How to Write a Sentence: #3 Complex Sentences

* First, read How to Write a Sentence #1 & How to Write a Sentence #2.

Quick revision

A sentence must include: 1) a subject

2) a finite verb (a verb with tense)

3) meaning (a complete idea)

The following clause cannot be called a sentence because one of the three above points is missing:

Have a lot of coffee in Brazil.

Where is the subject? In many languages, the subject can be included with the verb. However, in English, we cannot do this! Correction:

We have a lot of coffee in Brazil.          brazilian-coffee-beans-300x223

They have a lot of coffee in Brazil.

There is a lot of coffee in Brazil.

The following clause cannot be called a sentence because one of the three above points is missing:

Pedro cooking the dinner.

When? There is no main verb, no verb with tense. ‘Cooking’ is a participle. It is only part of a verb. It needs an auxiliary verb (helper) to make a complete verb with tense to tell us ‘when’. It is not a sentence. Correction, eg:

Pedro is cooking the dinner. (Present Continuous Tense)

Pedro will be cooking the dinner. (Future Simple Tense)

Have a look at this clause:

When I go back to India.

What is the meaning of this? If you say these words to someone, they will wait for you to finish the sentence. They will ask, “What? What are you going to do when you go back to India?” The meaning is not clear. It is not a sentence. Correction, eg:

When I go back to India, I’m going to visit Varanasi.

Compound Sentences:

Sentence + Co-ordinating Conjunction + Sentence = Compound Sentence.

Pedro is cooking dinner but I’m not hungry.  

Pedro is cooking dinner so I’m washing up.

Pedro is cooking dinner and I’m watching TV.

Pedro is cooking dinner. http://cdn29.elitedaily.com

 In Compound Sentences, the Co-ordinating Conjunction always goes in the middle of two (or more) sentences. We can’t start a sentence with a Co-ordinating Conjunction. This is because the two (or more) sentences have equal value. The Co-ordinating Conjunction does not belong with one sentence more than the other. That is why we put it in the middle. That is why we call it a Co-ordinating Conjunction.

** All other conjuctions are used to make Complex Sentences.

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Complex Sentences:

(Subordinating Conjunction + Sentence) + Sentence =  Complex Sentence.

Sentence + (Subordinating Conjunction + Sentence) Complex Sentence.

http://www.authormagazine.org/articles/nichols_adam_2010_01_14.htm

http://www.authormagazine.org/ articles/nichols_adam_2010_01_14.htm

Today, I am starting with Complex Sentences. I say “starting” because there are many ways to make Complex Sentences. I will start gradually, using easy rules. Firstly, you do need to read my earlier post on Co-ordinating Conjunctions. It explains that we can combine two or more sentences with seven Co-ordinating Conjunctions to make Compound Sentences. (The TOEIC test will only test on: and, but, & so.)

In Complex Sentences, we have two (or more) sentences which we join with a Subordinating Conjunction to make one sentence. The Subordinating Conjunction belongs to just one sentence. When we add a Subordinating Conjunction to a sentence, it becomes a ‘dependent’ clause. The two clauses are not equal. Remember that a sentence is an ‘independent’ clause. It can stand alone. A ‘dependent’ clause cannot stand alone. It’s dependent like a baby. It needs help. Let’s look at the following sentences:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/126452702010206820/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/ 126452702010206820/

Pedro is cooking dinner. I’m not hungry.  

Pedro is cooking dinner. I’m washing up.   

Pedro is cooking dinner. I’m watching TV.

These are independent clauses. We joined them above with a Co-ordinating Conjunction (but, so, and). We can also join them with a Subordinating Conjunction. ‘Sub’ means ‘below’ or ‘under’. This means that when we add the Subordinating Conjunction to one of the sentences, it will become a ‘Subordinating’ Clause, a dependent clause, and its value will be ‘below’ the value of the independent clause, and like all subordinating clauses, it will need ‘help’ to become a sentence. It will need an ‘independent’ clause. The following dependent clauses are all Adverb Clauses.

Although I’m not hungry, Pedro is cooking dinner.

Pedro is cooking dinner although I’m not hungry.

Because Pedro is cooking dinner, I’m washing up.

I’m washing up because Pedro is cooking dinner.

While Pedro is cooking dinner, I’m watching TV.

I’m watching TV while Pedro is cooking dinner.

When I go back to India, I’m going to visit Varanasi.

I’m going to visit Varanasi when I go back to India.

Let’s examine the following sentence:

I’m not hungry.

This is a sentence, but when we add the Subordinating Conjunctionalthough‘ (Although I’m not hungry), it becomes a dependent clause because it is not a complete idea. It is the same unfinished kind of clause as ‘When I go back to India’.

♦ Unlike in Compound Sentences, the clauses in Complex Sentences can usually be moved around; however, the Subordinating Conjunction must remain attached to the same clause (as you can see in the examples above). The Subordinating Conjunctions in the above sentences are: although, because, while, & when.

♦ Conjunctions are ‘connectors’, so when a sentence starts with a conjunction, you need a comma at the end of the Subordinating Clause to show where the clauses connect.

Because Pedro is cooking dinner, I’m washing up.

The comma is not necessary when the conjunction is in the middle, because the conjunction is connecting the clauses:

I’m washing up because Pedro is cooking dinner.

You cannot place a comma after a Subordinating Conjunction because the Subordinating Conjunction is part of the clause. You cannot separate it. Remember that a comma also means a pause, and it wouldn’t be right to have a pause after ‘because‘:

I’m washing up because, Pedro is cooking dinner.

By placing a comma after ‘because’, it becomes part of the Independent Clause ‘I’m washing up’. Wrong!

This may be more obvious to you when using Subordinating Conjunctions which are Adverbs of Time: when, as soon as, if, etc.

I’m going to visit Varanasi when, I go back to India.

I’m going to visit Varanasi as soon as, I go back to India.

I’m going to visit Varanasi if, I go back to India.

Whether it is obvious to you or not, the rule is: Don’t put a comma after a Subordinating Conjunction!

httpwww.ampersandtravel.com

Varanasi, INDIA httpwww.ampersandtravel.com

 COMMON MISTAKES

A common mistake made by  students is the use of a comma to join sentences:

Pedro is cooking dinner, I’m washing up.

What kind of sentence is this?

* It is not a Simple Sentence because it has two independent clauses:

Pedro is cooking dinner. I’m washing up.

* It is not a Compound Sentence because there is no Co-ordinating Conjunction connecting the two sentences. (and, but, so, etc.)

* It is not a Complex Sentence because it has two independent clauses, and a Complex Sentence must include at least one dependent clause and one independent clause.

What kind of sentence is it? It may be perfect grammar in your language, but it is simply not acceptable in English, beause it breaks the punctuation rules. In English, we call this a ‘comma splice’. If you are planning to do a TOEIC, IELTS, or Cambridge Test, you need to remember this. A ‘comma splice’ is a big NO-NO!

Another common mistake is the use of a Co-ordinating Conjunction at the beginning of a sentence:

Pedro is cooking dinner. But I’m not hungry.

* ‘But I’m not hungry’ is a dependent clause, so it is not a sentence.

Another common mistake is the use of a Subordinating Conjunction at the beginning of a clause without the independent clause included in the sentence:

I’m washing up. Because Pedro is cooking dinner.

* ‘Because Pedro is cooking dinner’ is a dependent clause, so it is not a sentence.

*******************************************************

Relative Clauses – Noun Clauses – Conditional Clauses – Reported Speech

If you think about it, you will realise that you already know a lot about Complex Sentences.

Relative Clauses

a) When you write or say a sentence containing a Relative Clause, you are using Complex Grammar! The 5 Relative Clause Pronouns / Markers (who, which, that, whom,  & whose) are all Subordinating Conjunctions. Look at the following sentence. Can you work out which is the Independent Clause and which is the Dependent Clause?

The song In the Night by The Weeknd is about a girl who has had a sad life.

When you can see a Relative Clause Marker, it’s not difficult to identify the Dependent Clause: who has had a sad life

When the Relative Clause (Subordinate Clause) is removed, an Independent Clause should remain: The song In the Night by The Weeknd is about a girl.

Singer: THE WEEKND ………  http://redstarlive.com/?tag=the-weekend

For more information on Relative Clauses, click here.

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Noun Clauses

b) When you write or say a sentence containing a Noun Clause, you are using Complex Grammar! Noun Clause Markers are Subordinating Conjunctions and include: that, what, which, where, when, why, who, whom, whatever, if, how, however etc. Look at the following sentences. Can you work out which is the Independent Clause and which is the Dependent Clause in each sentence?

Jack hasn’t decided if he likes that song.

I don’t know who the girl is in his song.

Not many people are aware that ‘The Weeknd’ was born in Canada.

 Look for the Noun Clause Markers and you will find the Dependent Clauses:

if he likes that song

who the girl is in his song

that ‘The Weeknd’ was born in Canada

Remove the Dependent Clauses and you are left with Independent Clauses:

Jack hasn’t decided

I don’t know

Not many people are aware

* NB  Complex Sentences containing Noun Clauses are not always as obvious as the sentences above. Often, the Noun Clause is the subject or object of the sentence and as such, it may be part of the Independent Clause. I will go into detail about such Complex Sentences in future posts.

For more information on Noun Clauses, click here.

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Conditional ClausesConditional Clauses are a form of Adverb Clauses.

c) When you write or say a sentence with a Conditional Clause, you are using Complex Grammar:

Students don’t feel like studying when  they feel sick.

As long as you do some homework, your English will improve.

If I had more money, I wouldn’t have to work.

For more information on Conditional Clauses, click here.

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Reported Speech Reported Speech Clauses are one form of Noun Clauses.

d) When you write or say a sentence using Reported Speech, you are using Complex Grammar.

Our teacher told us that we should listen to English songs.

The students complained that they couldn’t understand the lyrics.

The teacher promised that our English would improve.

* NB  The marker ‘that’ is optional in many sentences, but it is important to be aware that the marker has been ommited:

Our teacher told us we should listen to English songs.

The above sentence seems to have two Independent Clauses:

Our teacher told us. + We should listen to English songs.

This only makes sense of English Grammar rules if you know that the sentence has been reduced by removing the  Subordinating Conjunction (marker).

For more information on Reported Speech, click here.

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There are dozens of Subordinating Conjunctions. I have listed the most common ones below. If you create sentences using these conjunctions,  and follow the rules I have outlined above, you should be able to write well-constructed, Complex Sentences.  

The Most Common Subordinating Conjunctions

after every time (that)* since whether
although everywhere (that)* so that which
as except that so long as whichever
as if how that while
as long as however the minute (that)* whilst
as much as if the moment (that)* who
as soon as inasmuch as though whoever
because in case what whom
before in order that whatever whomever
by which time like when whose
each time (that)* now (that)* whenever why
even if once where  
even though provided          (that)* whereas  
ever since providing (that)* wherever  

* (that)  – The Subordinating Conjunction ‘that’ can be omitted, thus reducing the sentence.

♦ For excellent examples of Complex Sentences, click here.

Click here for an exercise on writing Complex Sentences.

Click here for the song ‘In the Night’ with lyrics. ** Be aware that song lyrics are not usually well punctuated, words are left out, and grammar can be incorrect. After all, song writers are not concerned with correct grammar! Nonetheless, you will see many examples of Complex Sentences. Have a look at other songs I recommend and try to identify the Complex Sentences. The more you try, the easier it gets. Really!

Click here to go to How to Write a Sentence: #4

 

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This entry was posted in Grammar, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), TOEFL, TOEIC, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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