Complex Sentences


We’re going to talk about combining independent and dependent clauses to talk about complex sentences.

Independent clauses are complete sentences. They can function all by themselves. They could be their own sentence, but we can also combine them to make compound sentences.

Now, we’re going to bring in here, we’re going to talk about dependent clauses. Dependent clauses are also called sentence fragments and dependent clauses are — they have some of the same aspects as an independent clause. They typically have a — or in the cases we’ll talk about–they have a subject and a predicate, but they also have extra information and along the bottom here, I have a complete sentence needs (a) a subject, (b) a verb, and (c) a complete idea. So this says something I just mentioned before, but will come into play here.

So, as you can see, this first part of the sentence is a dependent clause because it cannot function independently as its own complete idea. If I just write, “because I am often very busy and tired”, and I stop it there, it does not indicate a complete idea, does not communicate a complete idea. It seems like there is something missing. And, so, that’s how dependent clauses are often a good, you know, a part of an idea that really needs extra information to be complete.

Dependent clauses often begin with subordinating conjunction. Another kind of big word or phrase that we use when we talk about grammar. It’s not 100%, like, necessary that you use the term subordinating conjunction, but at least understanding the idea will be important here. So, many, but not all, dependent clauses use them. They join a subordinate clause to a main clause and establish a relationship between the two. So these dependent clauses that begin with subordinating conjunctions, they begin with words like after, although, because, before, once, since, though. So, we can kind of pick them out of our sentences or out of our writing by looking for some of these words. And this is not an exhaustive list. There are many other subordinating conjunctions, but this is a list of a few that you will see probably on a regular basis. And subordinate means that the clause does not express a complete idea, even if it has that subject and the predicate.

So, we’ll look at a few more examples. So, our basic formula for a complex sentence is that we’re going to combine the, the independent clause, what we might call the main clause, or a simple sentence, we now have various kind of terms for this, but I’ll call it an independent clause, and combine it with a dependent clause, what we just talked about, those incomplete sentences that need extra information to make them complete.

And there are two main ways that we do that. We can use the dependent clause at the beginning, and it acts kind of like an introductory clause. Conversely, we can have the dependent clause at the end. So notice the structure in the introductory clause, it’s the dependent phrase or clause, comma, main clause or independent clause. So, two main structures, introductory, so the dependent clause is at the beginning, we have a comma, if the dependent clause is at the end, notice that there’s no comma needed. So that’s one of the main differences between the two, when we, when we put them in order, is that if the dependent clause starts the sentence, we need a comma.

So here’s an example. We have our dependent clause, “if the flight is on time”. Notice, like I said previously, that this does not communicate a complete idea. We need more information. If the flight is on time, what happens? You know, then what happens? So we need more information. And the independent clause, “Tim will get home tonight”. Notice that this could function as a complete sentence, if necessary, or in the right context.

So, by following our two formulas, we can put the dependent clause at the beginning, “if the flight is on time” comma, “Tim will get home tonight.” Or we can switch it around and say “Tim will get home tonight” — notice no comma needed – “if the flight is on time.”

[Source: Walden University. ]


See also:

Types of Sentences
Simple Sentences
Compound Sentences
Combining Sentences
Common errors in structuring sentences

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