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Sentence Types: Compound and Complex

A simple sentence contains a single clause. If a sentence contains at least two independent clauses, it is called a compound sentence. The clauses in compound sentences are joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, for, so). The independent clauses could stand alone as sentences, but joining them implies a relationship between them.

  • I studied for days, but I barely passed the test.
  • Last summer was hot and dry, and the risk of wildfires was severe.

If a sentence contains one independent clause and one dependent clause, it is called a complex sentence.

  • I remember the lessons that you taught me.
  • The shirt was ruined because I spilled grape juice on it.

If a sentence contains at least two independent clauses plus at least one dependent clause, it is called a compound-complex sentence.

  • Although the forecast predicted rain, the fair was held as planned, and attendance was good.

Punctuating Clauses within Sentences

If two independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, use a comma before the coordinating conjunction.

  • The surgery was successful, and the patient recovered fully.
  • The road is blocked, so we must take an alternate route.

Two independent clauses can also be joined without a coordinating conjunction; use a semicolon to separate the clauses. (The semicolon can also be followed by a conjunctive adverb and a comma.)

  • The surgery was successful; the patient recovered fully. (semicolon only)
  • The road is blocked; therefore, we must take an alternate route. (conjunctive adverb)

If an independent clause is followed by a subordinate clause, usually no punctuation is required at the join. But if the subordinate clause comes before the independent clause, use a comma at the end of the subordinate clause.

  • I went to work even though I was feeling ill. (no punctuation needed)
  • Even though I was feeling ill, I went to work. (subordinate clause comes first; follow with a comma)

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