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Complex Sentence

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English

A complex sentence is often used for longer sentences. Complex sentences are made up of multiple clauses with one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

Luckily, a complex sentence is actually not so complex! It is one of only two sentence types to include a dependent clause. This makes complex sentences easy to find when we are confident identifying the different types of clauses.

  • An independent clause does not rely on any other clause to make sense; it is 'independent' and works on its own.
  • A dependent (or subordinate) clause is 'dependent' on the independent clause to make sense. Dependent clauses add additional information to an existing sentence and cannot stand alone as, without an independent clause, the subject matter wouldn't be complete.

How are Complex Sentences formed?

A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses joined together by a subordinating conjunction, punctuation marks, and/or relative pronouns.

The independent clause can come at the beginning, in the middle, or even at the end of the sentence. Because of this, there is not a set formula for a complex sentence.

Remember: complex sentences can only have one independent clause but multiple dependent clauses.

We form complex sentences by centring the sentence around the independent clause (the main clause) and using dependent clauses to add additional information that expands on what the main clause is stating.

Let’s take a look at some examples that will help you to understand how complex sentences are formed.

Examples of Complex Sentences

Here are some examples of complex sentences. The link between clauses is highlighted, and the independent clause is in bold:

  • I was angry with her because I was running late for work.

  • When she was younger, she believed in Santa.

  • Although my friends begged me, I didn’t go to the party.

  • We didn’t want to go outside while it was raining.

  • He returned the parcel after he realised it was damaged.

Let’s explore one of these examples in a little more detail so that you can really get to grips with how complex sentences work:

I was angry with her because I was running late for work.

In this example, the independent clause is 'I was angry with her', and the dependent clause is 'because I was running late for work.' The subordinating conjunction at the beginning of the dependent clause, 'because', links the two clauses together by making their relationship clear. Therefore, the dependent clause gives us the reason why the subject is angry - it gives us more information about the main part of the sentence!

Why are Complex Sentences used?

Complex sentences are often used in spoken and written English because they give more information and description. As complex sentences can include multiple dependent clauses, they can contain a lot of information and become quite long.

He returned the parcel after he realised it was damaged.

In this sentence, the dependent clause adds more information to the independent clause 'he returned the parcel' by giving us the reason why the man is returning the parcel.

How to identify a Complex Sentence

Whenever we try to identify a particular type of sentence, we have to look at the number and type of clauses the sentence contains.

In complex sentences, we are looking out for at least two clauses: one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

For example, complex sentences are similar to compound sentences, as well as compound-complex sentences, but they are not the same. Let’s take a look at their differences.

  • Compound sentences don't have dependent clauses. So, if you can see a dependent clause in a sentence, it is definitely not a compound sentence.

  • Compound-complex sentences are often the longest sentence type. They include at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. This means, if there is only one independent clause, the sentence isn't a compound-complex sentence.

So, if there’s one independent clause and at least one dependent clause, you can be sure it’s a complex sentence!

Complex Sentence - Key takeaways

  • Complex sentences are one of the four sentence types used in the English language.

  • The four sentence types are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.
  • Complex sentences contain one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

  • Complex sentences are often used when we need to add information or give a reason for something - this is when we would use a dependent clause.

  • We can identify a complex sentence by looking at the number and type of clauses it contains. If there is one independent and at least one dependent clause, we know the sentence is complex.

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence is a sentence type used in the English language. It describes a sentence that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Here is an example sentence: 'The man was wandering around town because he was lost.' The independent clause is 'The man was wandering around town' and the dependent clause is 'because he was lost.' The conjunction linking them is the word 'because'.

'Complex sentence' means that a sentence contains at least one independent clause and one dependent clause. It is one of the sentence types in the English language.

A compound-complex sentence is a very similar sentence type to a complex sentence. The difference is that a compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

Unlike complex sentences, which contain one independent clause and one or move dependent clauses joined together by a subordinating conjunction, punctuation, and/or relative pronouns, compound sentences do not have dependent clauses. So, if there is a dependent clause, you know it isn’t a compound sentence.

Final Complex Sentence Quiz

Question

What is a complex sentence?

Show answer

Answer

A sentence that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between a complex sentence and a compound sentence?

Show answer

Answer

A compound sentence contains multiple independent clauses and doesn’t have a dependent clause.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a complex sentence?

  1. Everyone went to the zoo. 

  2. Everyone went to the zoo while I was working.

  3. Everyone went to the zoo but I stayed at home.

Show answer

Answer

b. Everyone went to the zoo while I was working.

Show question

Question

 Is this a complex sentence?: Andrew fought hard but he still lost.


Show answer

Answer

​No.

Show question

Question

True or false: A complex sentence is the same as a compound-complex sentence.


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Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which of the following sentence types contains a dependent clause?

  1. Simple

  2. Compound

  3. Complex

Show answer

Answer

c. Complex

Show question

Question

Is this a complex or a compound sentence?: Before the show, Natalie tried on her costume.


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Answer

A complex sentence.

Show question

Question

True or false: Complex sentences are used to give added descriptions or information.


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Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What can be used to link a dependent clause to an independent clause in complex sentences?


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Answer

Punctuation, a subordinating conjunction, or a relative pronoun.

Show question

Question

True or false: Complex sentences are often longer than simple sentences.

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Answer

True. Most of the time (although not always), complex sentences are longer than simple sentences.

Show question

Question

Would someone use a simple sentence or a complex sentence if they wanted to give additional information?


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Answer

A complex sentence.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not an example of a complex sentence?

  1. Joey went to the cinema although he had a cold.

  2. After the lecture, he decided to leave the university.

  3. Amy bought the veg and Jack bought the fruit.

Show answer

Answer

c. Amy bought the veg and Jack bought the fruit.

Show question

Question

Which of the following cannot link clauses in a complex sentence?

  1. Relative pronouns

  2. Coordinating conjunctions

  3. Subordinating conjunctions

  4. Punctuation.

Show answer

Answer

b. Coordinating conjunctions can only link two independent clauses.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between a complex sentence and a compound-complex sentence?


Show answer

Answer

A compound-complex sentence has multiple independent clauses whereas a complex sentence only has one.

Show question

Question

True or false: Complex sentences cannot contain more than one independent clause and can only have one dependent clause.


Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

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