Complex Sentences


Clauses are groups of words that form sentences. A clause must contain a subject and a verb.
There are two types of clauses:

  • independent - expresses a complete idea, ie a sentence, and makes sense all by itself
  • dependent - does not express a complete idea, it is a part sentence, and does not make sense by itself).

Dependent clauses begin with a subordinating conjunction, eg who, when, while, that, because, since, although.


Example of a dependent and independent clause.


Complex sentence patterns

The third type of sentence is the complex sentence. Complex sentences contain 2 parts – the independent clause and the dependent clause. These parts are joined by a linking word (subordinator) or conjunction.


Example of pattern one in a complex sentence.

Example of pattern 2 used in a complex sentence.

Understanding how to construct and write complex sentences is important in formal writing.



Complex sentences — linking words

Independent and dependent clauses are joined to make a complex sentence using linking words (subordinators) or conjunctions. Below is a list of the most commonly used linking words. These subordinators perform different functions, eg to show reason, conditions, time etc.

  • while
  • after
  • though
  • because
  • as soon as
  • whereas
  • wherever
  • when
  • before
  • as
  • so that
  • unless
  • since
  • although
  • if
  • until
  • where
  • even though
  • whether









Building complex sentences

Using complex sentences adds depth and sophistication to your writing. The linking of dependent and independent clauses helps to qualify and expand upon the central idea(s) of a sentence / paragraph. It makes your writing easier to read as it is not as fragmented as lots of simple sentences. The subordinator and the dependent clause qualify the independent clause or sentence.

Compare the following sets of sentences.

Examples of building complex sentences


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