What are Complex Sentences? Definition, Meaning, Examples

What are complex sentences? It’s a very common question for all of us. In this article, we will learn the basics of these types of sentences, definitions, meaning, along with a lot of examples.

Let’s explore!

What are complex sentences? Definition

Complex sentences are the type of sentences  that contain two types of clauses:

  • Independent clause
  • Dependent clause

The type of sentences that always contain one independent and at least one dependent clause are called complex sentences. Complex sentences can either start with a dependent clause or an independent clause.

Parts of complex sentences

Independent clause

It’s the type of clause that can stand alone as a sentence. It contains a subject and a verb. They are also called the main clause.

For example-

  • The cricket match was canceled.
  • The food was very tasty.
  • John didn’t buy chocolate.

Dependent clause

It’s the type of clause that can’t stand alone as a sentence. It always needs an independent clause with itself. They are also called subordinate clauses. They are used to provide more detail to a sentence.

For example-

  • Because it was raining.
  • Because John cooks well.
  • Because it was expensive.

So complex sentences are a combination of both independent and dependent clauses.

For example-

  • The cricket match was canceled because it was raining.
  • The food was very tasty because John cooks well.
  • John didn’t buy the chocolate because it was very expensive.

Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions are used to join the dependent clause and independent clause. They establish a relationship between the two clauses whether in the context of time, place, cause, purpose, and condition.

For example-

  • After
  • Although
  • Because
  • As
  • Before
  • Even though
  • Now that
  • Though
  • Unless
  • Until
  • When
  • Where
  • While

Some more examples of complex sentences

I hated the movie because it was not that good.

  • Reeta failed her exams because she didn’t study hard.
  • Preeti returned the watch because it was damaged.
  • The movie was very interesting, as I expected.
  • Although the place was dirty, I still visited it for my needs.
  • As she was very determined, she got a job.
  • I stood first in class because I studied very hard.
  • When Mary comes to the town, we all have a good time.
  • I learned French perfectly because I studied hard.
  • Many of us enjoyed the movie; however, John didn’t.
  • I would like to visit Mumbai, but I will never go there where it is that hot!
  • If the ozone layer gets depleted, human life will be in danger.

Using subordinate conjunctions in complex sentences

Subordinate Conjunctions play a great role in the formation of complex sentences. They are used to join the dependent and independent clauses. In the other words, we can also say that subordinate conjunctions join the subordinate clause with the main clause.

Mainly used subordinate conjunctions are although, because, before, even though, if, since, until and when.

In the following sentences, the words in bold are subordinate conjunctions.

For example-

  • You may be disappointed if you fail the exams.
  • She left early because Rohan arrived with his new girlfriend.
  • The husband left his wife because she was not cooperative.

Without using Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunction is the heart of a complex sentence. It joins two ideas together. Without subordinating conjunction, the independent clause can stand alone, but what about the dependent clause. The dependent clause idea remains unclear.

Look at the following sentence:

When he came late to class.

The above sentence is unclear or the idea of the sentence is unexplained. The reader can’t understand what happened “when he came late to class”. So to make the sentence clear,  we use subordinate conjunction along with a dependent clause.

For example-

The teacher had left when he came late to the class.

Now the above sentence makes the idea more clear.

Punctuation in complex sentences

Punctuation depends upon the location of the subordinate conjunction.

If subordinate conjunction is present in the middle or at the end of a sentence, then no comma is required.

For example-

He came late to school because he was sick.

In the above sentence, the subordinate conjunction “because” is present in the middle of the sentence, so no comma is required.

If the subordinate conjunction lies at the beginning of the sentence, then a comma is put after the ending of a dependent clause.

For example-

Although she was prepared, she still failed the exam.

In the above sentence, as the subordinate conjunction “although” is present at the beginning of the sentence, so a comma is put after the end of the dependent clause- “Although she was prepared”.

A quick recap of punctuation pattern

  • A dependent clause + , + independent clause
  • Independent clause + dependent clause
  • Independent clause + , + nonessential dependent clause +, + clause
  • Independent essential + dependent clause.

Match the above pattern with the following given sentences:

  • Although she studied hard, she still failed the exams.
  • She still failed the exams although she studied hard.
  • John, who cooks Chinese, rarely cooks Indian food.
  • People who visit Mumbai rarely visit Shivaji park.

Complex Vs  Compound sentences

Compound sentences are the ones that are used to join two or more two independent clauses. They use coordinating conjunctions to join the independent clauses. All the clauses that are joined to form a sentence are of equal importance.  Also, both the clauses are structurally equal.

General Pattern for Compound Sentences

Independent clause + coordinating conjunction + independent clause

For example-

  • He cooks and she cleans.
  • Ram is a boy and he is very intelligent.
  • Reeta is dancing and Rohan is playing the piano.

Complex sentences are those that are used to join one independent clause or main clause and at least one dependent or subordinate clause. They make the use of subordinating conjunction to form sentences. In complex sentences both the clauses are structurally unequal. Also, they carry unequal importance in a sentence. In other words, the independent clause is of greater importance(or in limelight, we can say) and the subordinate clause is of lesser importance.

General Pattern for Complex Sentences

Independent clause + subordinating conjunction + Dependent clause


Subordinating conjunction + dependent clause + independent clause

For example-

  • My mother smiled at me while I was cooking.
  • Reena came late to school because she was sick.
  • Although she was prepared, she still failed the exam.


Hence, we have got a basic idea about complex sentences, definitions, and examples. Any questions, please let us know.

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