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Grammar and StructureGRAMMAR & STRUCTURE — Examples
Complex Sentences

 
 

Examples illustrating the different ways of creating complex sentences:

Sentence

Explanation

The students ate lunch at the beach.

This is a simple sentence. It has one independent clause.

because it was a beautiful day

This is not a sentence. It is a dependent clause. It is not a complete thought. It cannot be a sentence by itself. It must be linked with an independent clause.

The students ate lunch at the beach because it was a beautiful day.

This is a complex sentence. It has an independent clause and a dependent clause.

When the students finished their class, they ate lunch at the beach because it was a beautiful day.

This complex sentence has one independent clause and two dependent clauses:

  • Independent clause: they ate lunch at the beach
  • Dependent clause: when the students finished their class
  • Dependent clause: because it was a beautiful day

Tom knows that he has a meeting at ten.

The verbs are the same tense because the clauses refer to the same time.
Independent clause: now / present tense: knows
Dependent clause: now / present tense: has

John thinks he is more important than anyone else, just because he won a million dollars last year.

The verbs are different tenses because the clauses refer to different times.
Independent clause: now / present tense: thinks
Dependent clause: last year / past tense: won

When the students finished their class, they ate lunch at the beach.

The students ate lunch at the beach because it was a beautiful day.

The two clauses in these two sentences are joined by subordinate conjunctions. In the first sentence it is "when", and in the second sentence it is "because".

Note that the subordinate conjunction is placed at the beginning of the dependent clause.

The students are eating lunch at the beach because it is a beautiful day.

The subject and verb of each clause agree:
students - plural / are eating - plural
it - singular / is - singular

The beach, which is only fifteen minutes from the university, is a great place to have lunch.

The dependent clause can be placed inside the independent clause.

 

The students, who are studying English at the university, are eating lunch at the beach today.

When a clause or phrase separates the subject and verb, the subject and verb must still agree:
Subject: students — plural
Verb: are — plural

When the students finished their class, they went to the beach.

The students went to the beach when they finished their class.

When the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, use a comma:
When ____ , ______ .

When the dependent clause comes after the independent clause, do not use a comma:
__________ when _______ .