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One of the marks of good quality writing is the use of a variety of sentence structures. The compound-complex sentence is a sophisticated structure you can use in your writing. In this lesson, you will learn the components of a compound-complex sentence and how to write one.

Types of Writing

Sometimes you write something for yourself, such as a journal or to-do list. Sometimes you write to quickly communicate with friends and family in a note or text message. And sometimes, you need to write more formally.

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If you are writing for work or school, use of good grammar and varied sentences makes you sound more credible and intelligent. One tool you can use is the compound-complex sentence. Before we try writing a compound-complex sentence, let’s review some basic components.

Grammar Review

1. Clause: A clause is a group of words with a subject and verb.

  • Jayden’s dog escaped. (subject = dog, verb = escaped)


Independent clause: a clause that expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence.

  • Jayden looked everywhere. (subject = Jayden, verb = looked, complete thought)

3. Dependent clause – also called a subordinate clause: a clause that does not express a complete thought and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

  • before he found the dog (subject = he, verb = found, incomplete thought)

4. Coordinating conjunctions: used to connect equal words, phrases, or clauses. The coordinating conjunctions are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so5. Subordinating conjunctions: used to introduce a dependent, or subordinate clause. Some examples are: while, who, so, before, since, after, because, although

Ingredients of a Compound-Complex Sentence

If you have studied sentence structures, you might remember that a compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses, while a complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. A compound-complex sentence is what it sounds like: a combination of the two.

A compound-complex sentence consists of two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.Note: A compound-complex sentence contains at least three subject/verb pairings, so it is very important to make sure they are all properly connected; otherwise, you will end up with a run-on (or fused) sentence. Run-on sentences make your writing messy and confusing.

Use commas and conjunctions to put things together appropriately.

compound complex sentence

All of this sounds complicated, so let’s try and write a compound-complex sentence.

Writing a Compound-Complex Sentence

The clauses in a compound-complex sentence should contain information on the same topic, so that it makes sense to combine the clauses rather than separate them. Let’s write a sentence about Jayden’s search for his lost dog. Here are some facts about his search.

1. First, Jayden got ready to look for his lost dog.2. Jayden put on his jacket.

3. He forgot his flashlight.Sentences two and three can be the independent clauses in our sentence. In order to combine two independent clauses to make a compound sentence, we need a comma and a coordinating conjunction. These clauses show a contrast between what Jayden did do and what he did not do, so we will choose the conjunction ”but.”

  • Jayden put on his jacket, but he forgot his flashlight.

Now we have a compound sentence.

To make it compound-complex, we need to turn sentence one into a dependent clause. ”First, Jayden got ready to look for his lost dog” could become a dependent clause if we re-word it. ”Before he looked for his lost dog” would preserve the meaning of the sentence while making it easier to combine with the other two clauses. ”Before” is a subordinating conjunction, which is needed to introduce the dependent clause.

Let’s put them all together.

  • Before he looked for his lost dog, Jayden put on his jacket, but he forgot his flashlight.

We have written a compound-complex sentence!

compound complex sentence example

One More Note

A well-written compound-complex sentence is a good addition to serious writing. However, like the name ”compound-complex sentence,” a compound-complex sentence is long. It should be used sparingly. Try to make your writing a mixture of the different sentence types.

Then when you use a good compound-complex sentence, it will stand out even more.

Lesson Summary

A compound-complex sentence consists of two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. The clauses should be joined by appropriate commas and conjunctions to avoid run-on sentences.

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