Every sentence in the English language fits into one of four categories. This lesson will focus on types three and four.

Type Three: Complex Sentences

Complex sentences have one independent clause, or main clause, and at least one dependent clause. A dependent clause is a group of words which has a subject and a verb but is not a complete idea and cannot exist alone, for example, “after the government changed the law"; "because it was extremely difficult"; "if a person has clear goals", etc. There are two main options for the structure of a complex sentence:

Option A

Independent Clause Dependent Clause

Option B

Dependent Clause, Independent Clause

Note that the independent and dependent clauses can come in either order, but the punctuation is different. The general rule is that if the sentence begins with the dependent clause, the dependent clause should be followed by a comma.

  • The student did poorly on the exam because he misunderstood the essay question.
  • Because he misunderstood the essay question, the student did poorly on the exam.

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