Exercise 9: Parenthetical Commas

By Eleanor Dickey
Eleanor Dickey, History & Literature
Eleanor is a distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of Reading in the UK, specializing in the study of classical literature, history, and culture.
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The sentences in this exercise are taken from R. Waterfield's translation of Plutarch's Life of Themistocles (Oxford 1998).


Questions and Answers
  • 1. 

    As soon as Themistocles had taken up the command, which he had been given, he set about getting his fellow citizens to board their triremes.

    • A.

      Delete comma after "command"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "given"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    • D.

      Delete both commas

    Correct Answer
    A. Delete comma after "command"
    Explanation
    "Which he had been given" is not parenthetical, but a comma is nevertheless needed at its end because that is the comma separating the two main halves of the sentence.

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  • 2. 

    He tried to persuade them to abandon their city, Athens, and meet the Persians at sea as far away as possible from Greece. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Delete comma after "city"

    • C.

      Delete comma after "Athens"

    • D.

      Delete both commas

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    "Athens" is parenthetical: it is the name for their city.

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  • 3. 

    These ideas met with a great deal of opposition, however, so he joined forces with the Lacedaemonians and led a sizeable army into the field at Tempe, where they intended to meet the invasion and defend Thessaly, because at that time it was not yet known that Thessaly was collaborating with the enemy.

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Delete comma after "Tempe"

    • C.

      Delete comma after "Thessaly"

    • D.

      Delete commas after "Tempe" and "Thessaly"

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    "Where they intended to meet the invasion and defend Thessaly" is parenthetical.

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  • 4. 

    At this juncture the Greeks asked Eurybiades and the Lacedaemonians to take command, but the Athenians, who had more ships than almost everyone else put together refused to be subordinate to anyone.

    • A.

      Add comma after "together"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "Athenians"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "together"
    Explanation
    "Who had more ships than almost everyone else put together" is parenthetical.

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  • 5. 

    This is why Themistocles is held to be responsible, more than anyone else for the preservation of Greece, and to have played a particularly important part in bringing about the general recognition of the Athenians' superiority to their enemies in courage and to their allies in diplomacy.

    • A.

      Add comma after "else"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "responsible"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "else"
    Explanation
    "More than anyone else" is parenthetical.

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  • 6. 

    It was his view that the Persian king, with his enormous fleet was too strong to be overcome at sea.

    • A.

      Add comma after "fleet"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "king"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "fleet"
    Explanation
    "With his enormous fleet" is parenthetical.

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  • 7. 

    Among his fellow citizens, it was Architeles, the commander of the sacred vessel who most strongly resisted Themistocles' plans.

    • A.

      Add comma after "vessel"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "Architeles"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "vessel"
    Explanation
    "The commander of the sacred vessel" is parenthetical.

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  • 8. 

    Anyway, this is what Phanias of Lesbos a writer whose works are now lost says Themistocles did.

    • A.

      Add commas after "Lesbos" and "lost"

    • B.

      Add comma after "Lesbos"

    • C.

      Add comma after "lost"

    • D.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add commas after "Lesbos" and "lost"
    Explanation
    "A writer whose works are now lost" is parenthetical.

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  • 9. 

    This is because their actual achievements in the face of danger taught them that men, who know how to fight at close quarters and have the courage to engage the enemy have nothing to fear from huge numbers of ships, brightly decorated figureheads, boastful cries, or barbaric war-chants.

    • A.

      Delete comma after "men"

    • B.

      Add comma after "enemy"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    • D.

      Delete comma after "men" and add one after "enemy"

    Correct Answer
    A. Delete comma after "men"
    Explanation
    "Who know how to fight at close quarters and have the courage to engage the enemy" is not parenthetical but defining: that is the one kind of man who has nothing to fear.

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  • 10. 

    It is rather the case they learnt that they should disregard everything like that and just make for their actual physical enemies, come to grips with them and fight on to the bitter end. 

    • A.

      Add commas after "case" and "learnt"

    • B.

      Add comma after "case"

    • C.

      Add comma after "learnt"

    • D.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add commas after "case" and "learnt"
    Explanation
    "They learnt" is parenthetical.

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  • 11. 

    It looks as though Pindar, the Boeotian poet also appreciated this point well enough when he said of the battle of Artemisium that it was 'where Athens' sons laid the gleaming foundation of freedom', because courage is the true origin of victory.

    • A.

      Add comma after "poet"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "Pindar"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    • D.

      Delete comma after "Pindar" and add one after "poet"

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "poet"
    Explanation
    "The Boeotian poet" is parenthetical.

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  • 12. 

    Artemisium is a north-facing beach in Euboea, past Hestiaea; it lies more or less opposite Olizon, which is in the land once ruled by Philoctetes. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Delete comma after Euboea

    • C.

      Delete comma after Olizon

    • D.

      Delete both commas

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    "Which is in the land once ruled by Philoctetes" is parenthetical, and so is "past Hestiaea".

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  • 13. 

    There is at Artemisium a small temple of 'East-looking' Artemis as she is known there, which stands in a grove of trees, surrounded by blocks of white marble fixed in the ground. 

    • A.

      Add comma after "Artemis"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "there"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "Artemis"
    Explanation
    Both "as she is known there" and "which stands in a grove of trees" are parenthetical.

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  • 14. 

    One of the blocks of stone, on the north side has been inscribed with an elegiac poem.

    • A.

      Delete comma after "stone"

    • B.

      Add comma after "side"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    • D.

      Delete comma after "stone" and add one after "side"

    Correct Answer
    A. Delete comma after "stone"
    Explanation
    "On the north side" is not parenthetical but defining.

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  • 15. 

    One is shown a part of the beach where in the middle of all the surrounding sand the depths throw up a dark, ash-like dust which looks as though it is the result of fire; it is believed that the wrecked ships and bodies of the dead were burnt on this spot. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Add comma after "dust"

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    It is correct as is because the author chose to write this with a defining rather than a parenthetical "which looks as though it is the result of fire", but the other choice would not have been wrong either.

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  • 16. 

    In this manoeuvre the Athenians, who were elated at their achievements were posted as rearguard because of the courage they had displayed.

    • A.

      Add comma after "achievements"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "Athenians"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "achievements"
    Explanation
    "Who were elated at their achievements" is parenthetical; the Athenians form a single contingent and must be posted in one place or the other as a unit.

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  • 17. 

    Similar approval is given to his treatment of Arthmius of Zelea as well; again, at Themistocles' suggestion, this man's name was entered in the lists of the disenfranchised, along with those of his sons and his whole family. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Delete comma after "suggestion"

    • C.

      Delete comma after "again"

    • D.

      Delete first two commas

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    "At Themistocles' suggestion" is parenthetical.

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  • 18. 

    Another action of his which meets with approval in my sources is his treatment of the bilingual man who was in the delegation sent by the Persian king to demand earth and water. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Add commas after "his" and "sources"

    • C.

      Add comma after "man"

    • D.

      Add commas after "his", "sources", and "man"

    • E.

      Add comma after "his"

    • F.

      Add commas after "his" and "man"

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    None of the clauses is parenthetical: both are defining.

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  • 19. 

    Themistocles they say was afraid that with the leadership in Epicydes' hands everything would be completely ruined, so he bribed his ambition out of him.

    • A.

      Add commas after "Themistocles" and "say"

    • B.

      Add comma after "Themistocles"

    • C.

      Add comma after "say"

    • D.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add commas after "Themistocles" and "say"
    Explanation
    "They say" is parenthetical.

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  • 20. 

    He withdrew leaving Epicydes the son of Euphemides (a popular leader who was a skilful orator, but who had an irresolute character and was open to bribes) to go for it, with a good chance of being successful in the voting. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Add comma after "leader"

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    "Who was a skilful orator" is not parenthetical but defining.

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  • 21. 

    The same behaviour which was found excusable in Cimon's case, because he was young and came from an important family, was taken to be excessive and presumptuous self-aggrandizement on Themistocles' part, with the result that he gained a reputation for pretentiousness. 

    • A.

      Correct as is

    • B.

      Delete comma after "case"

    • C.

      Delete comma after "family"

    • D.

      Delete commas after both "case" and "family"

    Correct Answer
    A. Correct as is
    Explanation
    "Because he was young and came from an important family" is parenthetical.

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  • 22. 

    Once, on a visit to Olympia he offended the Greeks by trying to outdo Cimon with the grandeur of his dinners, pavilions, paraphernalia and so on.

    • A.

      Add comma after "Olympia"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "once"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "Olympia"
    Explanation
    "On a visit to Olympia" is parenthetical.

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  • 23. 

    While he was still young, before he had come to public notice, he prevailed upon Epicles of Hermione, a popular lyre-player in Athens to play at his house.

    • A.

      Add comma after "Athens"

    • B.

      Correct as is

    • C.

      Delete comma after "Hermione"

    • D.

      Delete comma after "young"

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "Athens"
    Explanation
    Both "before he had come to public notice" and "a popular lyre-player in Athens" are parenthetical.

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  • 24. 

    When Diphilides the horse-breeder refused to give him a colt he had asked for, Themistocles threatened to turn his house, before long, into a wooden horse which was a hint that he would stir up recriminations within his family and provoke lawsuits between the man and his own relatives. 

    • A.

      Add comma after "horse"

    • B.

      Correct as is

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "horse"
    Explanation
    "Which was a hint..." is parenthetical.

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  • 25. 

    In order to achieve this, he had, as Stesimbrotus reports to overcome Miltiades' objections. 

    • A.

      Add comma after "reports"

    • B.

      Delete comma after "had"

    • C.

      Correct as is

    • D.

      Delete comma after "had" and add one after "reports"

    Correct Answer
    A. Add comma after "reports"
    Explanation
    "As Stesimbrotus reports" is parenthetical.

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Eleanor Dickey |History & Literature |
Eleanor is a distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of Reading in the UK, specializing in the study of classical literature, history, and culture.

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