Are commas needed?

Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2008 06:29 pm
My friend(,) whose father is a doctor(,) is a close friend of my father.

Are the commas needed?

Many thanks.
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Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2008 07:45 pm
In my opinion, 'yes'. Otherwise, the sentence makes no sense and is awkward.
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Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2008 08:22 pm

Strictly speaking no (I think), but I prefer them to be in.
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Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2008 09:46 pm
Indeed they are required as they separate two distinct thoughts. In other words, "My friend is a close friend of my father" is the primary thought whereas "whose father is a doctor" is a secondary thought.
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Reply Thu 18 Sep, 2008 09:51 pm
Without commas -- My friend whose father is a doctor -- the sentence would, strictly speaking, indicate that you wish to distinguish this friend from those friends of yours whose fathers are not doctors.

With commas -- My friend, whose father is a doctor, -- serves to describe your friend to some extent, rather than identify the friend. It's a subtle difference, and would probably be lost on most readers (that is, the sentence without the commas would probably just be read as a sentence that should have commas and doesn't), but it is a difference nonetheless.
Reply Fri 19 Sep, 2008 01:48 pm
Just to expand on patiodog's answer a bit...

Commas are not used when the clause is essential, that is, when the clause uniquely
identifies the word it modifies. On the other hand, commas are used when the
clause is nonessential; the clause describes but does not uniquely identify the
word it modifies.
Reply Fri 19 Sep, 2008 06:05 pm
Hey, good words. Nobody never learned me no grammar.
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Reply Fri 19 Sep, 2008 08:08 pm
Does it make any sense with or without the commas?

My friend is a close friend of my father.

Maybe I'm just a bit tired.
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