All About Comment Clauses

Common Aspect of Speech Adds Parenthetical Remark

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A comment clause, commonly heard in everyday speech and used in dialogue to give it a natural tone, is a short word group, such as "you see" and "I think," that adds a parenthetical remark to another word group. It's also called a comment tag, a commenting tag or a parenthesis. You might not have known the name of it, but it's guaranteed you use and hear it just about every day.

Examples and Observations of a Comment Clause

  • "Commonly occurring examples [of comment clauses] are 'I'm sure,' 'I'm afraid,' 'I admit,' 'I gather,' 'I dare say' and 'you see,' 'you know', 'mind you,' 'you must admit.' Many comment clauses are stereotyped fillers which are inserted into running speech in order to establish informal contact with the hearer. When the subject is realized by 'I,' their function is to inform the hearer of the speaker's degree of certainty (I know/I suppose) or of her emotional attitude to the content of the matrix clause." -Carl Bache, "Essentials of Mastering English" (2000)
  • "As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Really that's all this is except that instead of sucking water, I'm sucking life." -Christopher Guest as Count Rugen in "The Princess Bride" (1987)
  • The presentation went quite well, I believe.
  • "All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber." -Kurt Vonnegut, "Slaughterhouse-Five" (1969)
  • "They [comment clauses] are so called because they do not so much add to the information in a sentence as comment on its truth, the manner of saying it or the attitude of the speaker." -Gunther Kaltenbock, "Spoken Parenthetical Clauses in English: A Taxonomy" (2007)
  • "Fly high above the clouds
    On the wings of a dream
    I hear your whisper loud—
    Or so it seems." -Jackie Lomax, "Or So It Seems"

Signals in Conversation

"The comment clauses 'you know' and 'you see' require some kind of response from the listeners, which, in a narrative turn, are more likely to be paralinguistic than vocal. Nods of the head, direct eye contact and minimal vocalizations like 'mm' will satisfy the speaker that he still has the audience's consent to continue dominating the turn-taking." -Sara Thorne, "Mastering Advanced English Language" (2008)

Comment Clauses and Relative Clauses

"In an example like 'Margaret Thatcher is now a life Baroness, which everyone knows,' we can replace 'which' with 'as' with virtually no change of meaning. But unlike 'which,' 'as' is not generally used as a relative but as a conjunction. Note also that 'as everyone knows' is positionally less restricted than 'which everyone knows': It could also be placed initially or medially. We, therefore, do not classify such an 'as'-clause as a sentential relative clause but as a comment clause." -C. Bache and N. Davidsen-Nielsen, "Mastering English" (1997)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "All About Comment Clauses." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). All About Comment Clauses. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "All About Comment Clauses." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).