Using “if” doesn’t have to be difficult, but it helps to learn all the comma rules that come with it before you accidentally get it wrong. This article will look at all the times a comma before “if” makes sense (and all the times that it doesn’t).
Should I Place A Comma Before “If”?
You should place a comma before “if” when it comes as an introductory remark. You can also use a comma after a mid-sentence transitive phrase. Finally, you will see a comma before “if” when it introduces a parenthetical element. Other than those times, a comma is not used.
When Should I Place A Comma Before “If”?
There are a few rules where you need a comma before “if.” To make things as simple as possible, we’ll separate each rule with when a comma applies and give you a few examples for each case.
- Hello, if you need any help, let me know.
- As I mentioned earlier, if you’d like to browse more hardware, I’m here to help.
- But, if what I’m saying is incorrect, feel free to correct me.
If the sentence begins with an introductory remark, we need to place a comma directly after that remark. If “if” is the next word after the remark, that means a comma must come before “if.”
Mid-Sentence Transitive Phrase
- Many things could go wrong, that is, if you don’t try to fix the issue.
- I’m here to help, for example, if you need my help with the dishes!
- I think you could work on your delivery, for example, if you want people to like you, you have to be more welcoming.
With mid-sentence transitive phrases, we have to place a comma before and after the phrase (like “for example”). When “if” is the following word, we keep the comma in place, allowing it to remain before we write “if.”
- You can’t stop me, if you wanted to, without trying harder.
- You should trust me on this, if you know what you want to get out of it, I’m the one who can help you.
- The people of this town, if you can call them that, are barbaric!
As you can see, “if” introduces a parenthetical element, and we include a comma before it. A parenthetical element is something that we can remove from the sentence while still keeping the original meaning in place.
When Should I NOT Place A Comma Before “If”?
Now let’s look at when a comma is not placed before “if.” There are another set of rules that we’ll break up into sections to help you here.
Subordinate Clause After Main Clause
- We need help if we’re going to get through this.
- If you know what’s good for you, you’ll turn around.
- I think I could do this if I just had the right tools.
When the subordinate clause and the main clause meet like this, they’re both required for the full sentence to be correct. In this instance, no commas are needed to introduce “if.” We can also which the two clauses around and still make sense (like in example 2).
“If” As A Noun
- I expect no if’s, and’s, or but’s from you.
- When we write if as a noun, we avoid using commas.
- If is a noun when it’s the object of the sentence.
This article uses “if” as a noun many times, which is an ideal condition for avoiding using a comma before it. It’s rare to see it as a noun in any case other than when writing about it (like this article), so you don’t have to worry too much about this rule.
Can I Ever Choose To Place A Comma Or Not Based On Preference?
There are occasionally times in writing where you’ll meet a clunky sentence. With clunky sentences, many people have a hard time reading what’s being said. It’s sentences like this that may allow you to place a comma before “if” based on preference.
You can choose to place a comma before “if” when the sentence is long and difficult to read. You can never choose to remove a comma before “if” because it will end up ruining the flow of the sentence.
Here’s what we mean by choosing to remove it:
- Sometimes it can be hard to make sense of a long sentence if you don’t allow the readers a chance to catch their breath with some commas.
Here, we don’t include a comma before “if.” While this is grammatically correct, it means that the reader has to go through the entire sentence without stopping once.
- Sometimes, it can be hard to make sense of a long sentence, if you don’t allow readers a chance to catch their breath with some commas.
Here, it’s not correct to use a comma, but many people do so because they prefer to read a sentence broken up in this way. The comma allows the reader to comprehend it much easier, which is what everyone strives for in written English.
Examples Of Sentences With A Comma Before “If”
- You can always place commas, if you know how to use them, in sentences like this.
- How can I, if I can’t speak to him, help him get over his trauma?
- The men of this congregation, if you’ll allow me to speak on their behalf, believe that you are in the wrong.
- Of course, if you think of anything new, I’m happy to hear it.
We can place a comma before “if” when it is part of a parenthetical element or comes straight after an introductory remark or mid-sentence transitive phrase. It’s most common to see it as part of a parenthetical element.
Examples Of Sentences With NO Comma Before “If”
- He couldn’t do it even if he wanted to.
- You shouldn’t be here if you don’t want to get into trouble.
- If you’ll allow me to speak, I think I can change your mind.
- I’m having trouble understanding you if you wouldn’t mind slowing down.
There is no comma before “if” when we introduce it as part of a subordinate clause before or after the main clause.
Common Confusions About Comma Before “If”
It’s all too easy to make mistakes in English. Sometimes, we’ll place commas where they’re not needed. We’ll include this final section to look at the most common confusions about using a comma and whether or not we should do so for the following.
Should I Place A Comma Before “If Necessary”?
You should not place a comma before “If necessary” when it comes at the end of a sentence to talk about something that you might be required to do for some reason.
- He will need to be there if necessary.
- You must abide by these laws if necessary for you.
Should I Place A Comma Before “If Possible”?
You should not place a comma before “if possible” when it’s used at the end of a sentence to talk about a possibility for doing something.
- I’ll need your help with this if possible.
- You’ll be here for me at all times if possible, right?
Should I Place A Comma Before “If Needed”?
- You might be asked to help if needed by the committee.
- I can’t be there for you if needed, so you’ll have to ask someone else.
Should I Place A Comma Before “If Any”?
You should place a comma before “if any” because we include it as a parenthetical element. “If any” means there might not be any number of things capable of doing something, but it’s used as additional information (hence the comma before “if”).
- Some, if any, will have a hard time finding this place.
- One or two, if any, will know what to do.
Should I Place A Comma Before “If Applicable”?
You should not place a comma before “if applicable” because it’s necessary information in the clause which can’t be separated from it.
- You’ll need to sign here if applicable.
- I need you to do this if applicable; otherwise, we’ll be in a great deal of trouble.
Should I Place A Comma Before “If Required”?
You should place a comma before “if required” because it introduces a new clause to the sentence. We can remove it, and the sentence will still make sense, but “if required” introduces the possibility of something potentially not happening (if the requirements aren’t met).
- Your signature, if required, will be kept on record.
- Your presence, if required, will be noted for all of us.
Should I Place A Comma Before “As If”?
You should not place a comma before “as if” because it is a phrase in itself. There can never be a comma between “as” and “if” because the sentence will no longer make any sense.
- As if you just said that to me!
- It’s as if he doesn’t understand much about human contact.