What is a Complex Sentence in English and How Do We Form It?

What is a Complex Sentence in English and How Do We Form It?


Have you ever tried constructing long sentences in English but soon thought that they seemed incorrectly structured? Every ESL learner or an English speaker must be aware of the basic sentence structures in the English language.

In English, there are four types of sentence structures: Simple sentence, complex sentence, compound sentence, and compound-complex sentence. Each type of sentence structure has its distinct definition and function, making the sentences correctly structured.

A simple sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. For example, the sentence “She ate the apple” contains the subject “She” and the predicate “ate the apple.”

A complex sentence in English consists of a main clause and a dependent clause just like “She ran out of money due to too much shopping.” The main clause or the independent clause in this sentence is “She ran out of money” and the dependent clause is “due to too much shopping.” Stay right there as we will focus mainly on this type of sentence structure in this article.

A compound sentence is composed of two independent clauses and is connected by a conjunction. The punctuation used in this structure is either a comma or a semi-colon. “The president was shot during his inauguration, but he survived it” consists of two independent clauses.

A compound-complex sentence consists of at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause. Check out the example below:

Even though the poll result has been released, the majority of the public questioned it, and the committee is reviewing it.
                          Dependent clause                               independent clause                                    independent clause

Among these four types, this article will deal solely with the complex sentence in English. We will introduce you to the structure and give you examples for better understanding.

What is a Complex Sentence in English?

A complex sentence in English is an essential part of the grammar. It is sometimes misunderstood and misused by non-native English speakers, especially when it comes to writing. The knowledge of the rules of writing complex sentences in English is important because the meaning of the intended message relies on how it is written using the correct punctuation and sentence connectors.

As introduced, a complex sentence in English is composed of one independent clause and one dependent clause. The independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence, while the dependent clause relies on the independent clause for context and meaning. It means that the dependent clause is not a complete sentence.

Example of a complex sentence in English

How do we form a complex sentence in English?

Forming a complex sentence is not really as “complex” as its name says. You just have to think about the structure. Below is an example:

My mother cried an ocean of tears while watching her favorite soap opera.

Independent clause: My mother cried an ocean of tears
Dependent clause: while watching her favorite soap opera

Notice that the independent clause can stand alone as a single sentence with a subject and a predicate. We can write separately as a complete sentence like this:

My mother cried an ocean of tears.
             Subject            predicate

The dependent clause on the other hand starts with the conjunction “while” followed by a meaningless phrase. If we separate it, it leaves us hanging.

                “while watching her favorite soap opera”
                               Conj.                     Phrase

The above clause is meaningless because it leaves us with the question, “Who was watching her favorite soap opera?” It was unclearly stated, but if we join the two clauses together, dependent and independent clauses, we can form a new and meaningful sentence.

Forming Complex Sentences with Subordinating Conjunctions

The subordinating conjunctions “after, although, as, because, before, if, since, until, whereas, while” are commonly used in forming a complex sentence in English.


                After the wedding ceremony, my friend and I will go to the club to party.
                Mr. Miller reported to work today, although he was feeling under the weather.
                My father thought I was awake as he saw me moving.
                Because of the flood, the buses were not able to get through.
                You should finish your homework before going to bed.
                He will meet me if he has time.
                She has been so depressed since her mother’s death.
                The application is open until further notice.
                The driver’s feet were wounded, whereas his arms were broken.
                I bumped into an associate while rushing to the elevator.

Forming Complex Sentences with WH-question words + ever.

The words “whatever, whenever, wherever, whichever, whoever, and however” are also used in complex sentences. Here are the examples:

                You can choose whatever style of dress you like.
                Just let me know whenever you are ready.
                Wherever you go, I hope you’ll be fine.
                Whoever told you the information, I’m sure she’s lying.
                The sales results are not good however you look at them.

Forming Complex Sentences with Relative Pronouns

The relative pronouns “that, which, who, whom, and whose” are also used in a complex sentence in English.

                That – is used to define the following clause referring to a person, a thing, an animal, an event, etc.

Example: This is the car that I used to drive.

                Which – is used as a non-defining clause referring to a thing, an animal, an event, etc. This is not used to refer to a person.

Example: The sales lady was able to record the incident which led to solving the crime.

                Who – used to refer to a person doing the action in the sentence or being referred to by the preceding clause.

Example: Dr. Peters is the son of the late Prime Minister Peters who lifted the country’s economic status to stability.

                Whom – used to refer to a person receiving the action in the sentence.

Example: I gave the book to my mother whom I love dearly.

                Whose – refers to possession of a thing

Example: The army awarded Jane whose dedication to military service was commendable.

Forming a complex sentence in English can be challenging because you have to really consider a lot of things to make sure that the structure of your sentences is correct. If you are aware of the basic rules and appropriate connectors to use, it will be easier for you to form a complex sentence in English.

Aside from considering things, you also have to think about the meaning of your sentence. Even if you already know how to create a complex sentence in English, make sure that the meaning is not compromised. No matter how you write complex sentences correctly, as long as the meaning is not clearly conveyed, the sentence still becomes less meaningful.

Construct a complex sentence in English appropriately. Learn the basics. Form it meaningfully. With this, your communication becomes effective.

Why Use Complex Sentences in English?

As a language learner, you must be bombarded with all the aspects of the English grammar you are learning, but you need not worry because these are not hindrances to your language-learning journey. They are helpful tools to improve your language proficiency. Thus, learning the structure of sentences like complex sentences in English is your stepping stone to achieving correct sentence structure, meaningful conversation, and effective communication.

Using complex sentences in English can make you express your ideas clearly, especially in writing. It also makes you more aware and conscious of the proper clause connectors to use making your sentences structured appropriately.

Learning sentences in English
What is a Complex Sentence in English and How Do We Form It?

Sentence Practice

By this time, you already know how to write a complex sentence in English. Let’s see how well you can construct by filling in the complete word connector in the clauses. Choose from the table below.





















  1. I was washing the dishes ___________ talking to my mom.
  2. _____________ the man was deaf, he could understand what I was saying.
  3. Don’t just visit me ___________ you want!
  4. I am not sure _________ I could attend the party.
  5. You can decide on the design __________ you like to see it.
  6. The queen gave a reward to the lady __________ returned her lost tiara.
  7. She already left __________ I could respond.
  8. John was delighted to deliver the flowers to his fiancé _________ he adores the most.
  9. Did the teachers come in _________ the students had left the classroom?
  10. I heard _________ you wanted to see me.
  11. The accident made my dad amputated, __________ my mom was in a coma.
  12. _________ their breakup, Maddie still could not move on.
  13. ____________ you give me, I’d be more than appreciative of it.
  14. Please don’t call me _________ I reach out to you first.
  15. Don’t take my daughter ____________ you want.
  16. __________ for her, she’s a complete failure.
  17. My friend cannot forget the incident _________ made her choose to leave.
  18. __________ of the pandemic, many businesses were shut down.
  19. The CEO approached me __________ the presentation.
  20. The scores you are going to receive will depend on ___________ is higher.

Good job! Now, you may check your answers here.

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