweet, sticky drink
  • a black, broad-brimmed hat

But without a comma:

  • recent political developments
  • a glass of dark Bavarian beer ("Bavarian beer"  is seen here as a unit that is defined more precisely by "dark"  )
  • a strangely sweet drink (»strangely«  describes »sweet« in  more detail and is therefore not declined ).

Depending on the meaning:

  • higher lying unwooded slopes (without commas, if there are also lower lying unwooded slopes)
  • higher lying, unwooded slopes (with a comma, if the lower lying slopes are wooded)

With little difference in meaning:

  • long [,] blond hair
  • light-colored [,] seedless grapes
  • our liberal [,] democratic basic order "

Dates and times

Multi-part dates and times are listed as lists or as appendices and are therefore separated by commas. The last closing comma before the continuation of the sentence is optional.

Examples: She gives birth on Tuesday September 18.

She gives birth on Tuesday September 18th.
She gives birth on Tuesday, September 18 at 1 p.m.
She is expected to give birth to a boy on Tuesday, September 18 at 1 pm [,].

In letterheads, the place and date are separated by a comma.

Examples: Münster, December 3, 1998

Münster, December 3, 1998

Commas in direct speech

If a sentence consists of direct speech and other parts of the sentence and the direct speech is not at the end of the entire sentence, it is separated from the following parts of the sentence by a comma. This also applies if the direct speech itself ends with an exclamation mark or question mark . Example:

She asked, “Will it stay nice today?” And put on her coat. - I called: “Good evening!” And left.

If the direct speech would end with a period, this is left out. Example:

"I'm going home," he said and opened the door. - "Stay a little longer", she begged him.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Comma placement  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. German spelling. Rules and dictionary. (PDF) Revised regulations (2006 version with 2011 updates). IDS , 2011, accessed April 23, 2014 .
  2. Validity agreements (formerly on the website of the Kultusministerkonferenz) for the FRG. (PDF). 2006, archived from the original on October 23, 2007 ; Retrieved April 23, 2014 .
  3. Duden: Comma. Retrieved March 27, 2017 .
  4. ^ Spelling Council IDS Mannheim § 74 E1 (page 78 of the PDF, page 81 of the rules)
  5. Structure within whole sentences. Comma. In korrekturen.de . Retrieved April 23, 2014 .
  6. a b c d rules and vocabulary , updated version of the official set of rules in accordance with the recommendations of the Council for German Spelling 2016.
  7. a b c d German spelling. Rules and dictionary. (PDF) § 73. IDS , 2011, accessed on April 23, 2014 . Section 73 counts fewer conjunctions than Section 72.
  8. comma. For clauses (independent clauses and subordinate clauses). In: Duden . Retrieved April 23, 2014 .
  9. German spelling. Rules and dictionary. (PDF) § 71, Section E1, page 79.IDS , 2011, accessed on April 23, 2014 .
  10. Duden: Comma. Retrieved March 27, 2018 .
  11. German spelling. Rules and dictionary. (PDF) §§ 89 to 95. IDS , 2011, accessed on April 23, 2014 .