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Complex and Compound Sentences - Further Explanation

Compound Sentences

A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. The coordinators are as follows: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. (Helpful hint: The first letter of each of the coordinators spells FANBOYS.) Except for very short sentences, coordinators are always preceded by a comma. In the following compound sentences, subjects are in yellow, verbs are in green, and the coordinators and the commas that precede them are in red. 


A. I tried to speak Spanish, and my friend tried to speak English.

B. Alejandro played football, so Maria went shopping.

C. Alejandro played football, for Maria went shopping.


The above three sentences are compound sentences because  each sentence contains two independent clauses, and they are joined by a coordinator with a comma preceding it. 

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinator such as because, since, after, although, or when or a relative pronoun such as that, who, or which. In the following complex sentences, subjects are in yellow, verbs are in green, and the subordinators and their commas (when required) are in red.


A. When he handed in his homework, he forgot to give the teacher the last page.

B. The teacher returned the homework after she noticed the error.

C. The students are studying because they have a test tomorrow.

D. After they finished studying, Juan and Maria went to the movies.

E. Juan and Maria went to the movies after they finished studying.


When a complex sentence begins with a subordinator such as sentences A and D, a comma is required at the end of the dependent clause. When the independent clause begins the sentence with subordinators in the middle as in sentences B, C, and E, no comma is required. If a comma is placed before the subordinators in sentences B, C, and E, it is wrong.

Complex Sentences / Adjective Clauses

Finally, sentences containing adjective clauses (or dependent clauses) are also complex because they contain an independent clause and a dependent clause.  The subjects, verbs, and subordinators are marked the same as in the previous sentences, and in these sentences, the independent clauses are also underlined. 

A. The woman who (m) my mom talked to sells cosmetics.

B. The book that Jonathan read is on the shelf.

C. The house which Abraham Lincoln was born in is still standing.

D. The town where I grew up is in the United States.

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