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Sentence Structure IV. Complex-Compound Sentences

How to Cause Complexity in a Compound and Get a Sentence

by Owen Fourie

The prisoners of war wished to escape from the compound, so some of them worked on diversionary tactics to cause a complexity of problems for the guards while the others set about digging a tunnel.

After many days spent in the same way, the commander of the compound became suspicious and ordered a thorough search that uncovered the grand scheme, and they were sentenced to two weeks in the cooler.

With these two examples of compound-complex sentences, let’s understand more about this particular sentence structure, the last in the series in which we have looked at the simple sentence, the compound sentence, and the complex sentence.

What is a compound-complex sentence?

A compound-complex sentence is also called a complex-compound sentence. At least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses are needed to make up such a sentence.

Here is another example:

Whenever the driver of the silver car stopped at that intersection, he recalled the incident, and he drove his vehicle cautiously.

In this sentence, there are two independent clauses:

  • he recalled the incident;
  • he drove his vehicle cautiously;

and one dependent clause:

  • whenever the driver of the silver car stopped at that intersection.

The structure of this particular complex-compound sentence is

  • subordinating conjunction: whenever;
  • subject and predicate of the dependent clause: the driver of the silver car stopped at that intersection;
  • subject and predicate of the first independent clause: he recalled the incident;
  • coordinating conjunction: and;
  • subject and predicate of the second independent clause: he drove his vehicle cautiously.

Here is another example. See if you can identify the two independent clauses and the one dependent clause:

The motorcyclist, after he was released from prison, came to the same intersection, and he also exercised much caution.

Effective use of a compound-complex sentence

By carefully observing the structure of the compound-complex sentence and by applying it in your writing, you will find it to be an even more effective way to communicate your ideas. It will bring more scope and maturity to your writing.

What was said in the previous post about the effective use of the complex sentence may be applied to the compound-complex sentence. It, too, has its place in rhetoric, in creating suspense, in showing the proper relationship of ideas and emphasizing what is important.

Of course, the important thing in the art of writing is to use all the sentence structures in a good mix. This series of four articles has been compiled to help you to understand these structures and to encourage you to apply them in all your writing.

A summary of sentence structure

You might find it useful to refer to the following tabulation as a quick and easy way to check your knowledge and understanding of the different sentence structures.


Summary of Sentence Structure

Simple Compound Complex Compound-Complex
Independent Clause Yes; only one Yes; two or more Yes; only one Yes; at least two
Dependent Clause Yes; at least one Yes; one or more
Coordinating Conjunction (for, and, not, but, or, yet. so) Yes, to join independent clauses. A comma should precede the conjunction but not always, Yes, to join independent clauses. A comma should precede the conjunction but not always,
Subordinating Conjunction (after, although, because, if, while, etc.) Yes, at the beginning of a dependent clause Yes, at the beginning of a dependent clause
Conjunctive Adverb (accordingly, besides, consequently, however, otherwise, etc.) Yes, to connect independent clauses. Yes, to connect independent clauses.
Relative Pronoun (who, that, which) Yes, to introduce a relative (dependent) clause Yes, if needed for a dependent clause
Semicolon Yes, to connect independent clauses without any other connector.

When using a conjunctive adverb, a semicolon must precede it.

Yes, to connect independent clauses without any other connector.

When using a conjunctive adverb, a semicolon must precede it.

Comma When using a conjunctive adverb, a comma must follow it.

When using a coordinating conjunction, a comma should precede it but not always.

Yes. Placed after the dependent clause if that clause stands at the beginning of the sentence.

If the sentence begins with an independent clause, a comma must not be placed before the dependent clause.

When using a conjunctive adverb, a comma must follow it.

When using a coordinating conjunction, a comma should precede it but not always.

Check your answers

Did you correctly identify the two independent clauses and the one dependent clause in the last example of a compound-complex sentence?

  • the motorcyclist came to the same intersection (independent clause);
  • he also exercised much caution (independent clause);
  • after he was released from prison (dependent clause)

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Do you have any special technique to help you to produce a good mix of sentence structures in your essays? If so, please tell us what you do to achieve this. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

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