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How to Write a Complex Sentence: Structure & Practice

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  • 0:04 Exceptional Writing
  • 0:27 Background Information
  • 2:41 Complex Sentences
  • 4:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

One element of strong writing is varied sentence structure. There are four basic sentence structures: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. In this lesson, you'll learn about complex sentences and how to write them.

Exceptional Writing

Maybe you write for work. Maybe you write for school. Or maybe, like so many others, you write a blog to share your experiences with others. But what makes a blog stand out? Priscila wants to write a blog about her vacation, and she was told that one ingredient of exceptional writing is the complex sentence. Before we explore the complex sentence with Priscila, we need to review some background information.

Background Information

A clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. The subject tells whom or what the sentence is about. The verb tells the action or state of being of the subject. Look at these clauses:

  • before the alarm rang (subject: alarm, verb: rang)
  • Jamie woke suddenly (subject: Jamie, verb: woke)

An independent clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb that expresses a complete thought. An example is:

  • Jamie woke suddenly.

A dependent clause, also called a subordinate clause, is a group of words with a subject and a verb but does not express a complete thought. It does not make sense standing alone. An example is:

  • before the alarm rang

A subordinate clause usually begins with a subordinating conjunction, or a word that begins a subordinate clause and connects it to the independent clause. Some examples of subordinating conjunctions are:

  • Since
  • Although
  • Until
  • Because
  • Before
  • If
  • As
  • While
  • When, and
  • Unless

There are many others as well.

A sentence consists of at least one independent clause but can have subordinate clauses as well.

Let's take a peek at Priscila's first blog entry:

Priscilas Blog


Each of the sentences in Priscila's blog entry is grammatically correct in that each one is a complete sentence with a subject, verb, and complete thought. Notice that they all sound very similar. Each sentence is one independent clause with exactly one subject and one verb. This type of sentence is known as a simple sentence. Now, there's nothing wrong with simple sentences, but to write a really stand-out blog, Priscila is going to need to add some other sentences. What she needs are some complex sentences.

Complex Sentences

A complex sentence consists of one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses. A complex sentence can be created by adding an incomplete thought to a complete thought. It can also be created by taking two simple sentences and making one into a subordinate clause.

Let's see what happens if we turn some of the simple sentences in Priscila's blog entry into complex sentences.


Priscilas Blog Revised


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