Savvy Sentence Structures – Part Two


Last month we began to take a look at a three-part series recently posted on its website under the heading “Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structure.” In May we posted the first of these and tonight we will reference the second part.

This second part treats two more types of sentence structure in English: complex and compound-complex. If it’s been a while since you have paid attention to this matter of grammar, then this is a great time to review it, and become a better writer and speaker.

O, and don’t forget to take the “pop” quiz at the end!

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence has one independent main clause and at least one dependent clause, a clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence. Dependent clauses usually begin with a word such as when, because, or that to indicate their reliance.

when we go to school
because it is raining
that are collected

In complex sentences, dependent clauses function as sentence modifiers:

When we go to school (dependent clause), we will receive the assignment (main clause).
We cannot go out (main clause) because it is raining (dependent clause).
The team owners give the star all of the accolades (main clause) that should be shared among several players (dependent clause), which causes unspoken tension in the locker room (dependent clause).

Compound-Complex Sentence

A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent main clauses and at least one dependent clause:

While Sheila painted (dependent clause), Ricardo installed the new shelves (main clause); they wanted to finish as much as they could before dinner (main clause).
The game stops (main clause) if it rains (dependent clause), but it resumes (main clause) if the rain lets up (dependent clause).
The people [who are still in line (dependent clause)] will have to wait another hour (main clause), and even then they might not get in (main clause).

Avoiding Loose/Protracted Sentences

Complex sentences give us a tool for avoiding loose and protracted compound constructions similar to those we considered in Part One. Such constructions can occur when we string multiple clauses together.

Loose/Protracted: The Amazon rainforest is the world’s biggest, and it is larger than the next two largest rainforests combined, and it covers an area about the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States.
Better as Complex: The Amazon rainforest, which is the world’s biggest, is larger than the next two rainforests combined, covering an area about the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States. 

Loose/Protracted: She is a prolific corporate attorney, and she earns a notable salary, but she works long hours, and she has little time on the weekends. 
Better as Compound-Complex: She is a prolific corporate attorney who earns a notable salary, but she works long hours, leaving little time on the weekends.

Published in: on June 19, 2019 at 10:17 PM  Comments (1)