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Compound Complex Sentences Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 22, 2011

Compound Complex Sentences

Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.

RICHARD C. TRENCH (1807–1886) ENGLISH ARCHBISHOP AND POET

If you want your sentences to be more complex and advanced, you must know how to combine sentences. Learn how to do just that in this lesson.

Do you remember when you were first learning to read? Most of the sentences you practiced with were simple and short, which was very helpful. Now that you're an advanced reader, you would find those same sentences monotonous and uninteresting. Good readers like sentences that vary in length and complexity; writers achieve this through sentence combining.

Simple Sentences

We know that simple sentences (independent clauses) contain a simple subject and a simple predicate. Look at the following combinations you could use to make a basic simple sentence (these examples don't include any words, phrases, or clauses that could be added for detail).

Now, let's look at two other basic sentence types in writing: the compound sentence and the complex sentence.

Compound Sentences

When we combine two independent clauses (or simple sentences) into one sentence, we create a compound sentence. Creating compound sentences helps make our writing less choppy. To do this, we take two or more topic-related sentences and join them together with one of the coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so) or join them with a semicolon.

The sun was shining. The weather was warm. I went to the beach.

Some possible combinations would be:

The sun was shining and the weather was warm, so I went to the beach.
The weather was warm and the sun was shining, so I went to the beach.
I went to the beach for the sun was shining and the weather was warm.
The sun was shining and the weather was warm; I went to the beach.
The weather was warm and the sun was shining; I went to the beach.
I went to the beach: The sun was shining and the weather was warm.

The coordinating conjunction or works well in sentences where choice is involved, and nor works well when the expressions are negative. Using but and yet works well in sentences where there is dissimilarity between the expressions.

Complex and Compound-Complex Sentences

Complex sentences follow the same idea as compound sentences, except that they are made up of one independent clause and one or more subordinate (dependent) clauses. For example:

Because the weather was warm, I went to the beach.
I went to the beach because the weather was warm.

Let's add another subordinate clause:

I went to the beach because the weather was warm, even though it was a weekday.
Because the weather was warm, I went to the beach, even though it was a weekday.
Even though it was a weekday, because the weather was warm, I went to the beach.
I went to the beach even though it was a weekday, because the weather was warm.

Finally, there are compound-complex sentences, which have at least two independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses:

Even though it was a weekday and I should have been in school, I went to the beach.
I went to the beach even though it was a weekday and I should have been in school.

Let's add another subordinate clause:

Because the weather was warm, I went to the beach, even though it was a weekday and I should have been in school.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Compound Complex Sentences Practice Exercises.

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