How to Use a Comma

I asked a question about this on HiNative (読点の細かい使い方は何ですか? いろんな用途があるんでしょう? そして、どの方法で見分けます? 例えば、この文でこの使い方は普通と思います。 でも話の場合には区切りかどうか分かりません。 他の使い方があるんですね。 助詞の代わりの使い方もありますよね。 ちゃんと説明してください。 | HiNative) and here’s a detailed answer I received. I may try to go back through and translate it for you guys later, or perhaps someone else will see this and want to do it first.


  • 主語の直後(例:私は、明日学校に行きます。)
  • 複数の言葉を列挙する場合(例:私は東京、大阪、福岡に行った。)
  • 接続詞や感動詞の後(例:それから、やはり、ああ、など)
  • 接続助詞の後(例:彼はそう言って、私についてきた。)
  • 時間や条件を表す言葉の後(例:一時間後、心配していたことが起きた。)
  • 意味の切れ目(例:彼女は賢く明るく、笑顔が素敵な人だ。)

Long and short is that its uses are similar, if not identical, to English, though the rules surrounding its usage are less grammatically strict. This looked fun to translate, though, and doable, so I made an attempt below. Had to use dictionaries to pick up a few unknown kanji. Maybe someone else can smooth over the patches that were rougher for me!

"Though commas may be written various places semantically, there aren’t exact rules for their usage. When it comes to conversations, we usually use commas to indicate short pauses.

Commas tend to be placed after roughly every ten to twenty characters, though there are many reasons why they may be used after fewer.

-Immediately following a subject (Ex.: 私は、あしたがっこうに行きます。) (This is such a Japanese-specific case, I don’t see a way to translate it while preserving the comma usage; here it is minus some kanji.)
-In situations where you’re listing several words (Ex. I went to Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka.)
-After a conjunction or interjection (Ex. Therefore, after all, oh, etc.)
-After a conjunctive particle/phrase (Ex. He said that, and followed me.) (Not sure on this one!)
-After phrases that signify times or conditions (Ex. After an hour, the thing I’d been worried about happened.)
-To break up meanings/ideas (Ex. She was smart and cheerful, a person with a beautiful smile.) (Also not sure the way I’ve phrased this really helps present the rule. This is another case where I don’t think there’s a way to carry the comma usage over into English that wouldn’t be at least somewhat awkward.)"

Hope this at least provides a decent start!


“As for me, I will go to school tomorrow”?

Thanks for putting this together! I’ve been getting by ok intuitively so far but haven’t yet checked about the actual style guides for Japanese commas

That’s how I’ve seen it approximated in English before, especially with short statements of intent/ordering (Ex.「私は、ビールだ。」(“I’ll have a beer/as for me, beer,”)), but that phrasing is so much less natural/common in English, I’m not sure if it’s a great way to convey the meaning or use of punctuation.

But yeah, that does work as well as anything.

Yeah it’s cause we basically don’t have a better way to differentiate the topic of the sentence in a way that looks similar to the layout of Japanese text.

Cause really, it’s “I (as the topic of this discussion), tomorrow to school going.”

Oh, and my biggest take away from the responses to my question and the more I read about it was that it’s really up to the individual. You can use a comma or not, but it’s more so simply to make it easier to read. That’s the main purpose.
However, in English, there are strict—and not so strict (I’m looking at you, oxford comma)—rules for comma usage, though not everyone follows them; so I wonder if that’s how it works in Japanese as well.

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This stack exchange article has an answer to your question. In short, in Japanese the rules for comma usage are way less strict, grammar - Usage of commas in Japanese sentences - Japanese Language Stack Exchange

Quoting from the article,

The symbol “、” is called 読点 (とうてん). It is used to denote a semantic separation or a pause. Compared to comma in English, the usage of 読点 in Japanese is less governed by the grammatical rules. In other words, in Japanese, the author is free to use or not to use 読点 in any place where a separation makes sense.

When two nouns are placed side by side without any particle, a 読点 is almost necessary.

Notice that he wrote almost necessary and not necessary… My feeling/impression is that reading material that is intended to learners of Japanese (Genki, Tobira, Bunpro) tends to have more commas than native material since they are trying to help the student to parse the sentences.

I know this article is old but there have been questions regarding comma usage recently in the Community forum.