How to Use Commas With 'IF'

If a sentence starts with an if-clause, add a comma after the if-clause. Do not use a comma when the sentence starts with the main clause.

If a sentence starts with an if-clause, add a comma after it.

If I go to New Orleans, I will explore the French Quarter.

If I go to New Orleans I will explore the French Quarter.

The comma is generally unnecessary if the if-clause follows the main clause.

I will explore the French Quarter if I go to New Orleans.

1. Starting a Sentence With an If-clause

Examine this example:

If you are hungry, you can cook rice.

This sentence has two clauses:

  • "If you are hungry" is the dependent clause; it has a subject and a verb, but cannot stand alone.
  • "You can cook rice" is the independent clause; it forms a complete sentence and can stand alone.

When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, add a comma after it.

If you go to England, you have to try the fish and chips.

If you go to England you have to try the fish and chips.

The conjunction "if" has a similar meaning to "whether". In fact, the comma rules for "whether" and "if" are analogous.

Follow the same comma policy when using shorter versions of an if-clause, such as "if necessary" or "if required".

2. Using 'If' in the Middle of a Sentence

When the if-clause follows the main clause, the comma before "if" is generally unnecessary.

Call me if you need anything.

Call me, if you need anything.

However, there are exceptions to this practice of not using a comma before "if" in mid-sentence. For example, use a comma to introduce an if-clause as a side note or parenthetic expression (information that could be easily placed between parentheses).

We could go to the movies tomorrow night, if you like.

I wouldn't worry about that, if I were you.

I learned a few tricks that I'll keep to myself, if you don't mind.

When using other subordinating conjunctions, such as "because", follow the same comma strategy.

3. More Examples

  • If you want love, lower your expectations.
  • Everything is possible if you practice every single day.
  • If you want to join the group, you must follow the rules.
  • Come with me if you want to live. The Terminator movie
  • It's no surprise that Oliver ended up in jail for fraud. If you play with fire, you get burned.
  • Buy the whole package if you want a discount.
  • If you want to fly high, you have to give up the things that weigh you down. Priyanka Makkar
  • Avoid heavily processed foods if you want to live longer and feel better.
  • If you want to build muscle mass, you have to train at least three times each week.
  • If it makes you happy, it can't be that bad. Sheryl Crow song
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