Comma placement (or lack thereof) is important for certain grammatical structures. This article will explain whether commas are placed in the phrase “from x to y to z” (and variations of it that include different objects).
Where To Place The Comma In “From X to Y to Z”
You should not place a comma within “from x to y to z.” There is no reason to place commas between any of the letters and the preposition “to.” You may find that a comma is placed before “from,” though. This helps to separate it from the rest of the sentence.
You will almost always find that the phrase “from x to y to z” is set up by a clause that comes before it. For this reason, a comma is required after the clause that introduces it (and, incidentally, a comma must come before “from”).
- There are many issues with this family, from my needs to his ideas to her disregard.
As you can see, the only comma placement comes at the end of the first clause and before “from.” There are no commas between any of the “to’s” in the second clause.
“To” does not require commas because it is used to link objects with each other to give an idea of breadth.
You can also repeat the number of “to’s” used in the phrase, depending on what you might be talking about:
- People can live in all kinds of environments, from warm to cold to wet to icy to mountainous to dangerous.
Why Are There Two “To’s” In “From X to Y to Z”?
There are two “to’s” in “from x to y to z” because it is used to show the breadth of something. “X,” “Y,” and “Z” do not have to connect in any reasonable way. Instead, they can be completely different ideas that come under the same umbrella.
The original idea didn’t involve two “to’s” back to back like this. Instead, you might have seen the following:
- From x to y and from y to z.
However, “and from” was considered a redundancy, and many people started to drop it completely. Also, repeating “y” didn’t make much sense when “and from” was removed, so we were left with the much simpler:
- From x to y to z.
The meaning stayed the same, but the phrasing was much easier to understand.
“To” is only there to help us link the words, no matter how different they may be. For example:
- From dogs to cats to monkeys to turtles.
Here, “to” is connecting a bunch of animals. There are no real connections between the animals besides the fact that they all fall under the “animal” group. “To” is used repeatedly to show how many different things might fall under the same category.
As we showed in the above example, there is also no limit to the number of “to’s” you might be able to use. While two “to’s” is a good way of giving a basic depth, more “to’s” than that can be used to show just how expansive something is.
Here are some other examples that might help you get a better idea of how “to” interacts with the different objects:
- These are my friends’ birthdays, from Jack’s to Marge’s to Sally’s.
- Animals live in many habitats around here, from ponds to forests to mountains.
- People want many things from their government, from benefits to apologies to no taxes.
- I need a few supplies for this trip, from stationery to food to toilet paper.
- People will go anywhere, from sunshine states to tractor farms to fast-food joints.
- You won’t find much here, only things from toothpaste to small trinkets to beef jerkey.
As you can tell, there doesn’t have to be too much connecting the “from x to y to z.” You can write any objects that match something that might have been mentioned in the first clause.
You may also like: From … to … to … – Sentence Structure & Comma Placement
Where To Place The Comma In “From X to Y”
“From x to y” does not need a comma in the phrase. Instead, you would only include a comma before “from” when you are writing it after an introductory clause for a sentence. No comma is needed if you’re referring to a journey you might have taken “from X to Y.”
The rules stay the same regardless of how many objects or “to’s” you might use in your writing.
You’ll often see it like this:
- There are many people here, from exes to new friends.
- I have many good ideas, from ways to fix this to new things that I want to bring to light.
However, there are instances where a comma might not even come before “from.” This is a rare occurrence, as it only happens when you are using “from x to y” to showcase a journey or direction of travel that you might have taken.
- We traveled really far from Washington to Virginia.
- We went from A to B in less than thirty seconds.
Here, there are no commas between the two clauses because there is no longer an introductory clause. Instead, include “from x to y” as part of the main sentence to share our journey with people who might be reading about it.
Alternative Ways To Write “From X to Y to Z”
There aren’t many better ways to write “from X to Y to Z.” It’s already a very suitable way of showing the scope or range of something. However, maybe one of these will work better for what you’re looking for:
- In X, Y, and Z
- By X, Y, and Z
- X to Y, and Z
- X and Y to Z
Most of these alternatives are based entirely on context. You might use “in X, Y, and Z” when you are talking about places where things might be found. “And” works better to connect the letters because you are creating a list.
The same can be said for all the other alternatives. It mainly depends on what you’re talking about or whether a list is required or not.
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.