In this lesson, we learn what a complex sentence is, how it is formed, when we use it, and a lot more.
What is a complex sentence in English?
Complex sentence definition: a complex sentence is a combination of one or more dependent clauses and one independent clause (a sentence). The dependent clause in a complex sentence works as an adverb, adjective, or noun.
We can’t hire you because you are asking for too much money.
This is an example of a complex sentence that has an independent clause and a dependent clause.
Independent clause = we can’t hire you
Dependent clause = because you are asking for too much money
The dependent clause in this example is working as an adverb, modifying the verb of the main clause. It is telling us the reason for it.
Monica came to her place from the club after she was told that she can’t get in because of her dress.
This is an interesting example of a complex sentence. Now, why am I calling it interesting? The sentence is a combination of two clauses: independent and dependent.
Independent clause = Monica came to her place from the club
Dependent clause = after she was told that she can’t get in because of her dress
Notice that the dependent clause has another dependent clause (that she can’t get in because of her dress) in it, working as a noun (the object of the verb ‘told’). So, in total, we have two dependent clauses and a main clause.
More examples of complex sentences
- If I don’t get come back by 11 pm, don’t wait for me and sleep.
- My friend Mangesh turned his life around after he was thrown out of his house.
- I would not make my decision before I personally see the man.
- Everyone got excited when Ronny got on the stage.
- None of us knows where she lives.
- I would love to be a part of this project though I am completely inexperienced in it.
- The man who came to see me yesterday was asking me to help him with his communication skills as he needs to clear the IELTS exam.
Positions of clauses in a complex sentence
Now, let’s understand where both dependent and independent clauses come in a complex sentence. Before we understand that, let’s get clarity on one thing: the dependent clause either works as an adverb, adjective, or noun in a complex sentence or any sentence. The position it takes depends on what it does in the sentence.
Let’s understand its position with respect to its function in complex sentences.
As an adverb
When a dependent clause works as an adverb, it usually comes at the end or the beginning of the sentence. When it comes at the beginning of a sentence, we use a comma right after it.
- Though you don’t know me very well, I can drop you at your place.
- He has been acting a little strange since he came back from the trip.
- After the shift got over, we went to a pub and had a lot of fun.
- If I were you, I would take the job offer.
NOTE: Though very less common, a dependent clause can come after the subject of the main clause too. As I have said, this is not so common or is a good demonstration of effective or sophisticated writing.
- I, after the boss insulted me in front of everyone in the meeting, resigned from the job.
Notice that the dependent clause comes after the subject of the main clause in this complex sentence. When this happens, we use commas (before and after it).
As a noun
When a dependent clause works as a noun in a complex sentence, it can take multiple positions as multiple parts of a sentence are nouns.
In place of the subject
What I have bought for your birthday will make you so happy.
In this example, the subject of the sentence is a dependent clause (noun clause).
In place of the object (verb)
I know what you are thinking right now.
The dependent clause in this complex sentence works as the object of the verb of the main clause ‘know‘. Notice that the dependent clause is a part of the main clause.
In place of the object of a preposition
None of us wants to talk about what happened yesterday.
The dependent clause in this complex sentence works as the object of the preposition ‘about‘ of the main clause.
In place of the subject complement
The problem with this department is that people don’t come to the office on time.
In this example, the dependent clause is an essential part of the main clause, meaning taking it out of the sentence would the sentence incomplete. It is working as the subject complement, naming the subject ‘problem‘.
In place of the object complement
You can call me whatever you want.
The dependent clause in this complex sentence works as the object complement. Without it, the sentence starts giving a completely different meaning.
As an adjective
When a dependent clause modifies a noun and works as an adjective in a complex sentence, it comes after the noun it modifies. So, its position in the sentence depends on what part it modifies. Here, it works as a part of a noun phrase.
- The lady who took my interview was very rude. (a part of the subject, modifying the noun ‘girl’)
- I know a person who fits the role. (a part of the object, modifying the noun ‘person’)
- I am talking about the book that I got you the other day. (a part of the object of the preposition, modifying the noun ‘book’)
- He is the guy who helped me at the examination hall. (a part of the subject complement, modifying the noun ‘guy’)
A dependent clause can be a part of another dependent clause in a complex sentence
A dependent clause can be a part of another dependent clause. Let’s study an example to understand this better.
If you are happy with what you are getting, you should continue working there.
In this complex sentence, the sentence starts with a dependent clause that is working as an adverb. Notice that the object of the preposition in the dependent clause is another dependent clause starting the subordinating conjunction ‘what’.
The more places a dependent clause takes in a sentence, the more complex it gets. Let me show you some more examples.
Difficult examples of complex sentences
These sentences have multiple dependent clauses in them. That’s why we are calling them difficult.
- The guy whom you had sent for fixing the wall told me that he worked in the military for some years before he left and moved to Pune.
- Though he is someone whom I really love and respect, he sometimes says things that hurt me.
- I can’t remember how many people doubted me when I needed their support.
- What I need you to do after I come back from the station is that I want you to go to my place and tell my mother that I have gone to Dubai for some work.
- If you don’t do what you should do, the only thing that happens is that you cry about the fact that you are a loser.
- When I was at your party, some people who love me told me that they wanted to be a part of the NGO that I had recently started and contribute with whatever they had.
Notice that these complex sentences have multiple dependent clauses in them, working as nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Also, notice that there is only one independent clause in there.
Subordinating conjunctions in a complex sentence
Complex sentences can’t be formed without subordinating conjunctions. A subordinating conjunction comes at the beginning of a dependent clause and shows its relationship with the main clause.
- I will call you back after I come back home.
(The dependent clause works as an adverb to the main verb of the main clause, and the subordinating conjunction (after) shows that the dependent clause modifies the main clause in terms of time.)
- Because I wasn’t wearing fancy and clean clothes, they didn’t talk to me nicely.
Here, the subordinating conjunction (because) forms a cause-and-effect relation. The dependent clause here works as an adverb of reason for the main clause. The reason they didn’t talk to me nicely was that I wasn’t wearing fancy and clean clothes.
- I know a person who can help us here.
Here, in this example, the dependent clause functions as an adjective, modifying the noun person. The subordinating conjunction here refers to the object being modified (person). It’s a relative pronoun too.
- I know what you are hiding.
In this complex sentence, the dependent clause works as a noun (object of the verb know). The subordinating conjunction refers to an object.
- What she cooked was absolutely delicious.
In this example too, the subordinating conjunctive refers to the subject the speaker is talking about or referring to (calling delicious). The dependent clause works as a noun (subject) in this complex sentence.
A list of common subordinating conjunctions
as soon as
as much as
in order that
Complex sentences with 1 independent clause and 1 dependent clause
When we form a complex sentence with one independent clause and one dependent clause in it, the dependent clause can come at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the sentence. Let’s study this with some examples.
In the beginning
- After I complete college, I’ll start my own business.
- When she is upset, she doesn’t talk to anyone and locks herself in the room.
- As soon as she started speaking, everyone got silent.
- What you’ve done for this company cannot be explained in words.
- How can someone be so flexible is beyond me.
In the middle
- The girl whom he is dating is one of the most popular girls in the college.
- Some of my friends who are working in MNCs are earning more than 30 lakh rupees per annum.
- Some of the things that I have learned from him can’t be taught in textbooks.
At the end
- I understand that you are upset with us.
- She explained to us why she left the company.
- I don’t care about what people think about me.
- You have the liberty to call me whatever you want.
- Nothing changes in your life until you stop being complacent and get out of your comfort zone.
Complex sentences with 1 independent clause and 2 dependent clauses
Here are some complex sentences that have two dependent clauses and one independent clause in them:
- I will do whatever I want because I am the boss here.
- If you’re not willing to be tested, don’t ask to come for a change because I won’t give it to you.
- Things that he said to me are so abusive that I can’t even share them with my parents.
- If you trust the process and believe in yourself, there’s nothing in life that you can’t do.
- When I came to Delhi last month, my friend took me to Chandni Chowk because it’s famous for its amazing parathas.
Complex sentences with 1 independent clause and 3 dependent clauses
Using one independent clause and three dependent clauses in a complex sentence might sound like an uphill task, but that’s not the case. With a little understanding of how to use dependent clauses, we can easily do that. In the above examples (difficult examples), I have used four or five dependent clauses in a sentence.
Let’s study some examples for better understanding.
- If you love what you do, you can do things with it that you can’t even imagine.
- What I have learned from the experiences that I have had so far is that you shouldn’t share some things with anyone.
- You sometimes need to do things that you aren’t comfortable doing because they take you where you want to be in life.
- If I didn’t do what I did at the meeting, everyone would belittle Jon for the rest of his life because he would never stand up for himself.
Important points about a complex sentence
A) A complex sentence has one independent clause and at least one or more dependent clauses in it.
B) It can’t have two (more than one) independent clauses in it.
C) If a complex sentence starts with a dependent clause working as an adverb, we use a comma right after it.
D) The number of dependent clauses used in it has no limit.
E) If a dependent clause works as an adjective in a complex sentence and gives non-essential information about a noun/pronoun, we use commas to offset it.
F) If a dependent clause comes at the beginning of a complex sentence and works as a noun, don’t use a comma after it.
Complex sentences in quotes
- “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon
- “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- “Whoever is happy will make others happy too.” – Anne Frank
- “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.” – Stephen Hawking
- “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” – Benjamin Franklin
- “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown
- “When you cease to dream you cease to live.” – Malcolm Forbes
- “If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine.” – Morris West
- “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J. K. Rowling
- “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn
Now, we know everything about complex sentences. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.
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