If both groups (clauses) are equally important, do not put a comma before "as well as".
As well as connects two groups of words (A as well as B) in English. For example:
- He is handsome as well as smart.
- She is taking a shower as well as singing.
The simple rule for commas before as well as is as follows:
- If both groups are equally important, do not put a comma before as well as.
- If the first group is more important than the second (that is, the words after as well as is not an essential part of your sentence), put a comma before as well as.
When you put a comma, the second part adds value to the meaning of your sentence; however, it can be easily omitted without changing it substantially. In other words, you are using nonrestrictive information that should be surrounded by commas.
In most cases, you don't need a comma before as well as.
1. A Simple Example
Suppose that you are applying for a job in the United States, and the hiring manager is contacting you by email.
Scenario number 1 (without commas)
The hiring manager asks you about your language skills; then, your answer might be something like this:
I can speak English as well as German.
Scenario number 2 (with commas)
Suppose the hiring manager asks you specifically about your English skills. You can reply, using commas, as follows:
Yes, I can speak English, as well as German.
Putting a comma here is also correct because being able to speak German is not the essential part of your sentence. The hiring manager is asking you about your English skills. Therefore, the key part of your sentence is "I can speak English". By using a comma, you are putting the focus on your English skills. Your German competence adds value to your profile, but it is not as important as your English skills.
Omit the comma in the scenario number 2 if you think that your German skills are also relevant. A comma before as well as conveys that the second part is less important than the rest of the sentence.
Based on your views and beliefs on the topic of discussion, you will have to decide whether to put a comma or not. In case of doubt, leave out the comma because most of the time you don't need it.
2. Commas When The Sentence Starts With 'As well as'
If you start your sentence with as well as, you are using an introductory phrase. In this case, you need to put a comma after this phrase. For example:
- As well as running my food delivery business, I am collaborating with a nonprofit humanitarian organization.
- As well as providing support and guidance, school psychologists help children succeed academically and emotionally.
In these sentences you can replace as well as by "in addition to".
3. 'As well as' for Objects and for Subjects
You can use as well as for objects and for subjects.
As well as is commonly used for objects. For example:
- I enjoy playing basketball as well as playing tennis.
- I can play the piano as well as the guitar.
Look at these examples:
My father, as well as my brother, is very tall.
My father, as well as my brother, are very tall.
Because of the use of commas, we are putting the focus on "my father" while placing less emphasis on "my brother". For this reason, the second sentence is wrong. We say "is" ("my father is") instead of "are" (despite mentioning both, my father and my brother).
Notice also that you need a comma before as well as and another one after "my brother".
If you simply want to say that both are very tall (without putting the focus on "my father"), you should leave out the commas and replace "is" by "are":
My father as well as my brother are very tall.
This is grammatically correct. However, the best option is keeping things simple by using "and":
My father and my brother are very tall.
4. Comparison with 'As well as'
If you are using as well as to make a comparison, do not use a comma.
- My sister did as well as you on the algebra exam.
- I don't play the guitar as well as you.
- The teacher asked a tough question. I answered it as well as I could.
5. More Examples
- I need to call my friend as well as do the laundry.
- As well as exposing global environmental problems, our organization promotes conservation of wildlife in Africa.
- She wrote some of the best action and adventure novels, as well as a few poetry books.
- I hope my sister passes the exam, as well as makes up with his boyfriend.
- I hope they do it right. It is in their best interest as well as yours.
- Yoga improves your health as well as provides balance and flexibility.
- Electric vehicles are better for the environment, as well as quieter than gas vehicles.
- If you want to be a great investor, you have to be disciplined as well as patient.
6. Synonyms of 'As well as'
In a broad range of situations, you can can use the following words as synonyms of as well as:
- along with
- in addition to
The coordinating conjunction "and" is the most frequently used synonym of as well as. Thus, learning the use of comma before "and" is important to use English punctuation correctly.