The Farlex Grammar Book > English Grammar > Syntax > Sentences > Compound-Complex Sentences

Compound-Complex Sentences

Definition

Compound-complex sentences are one of the four main sentence structures. They are made up of two independent clauses (also known as main clauses) and one or more dependent clauses (or subordinate clauses).

Complex vs. Compound Sentences

A compound-complex sentence has to satisfy the conditions we established for both complex sentences and compound sentences. First, let’s recap both briefly so we understand both sets of conditions that must be met. (More detailed explanations are included in their individual chapter sections.)
After we understand the basics of how these two are formed, we will look at how they fit together to form compound-complex sentences.

Complex Sentences

For a sentence to be considered compound-complex, at least one of the independent clauses must be a complex sentence (if it were to stand on its own). That is, it is made up of a dependent clause that is introduced and linked to the independent clause by a subordinating conjunction.
We use complex sentences to indicate a specific relationship between two ideas, and to clarify which of the two is more important. Consider the following example:
  • “I went to the party next door. I had school the next morning.”
There is an inherent contrast of information between these two clauses. Left separated, the clauses’ relationship is implied, it but comes across rather awkwardly. However, by combining the two ideas into a complex sentence with a subordinating conjunction, this contrast is made more explicit and the sentence as a whole reads much more fluidly:
  • I went to the party next door even though I had school the next morning.”
By adding the subordinating conjunction even though, the previously independent clause “I had school the next morning” is transformed into a dependent clause. It can no longer stand alone, but is dependent on the clause that it is now linked to. The relationship between the two ideas is now perfectly clear, and the importance of the independent clause “I went to the party next door” is highlighted.

Compound Sentences

Compound sentences are formed by joining two independent clauses that are closely related and of equal or similar importance. To determine if two clauses can be joined in a compound sentence, we can ask ourselves three simple questions:
  • Q1. Does each clause contain a subject and a verb?
  • Q2. Can each clause stand alone to express a complete thought?
  • Q3. Are the two clauses closely related and of equal or similar importance?
If the answer to each of the three questions above is “yes,” then we can form a compound sentence. Let’s apply the three questions to an example:
  • They wanted to go to Venice. I wanted to see Madrid.”
  • Q1. Does each clause contain a subject and a verb? Yes, marked in bold.
  • Q2. Can each clause stand alone to express a complete thought? Yes.
  • Q3. Are the two clauses closely related and of equal or similar importance? Yes.
Since the answer to all three questions is “yes,” we can form a compound sentence. This can be done in several ways. For example:
  • They wanted to go to Venice, but I wanted to see Madrid.” (coordinating conjunction)
or:
  • Just as they wanted to go to Venice, so I wanted to see Madrid.” (correlative conjunction)
or:
  • They wanted to go to Venice; however, I wanted to see Madrid.” (conjunctive adverb)
or:
  • They wanted to go to Venice; I wanted to see Madrid.” (semicolon)

Forming a compound-complex sentence

In a compound-complex sentence, we join the complex independent clause to the other independent clause in the same way as for normal compound sentences: with coordinating conjunctions, correlative conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs, or semicolons. Take, for example, these two separate sentences:
  • Because I love to read, I like to visit the library. I enjoy going to book stores, too.”
The first sentence is a complex sentence (the dependent clause is italicized); the second one is a standard independent clause. Now let’s make them into a complex-compound sentence:
  • Because I love to read, I like to visit the library, and I enjoy going to book stores, too.” (coordinating conjunction)
  • Because I love to read, not only do I like to visit the library, but I also enjoy going to book stores, too.” (correlative conjunction)
  • Because I love to read, I like to visit the library; additionally, I enjoy going to book stores.” (conjunctive adverb)
  • Because I love to read, I like to visit the library; I enjoy going to book stores, too.” (semicolon)
In each of the examples above, the dependent clause is italicized, the independent clauses are underlined, and the means used to join the two independent clauses are in bold.

Multiple dependent clauses

Complex-compound sentences can also have more than one dependent clause. For example:
  • Although I promised I’d study with Ethan, I’d rather go to the movies with Jim; nevertheless, I made a promise, even if it isn’t as much fun.”
  • I got into gymnastics because of my brother, but I got into archery because of my sister.”

More examples

Let’s look at a few more examples of complex-compound sentences.
  • I wanted to go to a baseball game, but my father, who is a huge ballet fan, wanted to see The Nutcracker instead.”
  • We went to get some dinner after class was over; however, the food court was already closed.”
  • I will go to the party as long as Terry is there; I won’t stay long, though.”
  • Even though he never studied, he always passed his tests in high school, but I don’t think he’ll be able to pull that off in college when he has a much harder workload.”
  • The bank will lend us the money providing we have something for collateral, so I asked my parents to help, although I’m not sure they will agree to.”
  • I never graduated from college; nevertheless, I found a great job because my uncle has a connection in the auto industry.”
Quiz

1. A complex-compound sentence requires at least one of which of the following?





2. Which of the following can be used to join the two independent clauses in a complex-compound sentence?







3. Which of the following can be used to join a dependent clause to an independent clause in a complex-compound sentence?







4. Identify the dependent clause or clauses in the following sentence:
“I’m going to see Shawna at the mall later; you can come with me, though I know you two don’t get along.”







5. Identify the dependent clause or clauses in the following sentence:
“Although I’ve saved up for a few years, I’ve never been able to afford buying a house, but we should be able to get a mortgage soon, providing my job remains secure.”









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