In theory, we use commas to separate parts of sentences, in order to make the meaning clear or to make the sentence easier to read. They are intended to signify a short pause, in the place where you would naturally pause when speaking. That would make using commas quite intuitive, right?
Well, the problem lies in that intuitiveness. It is very hard to set strict rules for a feeling when there should be a pause in a sentence, as feelings are inherently subjective. Some rules do exist, but when it comes to the use of though, it often comes down to your preference. Bellow, we will discuss the use of commas before though in a few different cases.
The Definition of Though
This is the part that can trip you up. Though can be used both as a conjunction and as an adverb, as can be seen in the Cambridge Dictionary. The use of a comma before though can differ depending on its meaning in a sentence.
Conjunctions are words that connect clauses or sentences, or coordinate words in the same clause (words like if, but, and, etc.).
I could see them, though they were trying to hide.
An adverb is a word or a phrase that modifies a verb, adjective, another adverb, or even a whole phrase or sentence. An adverb can answer the question of how?, where?, when?, how long?, how much?, etc.
I’ve bought a new car. It was quite expensive, though.
Comma Before Though When It Is a Conjunction
When used as a conjunction, though carries the meaning of but, as if, despite the fact. When used this way it connects two sentences and can come at the beginning, or in the middle of a sentence.
I decided to leave the party, though I was having fun.
Though I was having fun, I decided to leave.
In the first case, the comma before though is optional. Many writers prefer to use it, but the choice is yours. In the second example, though is a subordinate conjunction and follows the general rule for subordinate conjunctions – if it comes at the beginning of a sentence, you need to put a comma at the end of the subordinate clause.
I went out, though I wasn’t feeling well. ✔
I went out though I wasn’t feeling well. ✔
Though I tried to resist, I still bought the new skins. ✔
Though I tried to resist I still bought the new skins. ✘
The conjunction though can also be used to introduce an interjection (a subordinate clause in the middle of the main clause). In this case, you need to put a comma both before though, and at the end of the subordinate clause.
The look in her eyes, though appealing, showed that she was too much for me to handle. ✔
The look in her eyes though appealing, showed that she was too much for me to handle. ✘
The look in her eyes, though appealing showed that she was too much for me to handle. ✘
Comma Before Though When It is an Adverb
When used as an adverb, though modifies the verb of the sentence. It has the meaning of despite this, or adds a new fact that is in contrast to what was previously said.
Though often comes at the end of the sentence – in this case, it is up to you whether you will use a comma. If it feels natural to have a small pause before though use it, if not, don’t.
We’re mostly sold out. You can take your pick of what’s available, though. ✔
We’re mostly sold out. You can take your pick of what’s available though. ✔
The adverb though can also come in the middle of the sentence, often before the subject. In this case, it acts as an interjection, and a comma should be placed before and after it.
I drove to the restaurant. My wife, though, decided to walk. ✔
I drove to the restaurant. My wife though, decided to walk. ✘
I drove to the restaurant. My wife, though decided to walk. ✘
The Sparknotes Version
Commas are necessary when:
- though serves the function of an interjection. In this case, a comma comes before though, and at the end of the clause (regardless of whether though constitutes the whole clause, or there are other elements).
- though is at the beginning of a sentence and introduces a subordinate clause.
In all other cases, use a comma before though when it feels natural. Read the sentence out loud and if your speech pattern is such that there is a small pause before though, put a comma in your writing. Just try to be consistent through your text.