Complex sentences
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Complex Sentences. The Brenham Writing Room Created by D. Herring. What is a Complex Sentence?. A complex sentence contains both an independent and a dependent clause. A complex sentence may contain more than just two clauses.

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Complex Sentences

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Complex sentences

Complex Sentences

The Brenham Writing Room

Created by D. Herring


What is a complex sentence

What is a Complex Sentence?

  • A complex sentence contains both an independent and a dependent clause.

  • A complex sentence may contain more than just two clauses.

  • A complex sentence may be combined with a compound sentence to form a compound-complex sentence.


Independent dependent clauses

Independent & Dependent Clauses

  • A clause is a group of words containing a subject and a verb.

    • An independent clause has a subject and a verb and can stand alone because it expresses a complete thought.

      • I studied for the test.

    • A dependent clause has a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone because it does not express a complete thought. It “depends” on another clause to be complete.

      • Although I was tired.


Complex sentence

Complex Sentence

  • A complex sentence combines both an independent and dependent clause.

    • Although I was tired, I studied for the test.

    • I studied for the test, although I was tired.


Subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunctions

  • Many dependent clauses begin with a subordinating conjunction (also known as a dependent word)

    • Subordinate means secondary, so subordinating conjunctions are words that introduce secondary ideas.

      • e.g., because, since, when, while, although, even though, if, as, whereas

    • Subordinating conjunctions create a relationship between clauses, so they must be used properly.


Punctuating with dependent clauses subordinating conjunctions

Punctuating with Dependent Clauses & Subordinating Conjunctions

  • When a dependent clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction falls at the beginning of the sentence, put a comma after the clause. (It acts as an introductory clause.)

  • When it falls at the end, no comma is needed.

    • Because I didn’t study, I didn’t pass the exam.

    • I didn’t pass the exam because I didn’t study.


What is a relative pronoun

What is a Relative Pronoun?

  • A relative pronoun describes a noun or pronoun.

    • Relative pronouns:

      • who, whom, whomever, whose, which, that

  • Relative pronouns can be used to begin a relative clause, which is also “dependent” and can be used in a complex sentence.

    • My uncle, who plays for the Houston Astros, is coming to visit this week.


Who vs which vs that

Who vs. Which vs. That

  • Use who (whom, whomever, whose) to add information about a person or animal.

    • My cat, who is 15-years old, likes to lay on the porch all day.

  • Use that to add essential information about a thing or animal.

    • The animal that I like best is the platypus.

  • Use which to add non-essential information about a thing or animal.

    • A platypus, which is my favorite animal, was recently added to one of the exhibits at the zoo.


Punctuation with relative clauses

Punctuation with Relative Clauses

  • Use commas to set off non-essential clauses.

    • Clauses beginning with which should be non-essential.

      • My computer, which is a laptop, crashed.

    • Some clauses beginning with who are non-essential.

      • My teacher, whom I like a lot, just won an award for Best Teacher.

  • Do not use commas with essential clauses.

    • Clauses beginning with that should be essential.

      • The classes that I’m taking this semester are Reading and English.

    • Some clauses beginning with who are essential.

      • The tutor who is assigned to our class is very helpful.


In review

In Review….

  • It is critical to know the difference between these three different types of words:

    • Coordinating Conjunctions (aka FANBOYS)

      • for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

    • Conjunctive Adverbs (aka Transitional Words)

      • however, therefore, consequently, also, then

      • see Little, Brown Handbook, pg. 261 for list

    • Subordinating Conjunctions (aka Dependent Words)

      • because, although, since, while, when, unless, if

      • see LBH, pg. 253 for list


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