Some erroneously believe that a complex sentence can have only an adverb clause as the dependent clause. That’s not true. The dependent clause can be any of the three dependent clauses – noun, relative, or adverb.
This post contains several examples of complex sentences containing the three types of dependent clauses. If you recall, a complex sentence comprises of an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. The examples that follow contain an independent clause and up to three dependent clauses.
To get the most out of these examples, try to understand why the sentence is complex. That is, satisfy yourself that the sentence contains one independent and at least one dependent clause.
Note that in case of multiple dependent clauses in a sentence, some of the dependent clauses may not have clear boundaries separating one from the other: One or more of them may be contained in another dependent clause.
- How to identify dependent clauses in a sentence?
- How to identify a dependent clause as noun, relative, or adverb clause?
- Exercises: Identify complex sentences
Note: Dependent clauses have been underlined for ease of identification, and comments that go with examples are in square brackets.
Complex sentences with noun clause
Do what you want.
What is not cast in stone, however, is budget.
Can we really become whoever we want to become?
How do I know if I’m eligible for the scholarship?
That’s yet another reason for why we should get vaccinated.
The survey pointed to what may be the root cause of decline in the company’s fortunes.
Studies indicate that none of the explanations account for such rapid transmission of Covid virus.
We found spiders and rodents wherever we looked in that abandoned building.
The Congress panel questioned whether the company’s executives misled them during an earlier testimony.
The Congress panel questioned whether to believe company’s executives. [whether to believe company’s executives is not a noun clause as it doesn’t have both subject and verb. Note that to believe is non-finite (infinitive) form of verb. Hence, the sentence is a simple sentence.] That’s yet another reason for why to get vaccinated. [why to get vaccinated is not a noun clause as it doesn’t have both subject and verb. Hence, the sentence is a simple sentence.]
Scientists believe Covid is going to stay with us for at least few years. [Here, that has been dropped. You could’ve written the same sentence as: Scientists believe Covid is going to stay with us for at least few years.]
A study from Case Western University found that college-age procrastinators had higher levels of stress and got lower grades.
In the mid-term election, voters made it clear whom they’re going to vote in the general elections due in six months.
The court can call whatever information it thinks will help to bring justice in the case.
How long it takes to reach the island depends on where you are in the world. [Two noun clauses. Here, the two clauses are clearly separated from each other.]
How you study matters more than when you study. [Two noun clauses]
How to study matters more than when to study. [How to study and when to study are not noun clauses. Hence, it’s a simple sentence.]
Investigations show how the peddlers procured drugs and how they could evade police for so long. [Two noun clauses]
The report posited that it’s not easy for consumers to understand what data they’ve leaked on the internet and how they can erase it. [Three noun clauses. Here, the three clauses aren’t clearly separated from each other. The noun clauses starting with what and how are contained within the noun clause starting with that.]
It’s rightly said that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. [Three noun clauses. The noun clause starting with that contains the noun clauses starting with what and who.]
Complex sentences with relative clause
Note: In these examples, some relative clauses come with comma(s) (non-restrictive relative clauses) and some without commas (restrictive relative clauses).
The heart that loves stays young.
Jeff, who met with an accident last month, is a rocket scientist. [Relative clause is set off with a pair of commas because it’s a non-restrictive relative clause.]
My neighbor who won last week’s lottery gave all his money to an animal welfare organization. [Relative clause comes with no comma because it’s a restrictive relative clause.]
Sally, the painter whose work is taking the art world by storm, never dreamt of such success. [The relative clause is part of the appositive phrase, the painter… storm.]
The ocean current that flows clockwise (as seen from the South Pole) from west to east around Antarctica is Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
The man you’re talking about is no more. [Here, relative pronoun that has been truncated. You could’ve written the same sentence as: The man that you’re talking about is no more.]
The movie Vertical Limit reminded me of my trek to Rupin Pass, where we lost our way and nearly died.
So far, there has been no severe allergic reaction to mRNA vaccines, which has been a concern for many. [Here, the relative clause refers to severe allergic reaction to mRNA vaccines.]
Temperature rose to more than 40 degrees in March, which forced people to stay indoors. [Unlike the previous example, the relative clause here describes the entire clause that comes before it. This is unique to which relative clause, which can describe a particular thing or an entire clause.]
Hypersonic vehicles can be seen reliably only from space, which poses significant challenge. [Here again, the relative clause describes the entire clause.]
Since 2000, they’ve more wins than us in every tournament in which both the countries competed. [Relative clauses can be preceded by prepositions.]
A manager for whom people are mere assets will end up being a poor leader. [Relative clauses can be preceded by prepositions.]
The marathon was 80 kilometers, a quarter of which was on the hills. [Relative clauses can be preceded by quantifiers.]
In May 2020, the protesters, who were mainly from northern states, blocked the road for more than a week, which disrupted supply of vegetables, fruits, and dairy items. [Two relative clauses]
Steve Jobs, who is credited with launching innovative products such as iPod and iPhone that catapulted Apple to stratospheric level, was an iconic entrepreneur. [Two relative clauses. The relative clause starting with that is contained in the one starting with who.]
Steve Jobs, credited with launching innovative products such as iPod and iPhone, was an iconic entrepreneur. [The sentence contains no dependent clause: credited with launching innovative products such as iPod and iPhone is just a phrase as it lacks a subject-verb unit.]
There are hardly any areas in the city that are untouched by air pollution that can be attributed mainly to vehicular emission. [Two relative clauses. The relative clause starting with that is contained in the one starting with that.]
Complex sentences with adverb clause
Note: Adverb clauses, like most adverbials, are quite mobile within a sentence and can occupy more than one position. Here, adverb clauses have been used in both the front and the back position. Notice the comma when the adverb clause occupies the front position and lack of it in the back position.
I passed because you helped.
Make hay while the sun shines.
After Dr. Johnson ate a big meal, he went to work.
John had an upset stomach yesterday because he ate at an unhygienic food truck.
John had an upset stomach yesterday because of indiscriminate eating at an unhygienic food truck. [because of indiscriminate eating at an unhygienic food truck is not an adverb clause. Note that it doesn’t have both subject and verb to qualify as a clause. Because of is a preposition, which is then followed by a long noun phrase. The sentence, then, is a simple sentence.]
Although he claimed to have won state level championship in chess, he struggled to make even basic moves.
After eating a big meal, Dr. Johnson went to work. [After eating a big meal is a participial phrase, and not an adverb clause. Note that it doesn’t have both subject and verb to qualify as a clause. The sentence, then, is a simple sentence.]
Before we start today’s class, I’ll briefly touch upon yesterday’s lesson.
Before starting today’s class, I’ll briefly touch upon yesterday’s lesson. [Same as the last one]
We should start educating children early in school since, as compared to adults, they are more eager to learn new things and change behavior accordingly.
As I lost money in the casino last time, I decided to stay away from it this time despite strong temptation.
Even though I tried hard, I couldn’t convince my dog to release the ball from his mouth.
Nothing much progressed on the deal while I was on leave for two weeks.
Though Bailey, our pet dog, is not with us today, his memories will always stay with us.
Whereas meteorological department’s prediction for Monday came true, their prediction for Tuesday was way off.
See me when you finish your test. [See me is an independent clause. It’s an imperative sentence.]
We can’t proceed further in the project until you finish your part.
As long as the last case of polio virus is not eradicated from the planet, the virus will stay with us.
Remember these words whenever anyone tells you not to go after your dreams.
What would happen if we reduce the budget by 10 percent this year?
I was so lost in my thoughts that I forgot where I had reached.
Although this assertion is beyond belief as they’re a party in both appeals and as the court passed the order after due deliberation, I again provided them the original document. [The adverb clause contains two more adverb clauses, both starting with as]
Complex sentences with more than one type of dependent clause
Note: For ease of identifying, the clauses have been mentioned in square brackets in the same sequence as they appear in the sentence. In this section, you’ll find quite a few instances of clause within clause.
We are hopeful that vaccines will one day end this pandemic that has taken such an immense toll on us. [Noun clause/ Relative clause]
This puts me in dilemma because you’re essentially asking who receives the vaccine first. [Adverb clause/ Noun clause. The noun clause starting with who is contained within the adverb clause starting with because.]
Whoever forms the government next will have to take immediate steps to remedy the high unemployment rate, which has stubbornly hovered around 10 percent for months. [Noun clause/ Relative clause]
Before we start, let me jog your memory about what happened last time. [Adverb clause/ Noun clause]
It is still not clear when will the new appointment be made or who will be appointed to the post that the management has created recently. [Noun clause/ Noun clause/ Relative Clause. The relative clause starting with that is contained within the noun clause starting with who.]
In villages where compensation was promptly paid to the villages whenever a tiger killed their cattle, revenge killing of tigers was much less. [Relative clause/ Adverb clause. The adverb clause starting with whenever is contained within the relative clause starting with where.]
You’ll be given additional charge of another territory, even if you – or whoever is appointed to this position – don’t want it. [Adverb clause/ Noun clause. The noun clause starting with whoever is contained within the adverb clause starting with even if.]
If you don’t know who you’re dealing with, don’t blame me if you land in trouble. [Adverb clause/ Noun clause/ Adverb clause. The noun clause starting with who is contained within the first adverb clause.]
We need to know if you’ve risk-taking ability before we take you onboard because we’ve seen many drop out later. [Noun clause + Adverb clause + Adverb clause]
This is something that nearly all snooping devices can do to some extent, but exactly how they do it depends on what software they use. [Relative clause/ Noun clause/ Noun clause]
Apple wearables that use Google’s Wear Operating System are better with how they manage notifications than other wearables. [Relative clause/ Noun clause]
I know what it feels like when you don’t do well in exams. [Noun clause/ Adverb clause]
Unless we use own solar panels, we won’t know how the electricity we consume is generated. [Adverb clause/ Noun clause/ Relative clause. The relative clause – we consume – is contained within the noun clause. It’s relative pronoun that has been dropped.]
United Nations has repeatedly warned that climate change could trigger war over vital resources that will become scarcer and scarcer. [Noun clause/ Relative clause. The relative clause starting with that is contained within the noun clause starting with that.]
The answer you get depends on whom you ask. [Relative clause/ Noun clause. Here again, that has been omitted.] Island countries that are located not too high from mean sea level know that climate change is an existential threat. [Relative clause/ Noun clause]
Island countries that are located not too high from mean sea level know that climate change is an existential threat. [Relative clause/ Noun clause]