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How to Make Complex Sentences

Grammar Tutorial



Another kind of sentence is the complex sentence. It is made up of two or more clauses. Remember that a clause is a group of words that contain a subject and predicate. A clause my express a complete thought, or it may not. In a complex sentence, only one clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence. Look at the clauses in this sentence.

While Michael loaded the car, Judy got the kids ready to go.

The first clause in this sentence is not a complete thought. When you read it, you want to know what happened while Michael loaded the car. This clause is called dependent clause because it needs the second clause to explain what happened when Michael loaded the car. The second clause is an independent, or main clause. An independent clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone.

A complex sentence is made up of one or more dependent clauses linked to one independent clause.

Simple sentences can be combined to form complex sentences. One simple sentence will be the independent clause. A second sentence will be linked to it by a type of conjunction that makes it dependent.

You are such a good friend. I'll help you out.

becomes: Because you are such a good friend, I'll help you out.

Mary grilled some hamburgers. Denise fixed a salad.

becomes: While Mary grilled some hamburgers, Denise fixed a salad.

Emma likes to visit Greece. Dave prefers Italy.

becomes: Whereas Emma likes to visit Greece, Dave prefers Italy.


Here is a list of conjunctions that make dependent clauses.

To show time:

before, after, while, when, whenever, until, as soon as, as long as

Before I got out my camera, the bear had vanished away.

Silvia hurried home while it was still early.

To show reason:

because, in order that, since, so that

Alice went to doctor because she was sick.

To show conditions:

if, unless, whether

Unless you want trouble, don't tease that bee.

To show contrast:

though, although, even though, in spite of, in spite of the fact that, despite, despite the fact that, whereas

Even though Josh was tired, he helped his wife fix dinner.

To show similarity:

as though, as if

The day looked as if it would be clear and warm.

To show place:

where, whereever

Jessie went whereever his brother went.

When you are choosing a conjunction, be careful to choose the conjunction to express what you mean. Which conjunction would you use to combine these two clauses?

Phillip forgot to open the door. _____ he saw the ghost following him.

When and because makes sense here. Try some other conjunctions, like unless, as though. They do not make sense at all.

Make sure your sentence makes sense when you use a conjunction. Here is another example. Think what relationship there is between the two clauses.

Laura went to the show. _______ she hated gangster movies.

Several conjunctions would work here. Although, even though, in spit of the fact that, despite the fact that. All of them show contrast between the ideas.Try other conjunctions from the list. Do you that they do not make sense here?

How to use punctuation with dependent clauses:

When a dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, use a comma to separate it from the independent clause. If the dependent clause comes at the end of the sentence, do not use a comma.

Because Adam arrived late, he was not served with dinner.

Adam was not served with dinner because he arrived late.

Although it was raining outside, Silvia left home without an umbrella.

Silvia left home without an umbrella although it was raining outside.



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