The Grammar GuideCommaShould I use a comma after a time phrase such as "in the meantime"?

Should I use a comma after a time phrase such as "in the meantime"?

Should I use a comma after a time phrase such as "in the meantime"?

A time phrase is something that gives details of the time that something happened. It might be a single word or a complete phrase. Some examples of time phrases are tomorrow, at 2pm, five hundred years ago, and in the meantime.

When a time phrase adds information to an independent clause or sentence that follows it then it should be followed by a comma. If the phrase or sentence comes before the time phrase then it shouldn't have a comma before it.

Example 1:

  • Correct: Five hundred years ago, there were no grammar books.
  • Incorrect: Five hundred years ago there were no grammar books.
  • Correct: There were no grammar books five hundred years ago.
  • Incorrect: There were no grammar books, five hundred years ago.

Example 2:

  • Correct: Yesterday, there was no new news.
  • Incorrect: Yesterday there was no new news.
  • Correct: There was no new news yesterday.
  • Incorrect: There was no new news, yesterday.



In general, the rules around commas and time phrases are as follows:

  • If the time phrase comes before an independent clause or sentence, use a comma after the time phrase.
  • If the time phrase comes after an independent clause or sentence, no comma is necessary.

Example 1:

  • Correct: Last week, my husband and I went to the movies.
  • Incorrect: Last week my husband and I went to the movies.

Example 2:

  • Correct: A hundred years ago, women in the United States gained the right to vote.
  • Incorrect: A hundred years ago women in the United States gained the right to vote.

Example 3:

  • Correct: The Roman Empire fell centuries ago.
  • Incorrect: The Roman Empire fell, centuries ago.

Example 4:

  • Correct: I have an appointment at three o’clock.
  • Incorrect: I have an appointment, at three o’clock.

The comma rule also applies to independent clauses that are not their own sentences. Sometimes independent clauses are tied to other clauses.

For example:

  • Correct: Go to sleep, and tonight, Santa will bring you toys.
  • Correct: Go to sleep, and Santa will bring you toys tonight.
  • Incorrect: Go to sleep, and tonight Santa will bring you toys.
  • Incorrect: Go to sleep, and Santa will bring you toys, tonight.

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