This post contains several examples of compound-complex sentences, including those where independent clauses have been joined by colon and semicolon. If you recall, a compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. In practice, however, more than two independent clauses make a sentence clumsy and difficult to follow. Avoid them if you can. (Several dependent clauses can work fine, but not independent clauses.) I’ve included few though for illustration.
But for 2-3 examples, others in the post contain exactly two independent clauses; dependent clauses count up to five.
To get the most out of these examples, try to understand why the sentence is compound-complex. That is, satisfy yourself that the sentence contains at least two independent clauses 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 within another dependent clause.
- How you can identify dependent clauses in a sentence?
- Once you’ve identified a dependent clause, how to know if it’s noun, relative, or adverb clause?
- Exercises: Identify compound-complex sentences
Note: Dependent clauses have been underlined for ease of identification, and comments that go with examples are in square brackets.
1. Compound-complex sentences with noun clause
Do what I say, or leave.
Stay where you are, or you may fall.
Researchers say climate change is real, but opponents have different point of view.
Saudi Arabia committed to reduce greenhouse gases, but it made it clear that it’ll continue to export oil and gas to other countries.
The lawyer argued that his client was not found in possession of the contraband, but the judge rejected the plea.
People generally believe that dogs are friendlier than cats, but cats can also be extremely loving.
We may debate the disclosures endlessly, yet we may not be able to differentiate between what’s legally actionable and what’s practically actionable. [Two noun clauses. Here, the clauses are clearly separated from each other.]
You get what you pay for, so you shouldn’t complain about how you were treated and what room you got. [Three noun clauses]
2. Compound-complex sentences with relative clause
I visited the town where I grew, but nothing had changed in ten years.
A typical film studio has multiple studios that are designed for making films and TV serials, but these days movies are being shot even in space.
The policeman signalled the car to stop, but the car, which was occupied by suspected terrorists, shot ahead, smashing the barricades on the road.
The company launched the product, which came out after three years of R&D and field trials, with much fanfare, but the quarterly sales have been disappointing.
Josh, whose passion for writing has soared after reading Dan Brown novel, wants to write, but he is not sure what genre to write on.
The lawyer requested for an open-court hearing, but the judge, who earlier allowed such hearings, declined the request.
The lawyer argued, but the judge rejected the plea on the ground that the petition was not properly drafted.
The companies are often accused of putting profit over anything else, but few companies have taken lead in creating employment at places where they work.
So far, there has been no severe allergic reaction to mRNA vaccines, which has been a concern for many, and they’re being widely accepted.
This is a proposition that we are currently not confident of, and there is data that is both in favour and against. [Two relative clauses]
He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything. [Two relative clauses]
3. Compound-complex sentences with adverb clause
I waited till the restaurant closed, but he never came.
I love pizza, but I rarely eat it because it’s unhealthy.
I get up at 6:00 AM and get so much work done by the time I leave for office.
In my last visit to Europe, I travelled to UK, Spain, and Portugal, but I didn’t enjoy the trip as much as I would like because I was alone.
Even though the altitude was more than 20,000 feet, the geese crossed the Himalayas, but soon after they met hungry eagles.
Since I didn’t sleep well last night, I am disoriented this morning, but I can’t use this as an excuse.
The lawyer argued, but the judge rejected the plea because the petition was not properly drafted.
If you test positive for Covid, the government requires you to inform the local authorities immediately, but if you test negative, you’re free to take your trip as planned. [Two adverb clauses]
The baby was crying because she was tired, but she couldn’t sleep since it was noisy outside. [Two adverb clauses]
When there was no danger, he feared, and when there was no sorrow, he wept. [Two adverb clauses]
If you want to go quickly, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together. [Two adverb clauses]
4. Compound-complex sentences with multiple dependent clauses
Note: For ease of identifying, the clauses have been mentioned in square brackets in the same sequence as they appear in the sentence.
The quote is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but whoever said it needs to be applauded for saying something that has motivated generations. [Noun clause/ Relative clause]
We’ve seen that when the last ice age receded, some species such as woolly mammoth perished. [Noun clause + Adverb clause. Here, the two clauses aren’t clearly separated from each other. The adverb clause is contained within the noun clause starting with that.]
The election watchdog observed that the politician, who has been a star campaigner for his party, was guilty of violating the model election code, yet the politician remained defiant and vowed to continue the same way. [Noun clause + Relative clause. The relative clause who has… party is contained within the noun clause starting with that.]
Some may disagree, but political analysts have pointed out that when the president campaigned during the mid-term poll, his party’s candidates got more media coverage than when they contested on their own. [Noun clause + Adverb clause + Adverb clause. The two adverb clauses starting with when are contained within the noun clause starting with that.]
As the government decides who gets the vaccine first, it will have to answer few thorny questions such as what work is essential and how to mitigate the mental and economic scars that the virus has left behind, but those answers won’t come easily. [Adverb clause + Noun clause + Noun clause + Noun clause + Relative clause. The first noun clause is contained within the adverb clause starting with as.]
5. Compound-complex sentences with colon, semicolon, and 3 independent clauses
On receiving the test paper, quickly glance through it: Knowing what questions are there calms your nerves. [Noun clause]
The way up was treacherous: Loose boulders strewn around in the dark night which could roll down, if disturbed accidently, and take their toll. [Relative clause]
If you’re like most, you yearn for completion bias: Starting with easy-to-do stuff to get the psychological boost of completing few items in the first few hours in the day. [Adverb clause]
There are two kinds of perfect people: Those who are dead and those who are not born yet. [Two relative clauses]
Their happiness evaporated when they learnt the details: That emergency vaccination was meant for only those journalists who were covering a specific event. [Adverb clause/ Relative clause]
There is no shame in admitting that you’re too old for field work; the only shame will be in admitting it too late. [Noun clause]
I don’t see any reason you should be in this meeting; on the contrary, you should be in the next. [Relative clause. Relative adverb why has been dropped here.]
Wild animals don’t attack people for nothing; they attack when they feel threatened. [Adverb clause]
Result matters for sure; what matters more is whether we gave our best. [Two noun clauses]
The recent audit has pointed out that our problem isn’t lack of technology; the problem is what technology we’ve deployed. [Two noun clauses]
5.3 Three independent clauses
I asked my friend to lower the volume of music he was listening, but he didn’t, so I left the room. [Relative clause. Relative pronoun that has been dropped here.]
The group of words itself doesn’t have a subject, and that’s why it’s not a clause, but if we expand the group to the entire sentence, it’ll correspond to the subject. [Adverb clause]
You can politely advice to older or more experienced – and it may even be appreciated – but make sure that you’ve done your homework thoroughly as you’re challenging an established process, thought, or idea. [Noun clause/ Adverb clause]
Don’t get into an argument or fight in the first place, and if you do get into one, get out of it at the earliest opportunity. [Adverb clause. All three independent clauses are imperative sentences]