This is Part Three of a three-part series on Sentence Structure by Shauna Bolton, Grammarian Extraordinaire!
The Four Basic Sentence Types
Type 3: The Complex Sentence
- The complex sentence has one independent clause AND one dependent – or relative – clause.
- A relative clause beginning with who, that, which, whose, where, when can be used in place of or in addition to the dependent clause, and the result will still be a compound-complex sentence.
- If the dependent clause starts the sentence, USE A COMMA to separate it from the independent clause.
Example 11: When they finished eating the children cleared the table.
Without the comma, cannibals are at the table. The subject of the
independent clause, “the children,” becomes the object of the dependent clause’s verb, “eating.” A comma prevents this.
Example 11a: When they finished eating, the children cleared the table.
The cannibals have vanished; all that remains are helpful children.
- If the independent clause begins the sentence, DO NOT USE A COMMA.
Example 11b: The children cleared the table when they finished eating.
- NO COMMAS ARE NEEDED in a complex sentence with a relative clause.
Example 12: The children who cleared the table went out to play.
Type 4: The Compound-Complex Sentence
- The compound-complex sentence is made of the following elements:
- at least two independent clauses
- at least one dependent clause
- (subordinating conjunction + independent clause)
These three clauses can be combined in many ways. These formulas and their accompanying examples illustrate the variety of options available.
Independent Clauses, Dependent Clause
- IC; IC + DC We will leave now; Jan will join us when she is finished.
- IC, CC + IC + DC We will leave now, and Jan will join us when she is finished.
- IC; CA, IC + DC We will leave now; however, Jan will join us when she is finished.
Independent Clause, Dependent Clause, Independent Clause
- IC; DC, IC. We will leave now; when Jan is finished, she will join us.
- IC, CC + DC, IC We will leave now, and when Jan is finished, she will join us.
- IC; CA, DC + IC We will leave now; however, when Jan is finished, she will join us.
Dependent Clause, Independent Clauses
- DC, IC; IC When Jan is finished, she will join us; we will leave now.
- DC, IC, CC + IC When Jan is finished, she will join us, but we will leave now.
- DC, IC; CA, IC When Jan is finished, she will join us; however, we will leave now.
Note: A relative clause beginning with who, that, which, whose, where, when can be used in place of or in addition to the dependent clause, and the result will still be a compound-complex sentence.
Example 13: To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that I read in my ninth-grade English class, and when I taught high school English, I taught it to my ninth-grade students.
- To…class, (independent); that…read (relative); and (coordinating conjunction); when…English, (dependent); I…students. (independent)
For each sentence, identify the clauses and the connectors, i.e., coordinating conjunction, subordinating conjunction, conjunctive adverb, or relative pronoun.
- Since Allen is still a little boy, he always has to win at games; otherwise, he starts crying.
- The canyon road can be hazardous, but if you drive slowly and carefully, you will be fine.
- Senator Jordan agreed to go to the dinner party for the Japanese prime minister; she would, however, really prefer to stay at home and read several reports on an important bill which will be debated next week in Congress.
- The package that arrived today was actually addressed to you, but I opened it and checked for damage before I signed the delivery acceptance slip.
- The snow that fell last night made the streets impassable; therefore, schools are closed today.
- Since…boy, (dependent); he…games; (independent); otherwise (conjunctive adverb); he…crying. (independent)
- The…hazardous, (independent); but (coordinating conjunction); if…carefully (dependent); you…fine. (independent)
- Senator…minister; (independent); she…bill (independent); which…Congress. (relative)
- The…you, (independent); that…today (relative); but (coordinating conjunction); I…damage (independent); before…slip. (dependent)
- The…impassable; (independent); that…night (relative); therefore, (conjunctive adverb), schools…today. (independent)