Complex sentences are fascinating components of the English language. When used properly, they can add depth to our writing. Complex sentences contain an independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
Complex sentences are friends and neighbors to compound sentences. There’s only one difference. Compound sentences contain two independent clauses — that’s all there is to it. Let’s break down a couple complex sentence examples into its parts.
Let’s start with an independent clause, one that can stand alone:
Katie sipped on her cappuccino.
This is an independent clause because it's a complete sentence containing a subject and a verb and fully expressing an idea.
Now let’s see a dependent clause, one that does not fully express an idea:
While Katie sipped on her cappuccino
Although this sentence contains a subject (Katie) and a verb (sipped), it's not a complete thought — we still need more information. Therefore, it’s not a complete sentence.
When an independent and a dependent clause join together to form a complex sentence, they can go in either order.
Here's an example where the independent clause comes first:
I was snippy with him because I was running late for work.
Here’s an example where the dependent clause comes first:
Because I was running late for work, I was snippy with him.
To connect independent and dependent clauses, you need subordinating conjunctions like “after,” “while,” or “since.” If the dependent clause comes first, you will generally need to separate the clauses with a comma.
Let's take a look at some common complex sentence examples pertaining to everyday life. In each example, the independent clause is underlined.
Because my coffee was too cold, I heated it in the microwave.
Although he was wealthy, he was still unhappy.
She returned the computer after she noticed it was damaged.
Whenever prices goes up, customers buy less products.
Because I had to catch the train, and as we were short on time, I forgot to pack my toothbrush for our vacation.
As she was bright and ambitious, she became a manager in no time.
Wherever you go, you can always find beauty.
Evergreen trees are a symbol of fertility because they do not die in the winter.
Although it was very long, the movie was still enjoyable.
You should take your car in for a service because it's starting to make weird noises.
The actor was happy he got a part in a movie even though the part was small.
After the tornado hit, there was very little left standing.
The museum was very interesting, as I expected.
Now that he's rich and famous, people make allowances for his idiosyncrasies.
Even though he's thoroughly trained, he still makes a lot of mistakes.
Since winter is coming, I think I'll knit a warm sweater, because I'm always cold.
When she was younger, she believed in fairy tales.
I have to save this coupon in case I come back to the store tomorrow.
Let’s go back to Chez Nous because it's where we had our first date.
Although my friends begged me, I chose not to go to the reunion.
As genes change over time, evolution progresses.
I really didn’t like the movie even though the acting was good.
When he got a creampie smashed in his face, everyone laughed.
After being apart for years, he still had feelings for her.
Here are some well-crafted complex sentences from literature. The independent clauses are underlined.
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. - Walden, Henry David Thoreau
The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman stood up in a corner and kept quiet all night, although of course they could not sleep. - The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Because he was so small, Stuart was often hard to find around the house. - Stuart Little, E.B. White
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aurelian Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. - One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
As Grainier drove along in the wagon behind a wide, slow, sand-colored mare, clusters of orange butterflies exploded off the blackish purple piles of bear sign and winked and fluttered magically like leaves without trees. - Train Dreams, Denis Johnson
Aren't complex sentences a wonderful addition to our writing? With the combination of an independent and dependent clause, they add fuller description and allow us to add a little more detail in a sentence.
Be mindful of your comma usage. Whenever you detect a pause or distinction from your independent clause, check and see if you need a comma. (See what we did there?) Sometimes it helps to read your work aloud because you'll "hear" where a comma needs to be placed.
We hope you'll have some fun with complex sentences, as you allow them to add dimension to your writing. And make sure you get that dimension right by reviewing eight times commas were important.