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Complex Sentence

A complex sentence has one or more dependent clauses (also called subordinate clauses). Since a dependent clause cannot stand on its own as a sentence, complex sentences must also have at least one independent clause. In short, a sentence with one or more dependent clauses and at least one independent clause is a complex sentence.

A sentence with two or more independent clauses plus one or more dependent clauses is called compound-complex or complex-compound.

In addition to a subject and a verb, dependent clauses contain a subordinating conjunction or similar word. There are a large number of subordinating conjunctions in English. Some of these give the clause an adverbial function, specifying time, place, or manner. Such clauses are called adverbial clauses.

When I stepped out into the bright sunlight, from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind. (S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders))
This complex sentence contains an adverbial clause, When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house. The adverbial clause describes when the action of the main clause, I had only two things on my mind, took place. A relative clause is a dependent clause that modifies a noun or noun phrase in the independent clause. In other words, the relative clause functions similar to an adjective.

  • Let him who has been deceived complain. (Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote)
  • You, who have never known your family, see them standing around you. (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

A noun clause is a dependent clause that functions like a noun.

In the first example, the restrictive relative clause who has been deceived specifies or defines the meaning of him in the independent clause, Let him complain.

In the second example, the non-restrictive relative clause who have never known your family describes you in the independent clause, You see them standing around you.

A noun clause may function as the subject of a clause, or as a predicate nominative or an object.
What she had realised was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst. (Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
In this sentence the independent clause contains two noun clauses.
The noun clause What she had realized serves as the subject of the verb was, and that love was that moment serves as complement. The sentence also contains a relative clause, when your heart was about to burst.

License: CC BY-SA 3.0. Source: wikipedia (1, 2)

See also

Compound sentence

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