Complex sentences

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Simple sentences
The big dog was barking.
Compound sentences
The boys walked down the road
and their parents waved from the
house.
Complex sentences
A complex sentence contains one main clause that can
make sense on its own, and one or more minor
(subordinate) clauses that are linked to it.
When I arrived, the big dog was barking.
The subordinate clause is When I arrived. Although it is
a clause with a subject and a verb, it doesn't make
sense on its own, it needs a main clause.
More complex sentences
You can add more minor clauses to make a more
complex sentence:
When I arrived, the big dog was barking because
it was lonely.
We can even split the main clause with a minor
clause and still have a complex sentence.
When I arrived, the big dog which was lonely, was
barking.
Alice entered the room (main clause)
• who was shaking with fear
• although she was scared
• feeling full of confidence
subordinate
clauses
• Write the above sentence using subordinate
clauses in as many different ways as you can.
You can split up Alice and entered the room.
Punctuating a subordinate clause
When you attach a subordinate clause in front of a
main clause, use a comma, like this:
Even though the broccoli was covered in cheese,
Emily refused to eat it.
When you attach a subordinate clause at the end of
a main clause, you do not need to punctuate:
Jill did poorly in her English exam because her best
friend kept her up too late the night before.
Relative clauses
Subordinate clauses can begin with a relative
pronoun (who, whose, which) and so are
called relative clauses. In this case, the
punctuation gets a bit trickier. It depends on
whether the information is essential for
understanding or not.
For example:
Relative clauses
Nick gave a handful of chocolate to the dog who
was sniffing around the table. (The information
clarifies the animal so the clause is essential and
requires no punctuation.)
Nick gave a handful of chocolate to Poppy, who was
sniffing around the table. (We know which animal
he means so the clause is not essential and
therefore needs to be separated. It is used for
additional, descriptive information)
OK, so why do I need to know all this?
Writers uses subordination to combine ideas
and make them more effective:
Rhonda gasped. A six-foot snake slithered
across the garden.
Rhonda gasped when a six-foot snake slithered
across the garden.
Information flow
If two ideas have unequal importance, save the
most important one for the end so that your
reader remembers it best. E.g.
After eating his breakfast and cleaning his teeth,
Guy Fawkes set off to blow up the Houses of
Parliament.
Start with verb + ing
Compare:
Liam realised he had finally been picked for the
team when he looked down the list for his name.
With:
Looking down the list for his name, Liam realised he
had finally been picked for the team.
Writer’s tactics
By using verb + ing our writer makes the
reader feel more emotionally involved with
Liam’s feelings. The reader can easily imagine
Liam’s anticipation as he looks down the list.
The order of words in the sentence is effective
because the writer withholds the good news
until the end!
Using this in your essays
Compare:
The poet uses colloquial language in his poem
“The Man He Killed”. This suggests that the
narrator is a working class man.
With:
By using colloquial language in his poem “The
Man He Killed”, the poet suggests to the
reader that the narrator is a working class
man.
More examples
Compare:
Shakespeare makes blunt, critical statements about his
mistress’s looks in “Sonnet 130”. She doesn’t match up
to popular ideals of beauty in Elizabethan times. This
goes against the reader’s expectations.
With:
By highlighting his mistress’s faults in “Sonnet 130”,
Shakespeare goes against the reader’s expectations.
Saying that she doesn’t match up to popular ideals of
beauty in Elizabethan time, is his way of showing that
she is beautiful in a more genuine way.
Don’t forget the comma
• Don’t forget, a clause beginning with an ing
verb is a subordinate clause as it doesn’t make
sense on its own, so it must have a comma
before the rest of the sentence.
• Write your own sentence starting with ing.
Start with ed
Compare:
Kylie decided to relax in the jacuzzi because she was
tired from the snowboarding.
With:
Tired from all the snowboarding, Kylie decided to
relax in the jacuzzi.
Writer’s tactics
Perhaps this writer thinks the most important
information should come first – the fact that
it’s snowboarding that has made Kylie tired.
The writer is putting the order of events in the
sentence in the same order that they
happened in real –time snowboarding first
followed by relaxing.
Write your own sentence using an ‘ed’ word e.g.
Dressed or shouted at. Don’t forget the comma.
Active and Passive
Active:
Airport police arrested Pete Doherty at
Heathrow Airport yesterday.
Passive:
Pete Doherty was arrested by airport police at
Heathrow Airport yesterday.
Short passive:
Pete Doherty arrested yesterday!
More examples
Police shot protestors at a rally in London.
Protestors shot by police at a rally in London.
Protestors shot at a rally in London.
Protestors shot at a rally.
Protestors shot.
Positive or negative views?
Modal verbs
Express likelihood or probability of something
happening:
Two million jobs will be lost
Two million jobs may be lost
Two million jobs might be lost
Two million jobs could be lost
Modal verbs
Can also express obligation or necessity:
We have to work very hard with our revision.
We must work very hard with our revision.
We ought to work very hard with our revision.
We should work very hard with our revision.
We are supposed to work very hard.
Exercises
• Write your own sentences using the active
and passive.
• Write your own sentences using modal verbs
and indicate the degree of obligation needed.
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