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What Is a Complex Sentence? (with Examples)

What Is a Complex Sentence? (with Examples)

A complex sentence has one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

An independent clause (unlike a dependent clause) can stand alone as a sentence.
complex sentence

Examples of Complex Sentences

Below are examples of complex sentences. In each example, the independent clause is shaded. The dependent clause is unshaded.
  • Stay in the bath until the phone rings.
  • The car swerved to miss Mrs Jackson, who had slipped off the pavement.
  • Both the cockroach and the bird would get along very well without us, although the cockroach would miss us most. (Joseph Wood Krutch, 1893-1970)
  • Leave while you can.
  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. (Arthur C. Clarke)
  • (This is two complex sentences.)

The Four Types of Sentence Structure

A complex sentence is one of four main sentence structures, all of which are shown below. In these examples, the independent clauses are shaded.

A Complex Sentence. A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. For example:
  • The human brain never stops working until you stand up to speak in public.
A Compound Sentence. A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses. For example:
  • I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific. (Jane Wagner)
A Simple Sentence. A simple sentence has just one independent clause. For example:
  • Curiosity killed the cat.
A Compound-Complex Sentence.  A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. For example:
  • I stopped believing in Santa Claus when he asked for my autograph in a department store, but I still want to believe in him.
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Commas in Complex Sentences

A complex sentence often starts with a clause that states a time, a place, a condition, a frequency, or a fact related to the independent clause. Such clauses are known as adverbial clauses, and they are usually separated from the independent clause with a comma. For example:
  • When the cake is brown, remove it from the oven.
  • (Here, the dependent clause (i.e., the adverbial clause) is When the cake is brown. It is an adverb of time that modifies the independent clause, which is remove it from the oven.)
Read more about using a comma after a sentence introduction.