Grammar Basics: The Complex Sentence

So far we discussed the simple sentence and the compound sentence. Today we will discus the complex sentence.

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What is a complex sentence?

Simply put, a complex sentence is the combination of a dependent clause and an independent clause. You know what an independent clause. A dependent clause is a clause that is dependent on another clause to make it a complete thought.

For example: Although I am busy, I will make the time to write 500 words today.

(The dependent clause is “Although I am busy.” The independent clause is “I will make time to write 500 words today.”)

>>If you take away the “although,” you will notice that “I am busy” is an independent clause. “I am busy” became a dependent clause when the “although” was added to the clause. The “although” is a subordinating conjunction.

Subordinating Conjunctions

When writing a complex sentence, you have to decide (consciously or unconsciously) which clause is more important. When that decision is made, you will add a subordinating conjunction to the lesser clause, rendering dependent on the independent clause. (Subordinate means something that is of a less importance or order.)

Let’s use the above example again but switch it around:

Although I will make the time to write 500 words today, I am busy. (The dependent clause is “although I will make the time to write 500 words today” and the independent clause is “I am busy.”)
This sentence sounds a little awkward, doesn’t it? Still, look at the first part of the sentence: “although I will make the time to write 500 words today.” It doesn’t stand on its own, does it? No, it doesn’t. That one little word – the subordinating conjunction – makes a world of a difference!

List of Subordinating Conjunctions

Here are some of the most common subordinating conjunctions that are used to create complex sentences:

after, although, as, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order that, once, rather than,  since, so that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, while

There are others. The most important thing to know about complex sentences is that they contain both a dependent and independent clause. Additionally, any group of words that isn’t a complete thought (whether it has a subordinating conjunction or not) is a dependent clause and must be connected to an independent clause in order to work.

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