An example would be, "As Lexi chewed on her new bone, she watched the squirrels play outside." There we have a dependent clause, a comma, and an independent clause. The dependent clause is "As Lexi chewed on her new bone..." It's dependent because it can't stand alone; it's not a complete sentence. The independent clause is "...she watched the squirrels play outside." It's independent because it can stand alone; it's a complete sentence by itself.
You might be wondering when a complex sentence would be necessary. Sometimes, too many simple sentences (subject + verb + direct object) can appear choppy. Longer, fluid sentences, like complex and compound sentences, provide a certain level of grammatical flair. Let's take a closer look.
Fear not. The punctuation for these sentences isn't complex at all. The number one friend to a complex sentence is the comma. Not every complex sentence will require it, but you'll see it's rather common. Here's an example:
Dinner was very tasty, as to be expected.
There we have the independent clause, a comma, and the dependent clause, in that order. Of course, a comma isn't required to create a complex sentence. Let's look at a sample sentence that doesn't require a comma:
She returned the earrings after she realized they weren't real gold.
In that example, "She returned the earrings" is the independent clause. "After she realized they weren't real gold" is the dependent clause.
Ready for a little excitement? The truth is a complex sentence isn't limited to one dependent clause and one independent clause. You may find yourself reading a statement with multiple dependent clauses and one independent clause. Here's an example:
Since he was trying to save money, Jeremy skipped the coffee shop, which was located on the corner of 6th and Main, the one with the best lattes in town, on his way home from work.
In this example, we have four dependent clauses and one independent clause ("Jeremy skipped the coffee shop"). Is that correct, grammatically speaking? Well, yes. It's properly punctuated with commas around each clause. But, it's likely to confuse the reader. Breaking this up into two or more sentences could make it more manageable.
Since he was trying to save money, Jeremy skipped the coffee shop on his way home from work. Located on the corner of 6th and Main, this place has the best lattes in town.
This is just food for thought; the beauty of a complex sentence is its ability to say more while staying true to proper grammatical constructs. Just don't allow yourself to get carried away.
For more on the friend to the complex sentence, take a look at 8 Times Commas Were Important.
You can see how complex sentences allow us to pack a little more detail into each line, right? Let's take a look at a few more examples. In each of the samples below, the dependent clause will be in bold.
Because I was happy, I danced a jig.
I didn't eat the cookies, even though I was hungry.
Sunrises are a symbol of hope because we're able to start each day anew.
Once she noticed it was damaged, she returned the suitcase.
I'm going to save these Euros in case I travel to Ireland again.
Since I'm leaving in the morning, I'll say goodbye now.
Let's go back to Dublin because it's where we first met.
While I love you, I won't take a six-hour flight.
I didn't really enjoy our dessert even though I'm a fan of chocolate.
Although I love the color pink, I hate this wallpaper.
For more, enjoy these complex sentence examples.
This might make you wonder about compound sentences. What's the difference between compound sentences and complex sentences? Simply, compound sentences contain two independent clauses. For example:
I want to go to Ireland, but I will settle for Boston instead.
You can tell there are two independent clauses here because there are two subjects and two verbs. In the first clause, we have "I want." There, "I" is the subject and "want" is the verb. In the second clause, we have "I will settle." "I" is the subject and "will settle" is the verb.
Like the comma to the complex sentences, compound sentences are friends with coordinating conjunctions. These are words like "for," "but," "yet," and "so." Another example would be:
I love to read, yet I find myself watching documentaries lately.
Be bold! Tell us everything we need to know. A complex sentence allows for a thoroughly deep dive. When writing, they allow us to divulge extra details about the characters, setting, and plot. Of course, they also serve their purpose in scholastic essays and a wide range of other writing.
If you're tasked with a combination of storytelling and essay writing, take a look at these narrative essay examples. Unleash those complex sentences and tell us everything we need to know!