1. Definition
A complex sentence consists of one independent clause, and one or more dependent clauses. The clauses are connected through either a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun. The dependent clause may be the first or second clause in the sentence. If the first clause in the sentence is dependent, a comma usually separates the two clauses1. In other words, a sentence which consists of more than one ranking clause is known as a complex sentence.

2. Independent and dependent clauses
Clauses can be independent or dependent. Independent clauses can potentially stand alone and are not structurally dependent on other clauses.
If a sentence has only one clause that clause is of course, normally an independent clause.
We have writing class today

A dependent clause is structurally dependent on another clause, as in the following example:
Because it was very dark, the boys missed the road

Dependent clauses can’t normally stand alone. Of course every sentence must have al least one independent clause.

Apparent exceptions are cases such as answer to questions.
For example:
Q: “Why did the boys missed the road?”
Y: “Cause it was very dark”.
The clause in the answer can be regarded as dependent on the boys missed the road.

3. Subordinating words
Summary list of words used to subordinate clauses
Time Cause and effect Opposition Condition
By the time
As soon as
As / so long as
Every time / that
The first time Because
Now that
As / so long as
In as much as
So (that)
In order that Even though
Where as
Only if
Whether or not
Even if
Providing (that)
Provided (that)
In case (that)
In the event (that)

The following are examples of complex sentence arranged according to the meaning of the subordinate conjunction.
1) Time: when, whenever, while, since, after, before, until, as, etc.
– I will take a vacation, when I have the time.
– He had wanted to be a lawyer, since he was a young boy.
– While I was walking home, it began to rain.

2) Place: where, wherever
– We will meet, wherever the committee decides.

3) Manner: as, as if
– He acted, as if he owned the place.

4) Comparison
– I don’t swim as well as he does.

5) Reason, cause, purpose: as, because, so that, in order that, since, for fear that
– It will not be necessary to study that chapter, because you have already read it.
– I will study the chapter, so that I can pass the examination.

6) Result: so….that, such….. that
– The book was so interesting that I read it in one evening.

7) Condition: if, whether, unless, on condition that, as / so long as, supposing (that)
– He sign the contract on condition, that he be allowed to consult his wife.
– He will not sign the contract, unless it is satisfactory.

8) Contrast, concession: although, though, even though, no matter if, wherever, whenever, whatever, as much as, where as
– While I made many friends in the class, I had to learn on my own.
– As much as I needed special attention, people were always helpful.
– I always passed all the tests, even if I needed more time than the others.
– My grades were always excellent, even though I was often absent.

4. Exercises
Rewrite the following pairs of sentences to make one complex sentence.
1) Although
John is only sixteen
He has already entered a university

2) So that
The boys could live on little money
They decided to find an expensive place to live.

Complete the following sentence using subordinating word.
3) …………..Mary came to this country, she has made many friends.
a. Although
b. If
c. Since
d. Because
e. While

4) He will sign the contract, ……….. his wife has no objections.
a. As
b. Since
c. So that
d. As long as
e. Even though

5) Alex didn’t study ……., he failed the test.
a. Consequently
b. Unless
c. In spite of
d. So long as
e. Until


Azar, Betty Schramper. 1992. Understanding and Using English Grammar. Engelwood cliffs: New Jersey.
Azar, Betty Schramper. 1992. Fundamentals of English Grammar. Engelwood cliffs: New Jersey.
Krohn, Robert. 1990. English Sentence Structure. Bina Rupa Aksara: Jakarta.
Warib, S., and A., Soesanto. 1991. Complete English Grammar. Apollo: Surabaya.


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