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.
An independent clause has the ability to stand alone as a sentence. It always makes a complete thought. A dependent clause cannot stand alone, even though it has a subject and a verb.
For example, "Katie sipped on her cappuccino" is an independent clause because it's a complete sentence.
"While Katie sipped on her cappuccino, she read a good book," contains the dependent clause, "While Katie sipped on her cappuccino…"
Although this example contains a subject (Katie) and a verb (sipped), it's not a complete thought and, thus, not a complete sentence.
When a complex sentence joins an independent and a dependent clause together, 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 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 and/or coordinating conjunctions. Subordinating conjunctions like “after,” “even,” or “since” usually come at the beginning of a complex sentence. Coordinating conjunctions like “so,” “but,” or “and” come after commas.
Complex Sentences from Everyday Life
Let's take a look at some 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.
- Though he was very rich, he was still unhappy.
- She returned the computer after she noticed it was damaged.
- When the cost goes up, customers buy less clothing.
- Because I had to catch the train, and since 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 very long, the movie was still enjoyable.
- You should check the mileage on your car since you've been driving it so much, and because it's starting to make weird noises.
- The actor was happy he got a part in a movie, although the part was small.
- After the tornado hit there was very little left standing.
- The museum was very interesting, as I expected.
- Because he's rich people make allowance 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 since I don’t have time to shop right now.
- Let’s go back to Chez Nous because it's where we had our first date.
- Although my cousin invited 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 cream pie smashed in his face, everyone laughed.
- Money can’t buy happiness, or so people tell me.
- After twenty years, he still had feelings for her.
Complex Sentences from Literature
Here are some well-crafted complex sentences in 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
- The path to my fixed purpose is laid on iron rails, on which my soul is grooved to run. - Moby Dick, Herman Melville
- He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow. - Adam Bede, George Eliot
- 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 purple blackish piles of bear sign and winked and winked and fluttered magically like leaves without trees." - Train Dreams, Denis Johnson
Add Depth to Your Writing
Aren't complex sentences a wonderful addition to our writing? They add rich description and allow us to say a little bit more in a sentence. Be mindful of your comma usage and you'll be well on your way to more complex writing.
Anywhere 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 might need to be placed.
We hope you'll have some fun with complex sentences, as you allow them to add dimension to your writing.