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The Art of Writing Complex Sentences
The Art of Writing
Complex Sentences
What is a complex sentence? A complex sentence is made up of one independent clause
What is a complex sentence?
A complex sentence is made up of one independent
clause and one or more dependent clauses.
Q: Who remembers what two things a clause always has?
A: Subject and Verb
Q: Who remembers what the difference is between a
dependent and an independent clause?
A: A dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence.
An independent clause can.
Some examples: Dependent clauses are in [brackets]. Independent clauses are in italics.   [After he
Some examples:
Dependent clauses are in [brackets].
Independent clauses are in italics.
  [After he graduates], Conrad wants to tour Mexico.
  I recommend you buy the vehicle [that has the least impact on the
environment].
  You’ll never understand the experience of being homeless [unless you live
through it].
Q: If all clauses have subjects and verbs, what makes a clause “dependent”? A: Dependent
Q: If all clauses have subjects and verbs,
what makes a clause “dependent”?
A: Dependent clauses begin with
dependent words like subordinating
conjunctions (full list pg. 234) and
relative pronouns (full list pg. 239).
When dependent clauses stand alone, they are sentence fragments. For example: •   •  
When dependent clauses stand alone, they
are sentence fragments.
For example:
•  
•  
•  
•  
Although people are marrying later in life.
Before he quit his job.
Who work out regularly.
That I wrote.
To be complete sentences, they need to be
combined with an independent clause
For example:
•  
•  
•  
•  
[Although people are marrying later in life], the divorce rate hasn’t
increased.
Greg made sure to save several thousand dollars [before he quit his
job].
Athletes [who work out regularly] will stay in shape.
The letter [that I wrote] was not published.
Here are the sample complex sentences again with the dependent words underlined. Which are subordinating
Here are the sample complex sentences again with the
dependent words underlined. Which are subordinating
conjunctions and which are relative pronouns?
 [After he graduates], Conrad wants to tour Mexico.
 I recommend you buy the vehicle [that has the least impact
on the environment].
 You’ll never understand the experience of being homeless [unless
you live through it].
How to Combine Sentences Using Subordinating Conjunctions   Decide which sentence is less important.  
How to Combine Sentences Using Subordinating
Conjunctions
  Decide which sentence is less important.
  Choose an appropriate subordinating conjunction to express the
way the ideas in the two sentences are connected.
  Combine the sentences by putting the subordinating conjunction
before the less important part of the new sentence and then
deleting or changing any other words as necessary.
  Use a comma after the subordinate clause when it begins the
combined sentence.
  In general, don’t use a comma before the subordinate clause when
it ends the sentence.
Practice Using Subordinate Conjunctions Combine the following pairs of sentences using a subordinating conjunction. Add
Practice Using Subordinate Conjunctions
Combine the following pairs of sentences using a subordinating conjunction.
Add or delete words as necessary. (Turn to pg. 234 for the full list.)
1. 
I aced my art history exam. I studied for three hours last night.
I aced by art history exam because I studied for three hours.
1. 
I kept the music low. My roommate left.
I kept the music low until my roommate left.
1. 
The friends were in the restaurant. They gossiped about their
coworkers.
While the friends were in the restaurant, they gossiped about their coworkers.
How to Combine Sentences Using Relative Pronouns   Decide which sentence is less important.  
How to Combine Sentences Using Relative Pronouns
  Decide which sentence is less important.
  Choose an appropriate relative pronoun to connect the
information in the less important sentence to that in
the other sentence.
  Use commas when the relative clause can be deleted
and the sentence still includes all necessary
information.
  Don’t use commas when the relative clause is a
necessary part of the sentence.
Practice Using Relative Pronouns Combine the following pairs of sentences using a relative pronoun. Add
Practice Using Relative Pronouns
Combine the following pairs of sentences using a relative pronoun. Add or delete words
as necessary. (Turn to pg. 239 for the full list.)
1. 
Dorothea baked the cupcakes. They were moist and delicious.
Dorothea baked the cupcakes, which were moist and delicious.
1. 
I have a picture of my mother wearing jeans. The jeans have frayed hems
and many holes.
I have a picture of my mother wearing jeans that have frayed hems and many holes.
1. 
In the 1950’s, jeans became popular with teenagers. The teenagers
thought that they were were cool.
In the 1950’s, jeans became popular with teenagers, who thought that they were cool.
Who vs. That & Which Rule 1. Who refers to people. That and which refer
Who vs. That & Which
Rule 1. Who refers to people. That and which refer to
groups or things.
Examples:
  Anya is the one who rescued the bird.
  Lokua is on the team that won first place.
  She belongs to an organization that specializes in saving
endangered species.
That vs. Which Rule 2. That introduces essential clauses. Which introduces nonessential clauses. Examples:  I
That vs. Which
Rule 2. That introduces essential clauses.
Which introduces nonessential clauses.
Examples:
 I do not trust products that claim "all natural ingredients" because
this phrase can mean almost anything.
We would not know which products were being discussed without the that
clause.
 The product claiming "all natural ingredients," which appeared in
the Sunday newspaper, is on sale.
The product is already identified. Therefore, which begins a nonessential
clause.
A Note about Commas The official rule: Essential clauses do not have commas surrounding them
A Note about Commas
The official rule:
Essential clauses do not have commas surrounding them while
nonessential clauses are surrounded by commas.
Easier way to remember?
1. 
Never put a comma before dependent clauses starting with
“that.”
2. 
Always put a comma before dependent clauses starting with
“which.”
Translation: Don’t use commas before or after a dependent clause that is necessary to identify
Translation:
Don’t use commas before or after a dependent clause that is necessary
to identify what it refers to, as in the following example:
The letter to the editor that Anita wrote was published in the
local newspaper.
In contrast, use commas when the dependent clause gives
information that is not essential to the sentence:
The letter, which is on the topic of school funding, is still in my
backpack.
The letter is still in my backpack, which is stuffed with books,
binders, and notebooks.
Any Questions?
Any Questions?