The Grammar GuideCommaHow should I use commas with "not only... but also"?

How should I use commas with "not only... but also"?

How should I use commas with "not only... but also"?

"Not only... but also" is a correlative conjunction.

Correlative conjunctions always come in pairs and they relate one part of the sentence to the other. "Not only... but also" can be used to connect either nouns or clauses. When it connects nouns, you never use commas, but when connecting clauses that are complete sentences, you use a comma to separate them.

Connecting nouns: no comma

My favorite food is not only lobster but also scallops and shrimp.

Connecting clauses: use a comma

Not only will I eat lobster every chance I get, but I will also eat scallops and shrimp as often as I can.

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The Details

So, those are the basic rules. Now let's look at some more complex situations.

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that function together. These conjunctions are placed in different parts of the sentence and work to relate two parts of the sentence together. Here are a few examples of correlative conjunctions.

  • not/but: She has not one beach house but two!
  • not only/but also: I have not only spent all my money on the renovation but also all of my sanity.
  • either/or: I’ll take either the chicken or the steak.
  • neither/nor: He has neither the time nor the means to start another business.
  • both/and: I love both chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
  • as/as: My new teacher isn’t as nice as my old one.
  • such/that: Live your life in such a way that people always remember your kindness.
  • rather/than: My son would rather play video games than go to school.

When correlative conjunctions connect nouns, as the examples above, no comma is necessary. But when correlative conjunctions connect clauses, sometimes a comma is necessary. Use a comma when the second clause is independent. In these cases, correlative conjunctions function like coordinating conjunctions.

This is common with the correlative conjunctions not only... but also. The subject can be placed between "but" and "also".

Examples:

  • I have not only mastered CSS, but I have also learned HTML and JavaScript.
  • He has not only acted insubordinately, but he has also offended half of his coworkers.

Let’s look at these same examples, but instead of independent clauses, the correlative conjunction will connect dependent clauses.

  • I have not only mastered CSS but also learned HTML and JavaScript.
  • He has not only acted insubordinately but also offended half of his coworkers.

Because the second clauses are not independent, no comma is necessary.

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