Compound Complex Sentences: Introduction

When a sentence contains two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses, the sentence is called a compound complex sentence. Before we go into details of compound complex sentences, it is better to have an idea of the simple, compound & the complex sentence. Let us examine the following sentences:

  1. Anne won the race.

  2. The road was clear and we started going.

  3. John did not pass the exam since he did not study hard.

  4. James tried hard but he could not succeed since he had no much experience.

Look at that the first sentence has only one Subject and one Predicate. Such a sentence is called a simple sentence.

Look at the second sentence. It contains two parts:

  1. The road was clear.

  2. We started going.

These two parts are joined by a coordinating conjunction and. Each of the two sentences contains a Subject & a predicate of its own. Each part is therefore a sentence which is a part of a large sentence. In other words, each part is what we call a Clause. We can further notice that each of the two clauses makes good sense by itself and therefore can stand by itself as a complete sentence. Each clause is independent of the other and therefore called an Independent Clause. Note that there are several coordinating conjunctions other than and which can be used to join two independent clauses such as but, for, or, nor, yet & so. Also the punctuation mark semicolon (;) can function as a coordinating conjunction.

Therefore a sentence such as the second which is made up of two or more independent clauses is called a compound sentence.  

Look at the third sentence, it too has two parts:

  1. John did not pass the exam.

  2. Since he did not study hard.

Each part contains a subject & a predicate of its own and forma part of a large sentence. Each part is therefore a clause. When we further analyze, we can notice that the first part “John did not pass the exam” makes good sense by itself and can stand by itself as a complete sentence. It is therefore an independent clause.

However the second part “since he did not study hard” cannot stand by itself and doesn’t make good sense unless it is read with the first part. It is dependent on the first part. It is therefore called a dependent or subordinate clause. A dependent clause may be a noun clause, adjective clause or adverb clause from grammatical point of view. Please note the analysis of clauses is outside the scope of this site.

Therefore a sentence such as the third which is made up of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses is called a complex sentence.

Now look at the fourth sentence, it has 03 parts (or clauses):

  1. James tried hard.

  2. He could not succeed.

  3. Since he had no much experience.

The first & the second clause both can stand on its own and make good senses by themselves and therefore are complete sentences. In other words, if we take the first two parts,  ”James tried hard but he could not succeed” this is a compound sentence as explained previously but there is a third clause which is an independent clause which will make sense only if it is read with the second clause.

Therefore a sentence such as the fourth which is made up of two or more independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses is called a compound complex sentence.

Let us  look at some compound complex sentence examples in the next post.

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