I noticed that this construction places a comma before 'que' but not before 'porque'. In English, if the subordinate clause follows the independent clause, there is no comma. In Spanish, does this depend on the type of subordinate conjunction used?
The causal "porque" can be preceded by a comma or not, depending on what exactly that clause is expressing. The Spanish Academy makes a differentiation between 1. causales reales 2. causales explicativas
1. causales reales are those using porque that give the real reason for what happens in the main clause. These don't have a comma.
2. causales explicativas are those using porque that more than giving the real reason they give some kind of explanation.
The example the R.A.E gives to differentiate these is this sentence:
1. "El suelo está mojado porque ha llovido."(without a comma, real)
2. "El suelo está mojado, porque ha llovido." (with a comma, explicativa)
The first one is giving the real reason why the ground is wet (the cause is the rain)
The second one is not giving the reason, it's a thought that comes to the speaker's mind once they realise the ground is wet. It's a realisation, more than a reason.
The sentences that you saw in the lesson using que have the same effect as the explicativas, and they need a comma. In fact, when we say these sentences we give a little pause (that in my opinion also justifies the comma).
Here is what the R.A.E says exactly (Scroll down to 1.2.8 c) if you want to have a look.
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