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On one hand, it's where you breathe naturally, and you use it in the English language (just look at this current sentence). However, on the other hand, I have heard from people that the comma is not used before "und". Which one is correct? Or is it optional?

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    It depends. This question is too generic to be answerable, especially in respect to correctness and whether or not it is optional. – Em1 Nov 13 '16 at 3:11
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    In German, a comma is not ‘where you breathe naturally’ but required/possible according to synactical features only. – Jan Nov 13 '16 at 16:39
  • In Aufzählungen (Ich kaufe Wurst, Käse und Butter) steht das Und vor dem letzten Element und dann steht kein Komma. – user unknown Nov 13 '16 at 22:42
  • Der spitzfindigen Vollständigkeit halber sei erwähnt, dass obige Faustregel keine dogmatische Anwendung verträgt. So kann das Wort und als Wort in einer Aufzählung von Wörtern doch von einem Komma eskortiert werden, etwa bei der trivialen Feststellung, dass oder, und, mit und ohne Verben sind. Diese Feststellung ist zwar inhaltlich falsch, aber als Satzstruktur richtig. ;) – user unknown Jan 8 '17 at 3:24
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Your question can't be answered easily as it clearly depends. First things first: The usage of commas in the German language follows (complicated) rules and has nothing to do with breathing or personal preferences.

Regarding your initial question: One of the most important uses of the word "und" is in enumerations.

Ich habe ein Haus, ein Auto und eine Katze.

Here we never use a comma before "und".

Unfortunately, this is not all there is to this topic. You can think of cases where a comma before "und" is needed as in

Ich besitze einen Hund, der relativ groß ist, und gehe nun mit ihm spazieren.

Here the "und" connects two main clauses

Ich besitze einen Hund und gehe nun mit ihm spazieren.

that are separated by a relative clause (where a comma is strictly needed). The relative clause describes the object "Hund" in more detail.

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    The example with the two sentences becomes even more complicated if the second sentence is complete: "Ich besitze einen Hund, und ich gehe mit ihm spazieren." 30 years ago I learned in school that you must use a comma in this case. A site in the internet is now saying that you can use a comma here but it is not needed. – Martin Rosenau Nov 13 '16 at 6:42
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    +1, Nice example of how difficult correct syntax is - even for native speakers. – pbx Nov 13 '16 at 8:19
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    It is worth noting that the comma after the relative sentence is not - strictly speaking - a comma before "und". It is there to signal the end of the relative clause regardless how the sentence is continued. Of course we can construct an example just so an "und" follows, as you did. – Ingo Nov 13 '16 at 12:59
  • I only would like to add that there is a comma before und if it separates two main clauses: Der Vogel fliegt, der Fisch schwimmt, und der Mensch läuft. (Not the original form of the quote and not the best example, which might even be an exception.) – Carsten S Jan 7 '17 at 15:35
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Learn:

There is no "natural breath" rule for commas in German grammar!

Forget any physiological functions of your body when you think about German grammar! These are two fields of knowledge, that have absolutely nothing to do with each other.


For the placement of commas there are grammatical rules (most of them are very strict, but there are also optional rules). All of those rules have to do with the grammatical structure of a sentence.

The word "und" can be a list-separator or it can join two full sentences. It can be part of company names, it can emphasize speech (»Und dann kam der Herr und segnete das Land.«), it can be part of a rhetoric question (»Na und?«) and it can be used in some other ways too.

Your question depends very strong on the actual usage of this little word.

When you read German literature, that was published before 1996, then it was written with the old set of rules, and there was the rule, that full sentences had to be separated by comma (even if they are joined together with the word »und«):

Meine Frau sitzt zuhause, und ich trinke ein Bier.

After 1996 this rule became optional. You can set the comma if it can help to make clear the sentences structure, but you don't have to (it's recommended not to use the comma):

Meine Frau sitzt zuhause und ich trinke ein Bier.
Meine Frau sitzt zuhause, und ich trinke ein Bier.

You don't use a comma when »und« is used as a list-separator (can only be used this way before the very last item of a list):

In meinem Urlaub fahre ich nach London, Paris, Madrid und Rom.

But you have to use a comma, when »und zwar« or »und das« are used to start an apposition:

Ich brauche deinen Bericht, und zwar bis 14:00 Uhr.
Ich wurde total durchnässt, und das trotz meiner Regenjacke.

  • I agree »There is no "natural breath" rule« but if in doubt that non-rule gives an incredibly good hint where to put a comma. – PerlDuck Nov 13 '16 at 13:14
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    @PerlDuck ...and in most of the cases, it's wrong. There's normally way less commas than breathing in a sentence. – tofro Nov 13 '16 at 22:34
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You shouldn't use a comma before "und". The commas follow some rules in German. In the case of enumeration the comma must be omitted for the last object and one must use "und" instead. Example: "Ich, du und er" With respect to other situations, I don't think a comma before "und" is common, even if you have just ended a very long relative clause or something before that "und". Germans tend to use commas to mark the opening of clauses, not to close them. You may find more information on this topic in a grammar book like Duden

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There is no rule that requires a comma before "und".

However, since und is often used to introduce a sub-sentence it will appear as if "there is a comma before und". But no! It is the comma that signals the end of the previous sub-sentence. Compare also aber which often has a similar role:

Du bist groß, aber ich bin klein.

Note how the presence of the comma does not mean there are any rules that deal with "comma before aber". For the same reason

Du bist groß, und ich bin klein.

(where the comma is not required anymore due to the "reform") does not mean we have a rule that demands a comma before und.

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