What are Complex and Compound Sentences

What is a Complex Sentence?

1. Complex sentence definition:

A complex sentence is a sentence that has one independent part (the main clause) and at-lease one dependent part (the subordinate clause). The independent and dependent clauses are joined together using an appropriate conjunction.

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You can easily recognize complex sentences when they use subordinating conjunctions like because, since, or until to join parts of the sentence.

In English, sentences can be constructed using different types and numbers of clauses, resulting in the formation of simple, compound, and complex sentences. In this article, our primary focus will be on exploring complex sentences, along with an examination of compound sentences.

Let's take a look at some examples:

Example 1:

After the rain stopped, we went outside to play.

Independent Clause: We went outside to play.

Dependent Clause: After the rain stopped.

Example 2:

Because she studied hard, Sarah earned an A on her test.

Independent Clause: Sarah earned an A on her test.

Dependent Clause: Because she studied hard.

Example 3:

He finished his dinner before watching TV.

Independent Clause: He finished his dinner.

Dependent Clause: before watching TV.

Watch our video introduction to Complex Sentences:

2. Independent vs dependent clause:

An independent, or main, clause does not depend on the other clause. It makes sense as a separate sentence, and that is why it is called "independent".

On the other hand, a subordinate clause does not make sense on its own. It depends on the main clause to form a sentence. In other words, it does not express a complete thought.

A subordinate clause begins with a connective like "while", "until", "because", "although" or a relative pronoun. The following are some examples:

2.1 How to identify an independent clause?

To identify the main clause in a sentence, look for the subject and verb that form a complete thought. The main clause often expresses the main idea of the sentence. As mentioned above, it can stand alone as a complete sentence, while subordinate clauses depend on it for meaning. Pay attention to the structure and meaning of the sentence to determine the main clause.

Complex sentence example with main and subordinate clauses

3. Complex sentence examples:

8 examples of Complex Sentences

Let's understand this with the help of some examples:

Example 1: "Although it was raining outside, Sarah decided to go for a walk."

Description: In this sentence, we have a complex sentence structure. The main clause is "Sarah decided to go for a walk," which expresses an action. The subordinating conjunction "Although" introduces the dependent clause "it was raining outside," which provides additional information about the situation. The complex sentence shows that despite the rain, Sarah made the choice to go for a walk.

Example 2: "Because she studied diligently, Emily performed well on the test."

Description: This sentence is another example of a complex sentence. The main clause is "Emily performed well on the test," indicating the result or outcome. The subordinating conjunction "Because" introduces the dependent clause "she studied diligently," which explains the reason behind Emily's success. The complex sentence highlights the cause-and-effect relationship between Emily's dedicated studying and her performance on the test.

Example 3: "After finishing her homework, Lisa went to the park to play with her friends."

Description: This sentence also demonstrates a complex sentence structure. The main clause is "Lisa went to the park to play with her friends," indicating the action. The subordinating conjunction "After" introduces the dependent clause "finishing her homework," which provides the time frame or sequence of events. The complex sentence shows that after completing her homework, Lisa proceeded to the park for some recreational time with her friends.

💡 Note: Words like "because", "if", "whenever", and "since" act as subordinating conjunctions.
They help connect subordinate clauses to independent clauses. Certain prepositions like "after" and "before" are also used for this purpose.

Here are some examples:

  • Although it was raining, we decided to go for a walk.

  • I will call you as soon as I finish my work.

  • She loves to read books that are filled with adventure.

  • After I eat dinner, I like to relax and watch TV.

  • The dog barked loudly when the mailman arrived.

  • I studied hard because I wanted to pass the exam.

  • The teacher explained the lesson, and the students took notes.

  • Even though he was tired, he stayed up late to finish his project.

  • She couldn't find her keys, so she had to ask for help.

  • They went to the park after they finished their homework.

  • Although it was raining, they played golf.

  • I will call you after I finish my work.

  • I bought some chocolate while I was coming home.

  • Although she invited me to the party, I do not want to go.

  • After she finished playing, she went to the market.

  • When he went to the fair, he ate ice-cream.

4. What is a Compound Sentence?

A compound sentence has two independent clauses joined by a conjunction, comma or semicolon. The two independent clauses have related ideas of equal importance.

As we have already seen above, an independent clause makes sense as a separate sentence and does not depend on another clause. Therefore, both the clauses in a compound sentence can be written as seperate (independent) sentences. Then, why do we use them in one sentence? They are used in one sentence because they express interconnected (related) ideas.

The following are some more examples:

  • It was raining, still they played golf.

  • She is famous, yet she is very polite.

  • I bought chocolate, but Mary bought ice-cream.

  • Peter wanted pizza and Tom asked for juice.

  • My sister went to the market, but I stayed home.

  • Matthew went to the fair and he ate ice-cream.

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