Comma, coma, comatose


Today, we are discussing three common words to establish the differences between them and how to avoid the mistakes associated with such. They are comma, coma and comatose. But, firstly, attempt the following:

Arsenal are being very careful as they do not want to … the match. (lose/loose)

The FRSC official did not collect my driving … (license/licence)

I need a car but I cannot … one now. (avoid/afford)

I always fear … vehicles whenever I’m driving in the night. (stationary/stationery)

Where is the big … you spoke about? (envelope/envelop)

We must … another way to handle the weak pupils. (devise/device)

The purpose of the above test is to foreground how intriguing the relationship between comma, coma and comatose can be. They, like the options for each of the questions, have cunning relationships. They seem alike; yet, their meanings are different just as they often perform different grammatical functions.

Consider ‘everyday’ and ‘every day’. If you are not careful, you will not differentiate between them and thus indiscriminately choose either as you speak or write. While ‘everyday’ is usually an adjective, every day is a phrase performing the function of an adverb, at least as used below:

I go there everyday. (Wrong).

It is an every day affair. (Wrong)

I go there every day. (Correct. Here, ‘every day’ is an adverb of time indicating how regularly the action takes place.)

It is an everyday affair. (Correct. ‘What type of affairs? It is an everyday affair. So, ‘everyday’ is an adjective.))

Likewise, practice and practise may have similar or almost the same meanings, but they are grammatically different especially in British English. ‘Practice’ is a noun – depending on the context – while ‘practise’ is a verb:

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I am going for practice in the evening.

I will practise in the evening.

You should learn to practise what you preach.

Now, what about comma, coma and comatose?  A comma is a punctuation mark (,) used in listing items in a clause – among other functions. You should therefore always remember that it has double ‘m’:

I asked him to put a coma after the subordinate clause. (Wrong)

I asked him to put a comma after the subordinate clause. (Correct)

On the other hand, ‘coma’ is a health-related word. Someone is in a coma when they are in a prolonged state of unconsciousness, caused especially by severe injury or illness. So, apart from bearing in mind that it has only an ‘m’, you must also note that it normally comes with the indefinite article ‘a’. This is applicable to a good number of other diseases that include cough and cold:

She can’t be here today because she has a cough.

I have a cold. Kindly switch off the aircon.

Comatose: An adjective

‘Coma’ and ‘comatose’ may refer to the same phenomenon, they do not belong to the same part of speech. The first is a noun while the second is an adjective. You should thus avoid mixing them up:

After the accident, she was in a coma for three weeks.

After the accident, she was comatose for three weeks.

Lastly, here are the answers to the other six questions – respectively:  lose, licence, afford, stationary, envelope and devise. Hope you got all.


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