Comma rules can be a little bit all over the place. Luckily, it’s easy to figure them out when you know a few things about them. This article will explain all you need to know about putting a comma before “where.”
Comma Before “Where”?
You should place a comma before “where” when it’s part of a relative clause, e.g. “I live in London, where I spend most of my time.” If you can remove the “where” clause from the sentence and still have it make sense, you should place a comma before “where”.
You can place a comma before where in a sentence when “where” is part of a relative clause. It looks something like this:
- I live in London, where I spend most of my time.
Here, you may remove the relative clause starting with “where”, and the sentence would still be correct:
- I live in London.
Likewise, you may include “where” as the first word of a parenthetical element. Here’s how that looks:
- I lived in that area, where I learned all I know now, for about thirteen years.
This time, removing the “where” clause results in the following:
- I lived in that area for about thirteen years.
It still makes sense, showing that “where” is an additional clause and needs a comma to enclose it.
You can confirm these rules by referring to The Chicago Manual of Style or AP Style. Both style guides suggest that “where” is part of a relative clause, meaning it can be removed at will, and the sentence will still be correct.
APA Style and AP Style also explain using parenthetical elements with commas. Both suggest that commas offset dependent clauses that can be removed from the sentence.
When to Place a Comma Before “Where”
You should place a comma before “where” whenever it’s the first word of a relative clause. The simplest way to check this is by removing the clause with “where” in it.
If the sentence makes sense, then “where” needs a comma beforehand:
- I will be there, where they can’t find me.
- I will be there.
However, if it doesn’t make sense, then there should be no comma around “where:”
- This is where I do my laundry.
- This is.
As you can see, the second example cannot have a comma before “where.” It is not part of a relative clause here.
You may also find commas before “where” phrases (such as “where applicable”). The comma before where applicable shows that “where applicable” starts a new element:
- These issues, where applicable, can be discussed.
Here are a few other examples to show you how to use “where” in a sentence with a comma before it:
- I’m going to the town centre, where I will spend most of the day. Would you like to come?
- This is London, where I grew up, and I can’t wait to show you around!
- You could fly to Brussels, where you’ll learn a lot about the local culture.
- I have been here before. Detroit, where we are, isn’t the nicest place to be right now.
When to Use “Where” Without a Comma
More often than not, you’ll find that “where” is used without a comma. “Where” is an adverb that isn’t always part of a relative clause. You do not need a comma when using it to modify another verb or noun.
One of the easiest ways to remember this is that you do not need a comma before when in the middle of a sentence if it is not part of a parenthetical clause. This means you can’t remove it and have the sentence still make sense.
It’s very common to see “where” without a comma. Here are a few examples to show you more about it:
- I’m not sure where you’re going. Maybe you could enlighten me, and I can figure something out.
- This is where I grew up. It’s my favourite place to go when I’m having a hard time.
- Where did you say you lived? I can’t seem to find the house you referred to.
- It’s not where I left it! Someone must have picked it up and taken it away!
Comma After “Where”?
“Where” rarely finds itself before a comma. There is one exception, but you’ll almost never come across it.
“Where” can have a comma after it when it is immediately followed by a separate relative clause or parenthetical element.
To help you understand this, you can refer to the following:
- Where, if you don’t mind me asking, did you find those shoes?
Here, “if you don’t mind me asking” is added information. It can be removed, and the question would still make sense. However, a comma comes after “where” because it introduces the parenthetical element.
What to Remember
You should mainly worry about placing commas before “where” or not at all. It’s rare that commas come after.
Commas come before “where” when it introduces a relative clause. You may remove it from the sentence, and it should still make sense to confirm this.
Commas are not needed when “where” modifies a noun or verb within the same clause.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.