Complex Sentences


Welcome to class! 

In today’s class, we will be talking about complex sentences. Enjoy the class!

Complex Sentences

Complex Sentences |

In our class on conjunction, we spoke about the two major types of conjunction, coordinating and subordinating conjunction.

Compound sentences are usually formed by combining two or more simple sentences (independent/main clauses) together with the aid of coordinators such as and, or, or but.

Complex sentences, on the other hand, are commonly formed by linking two simple sentences (independent/main clauses) together with subordinating conjunctions such as when, because, that, so, which, etc.

See these examples:

1a.      Simbi will prepare the food.

  1. It is Simbi’s turn.

=          Simbi will prepare the food because it is her turn.


2a.      They fought yesterday.

  1. I saw them then.

=          I saw them when they fought yesterday.


3a.      We left early.

  1. We wanted to get there on time.

=          We left early so we could get there on time.

Note that each resulting sentence here has two verbs or verb phrases. Let me point you to that clearly:

  1. Simbi will prepare the food because it is her turn. (will prepare and is)
  2. I saw them when they fought (saw and fought)
  3. We left early so we could get there on time. (left and could get)

Anytime you see a sentence like that, there are two clauses therein. You recognize how many clauses a sentence has by counting how many verb or verb phrases are there in the sentence.

Did you get that?

Now pay close attention.

When you join to clauses together with a subordinating conjunction (or simply subordinator), you make one clause depend (or rest) on the other clause, such that the dependent clause will not be able to stand alone except it depends (or rests) on that other clause.

So in the English Language, we call the clause that can stand alone independent (or main) clause, and the one that cannot stand alone dependent (or subordinate) clause.

Did you get that?

If you don’t, read again from the examples above until you’ve understood every detail of what I just explained to you.

Now let’s go back to our examples above and break out the independent clauses from the dependent clauses.

  1. Simbi will prepare the food /because it is her turn.
  2. I saw them /when they fought yesterday.
  3. We left early /so we could get there on time.

Can you now recognize which one is the main clause and which one is the subordinate clause? The first items before the slashes are the main (independent) clauses, while the boldface items (after the slashes) are the subordinate (dependent) clauses.

How did I know that?

It is simple. I know that because the boldface items all begin with a subordinator each: because, when and so.

Notice that both types could be placed anywhere in the sentence, at the beginning or the end. That means the subordinate clauses can actually come first in the sentences.

  1. Because it is her turn, Simbi will prepare the food.
  2. When they fought yesterday, I saw them.
  3. So we could get there on time, we left early.

Notice that there is a need to insert the comma when the subordinate clause is placed first before the main clause as you have here.

Also, if we have enough space in a future class, I will tell you some other points to note about the complex sentence and the reason why people choose to place either the subordinate or main clause at the front and the other at the back.

General Evaluation
  1. Write a paragraph of words on any topic of your choice and underline, at least, five complex sentences in the paragraph.
  2. Look for an essay in your English Language past questions and write out 10 complex sentences you find in the essay.


In our next class, we will be talking about Unstressed Vowels.  We hope you enjoyed the class.

Should you have any further question, feel free to ask in the comment section below and trust us to respond as soon as possible.

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