M Sentence Structure

In Units 1-4, you learned about simple and compound sentences. A third kind of English sentence is a complex sentence. Before we study these, let's learn about clauses.

Independent and

Dependent Clauses

A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. There are two kinds of clauses in English: independent clauses and dependent clauses.

Independent clause

It rained.

Dependent clause

... because it rained ...

An independent clause has one SV combination and expresses a complete thought. It can be a sentence by itself. A simple sentence is an independent clause.

Paris has excellent art museums.

It was cold and windy yesterday.

We finished our homework and cleaned up the kitchen.

A dependent clause is an independent clause with a subordinating conjunction added to the beginning of it.

... because it has excellent art museums ...

... although it was cold and windy yesterday ...

... after we finished our homework and cleaned up the kitchen ...

A dependent clause does not express a complete thought, so it is not a sentence by itself. It needs to be joined to an independent clause to make sense.

Independent Clause Dependent Clause

Art students should visit Paris because it_has_exceiient art_museums.

We went on a hike although it_was cold and windy yesterday.

We watched TV after we finished our_homework and_cleaned_up_the kitchen.

Subordinating There are many subordinating conjunctions. Some introduce reasons, Conjunctions some introduce times, and others introduce contrasts and conditions. A few of them are listed below, and a more complete list is in Appendix B.

subordinating conjunctions

Reason because

Time before when after while

Contrast although

Condition if

We cancelled our picnic becausejtrained. Wait for a green light before_you cross_the street. I will go straight to bed after_!_fin]sh this exercise. Where were you when J caNed?

My neighbors were having a party whMeJ_was_trying to_sleeg.

My father doesn't speak English although_he lived in_England for many years.

I will be happy if ]_wjn thejottery.

Here are some things to remember about subordinating conjunctions:

1. A few subordinating conjunctions are also prepositions.

after my accident (preposition)

after I had an accident (subordinating conjunction)

before class (preposition)

before class begins (subordinating conjunction)

2. Because is a subordinating conjunction. Because of is a two-word preposition.

because of my accident (preposition)

because I had an accident (subordinating conjunction)

3. Although introduces a contrast or opposite. It has about the same meaning as but.

Although they didn't study, they passed the test. (They didn't study, but they passed the test anyway.)

Although I was tired, I couldn't go to sleep. (I was tired, but I couldn't go to sleep.)

Although the weather was bad, they went on a picnic. (The weather was bad, but they went on a picnic anyway.)

4. If introduces a condition.

If you don't study, you will fail the test. If it rains, we will cancel our picnic.

If you visit my country, you should spend several days in the capital.


Work with a partner.

^np^pn/Jp^n^ - ' * Wr*te ^ (independent clause) or DC (dependent clause) in the space ^ to the left of each group of words.

2. If it is a DC, circle the subordinating conjunction.


PC WVhile)the class was taking a test.

1. I take a walk around the block.

3. This exercise wakes up my body and clears my mind.

4. It's hard to do this in the winter.

5. Because it is still dark when I go to work.

6. Although I try to get up early even on weekends.

7. I sometimes sleep late on Saturdays.

8. When it is raining, of course.

. 10. I become moody and depressed. 11. If I don't exercise for several days.

Complex Sentences

Now let's learn about complex sentences.

A complex sentence has one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

The clauses in a complex sentence can be in any order. If the dependent clause is first, put a comma after it.

Marta always gets As because she_studies_hard. Because_Marta studies hard, she always gets As.

I will quit my job immediately if I winjthe lottery, if I winjhe lottery, I will quit my job immediately.

We went home after_the_dance_ended. After_the_dance_ended, we went home.

We can write the formulas for simple, compound, and complex sentences as follows:

Simple sentence =


Compound sentence =


coord, conj.


Complex sentence =



(no comma)





Work with a partner.

a. i. Underline the independent clauses with a solid line and the dependent clauses with a brokenHne.

2. Draw a circle around the subordinating conjunction.

3. Add a comma if one is needed. Example:

^f^^rwon thejottery lastj'ear, my wife and I traveled around the world.

1. We were very excited when we won the lottery.1

2. After we got our first payment we started planning our trip.

3. We decided to visit Italy first because our parents came from there.

4. Before we left on our trip we wrote to our cousins in Rome.

5. Although we didn't know our Italian cousins they invited us to stay with them.

'lottery: a gambling game practice

Complex Sentences

6. We studied Italian for several months before we left on our trip.

7. Although we could understand a little Italian we couldn't speak it.

8. Of course, our Italian cousins couldn't speak English although they could understand it.

9. When we arrived in Rome they met us at the airport.

10. They waited outside while the Italian officials checked our passports and luggage.

11. Finally, after we got our suitcases we went outside and met our relatives.

12. It was very confusing because no one could understand anyone.

13. However, before we left Italy we could speak a little more Italian.

14. If we go to Italy again we won't be so nervous.

b. Combine an independent clause from column A with a dependent clause from column B to make complex sentences. Write your sentences on the lines on page 153. You can write the clauses in either order, but be sure to punctuate them correctly.

1. Before my two brothers and I got to the lake a. I always get seasick b. It was almost noon

2. Because we forgot our fishing licenses c. I wasn't catching anything except a cold

3. Although my brothers love fishing d. It started to rain hard

5. After we had been fishing for a while ten miles and buy

5. After we had been fishing for a while ten miles and buy

7. While my brothers were catching fish after fish

7. While my brothers were catching fish after fish g. I will say "No, thanks!

8. If my brothers invite me to go fishing again h. We were wet from head to foot

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