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The Need for Complex Sentences. – Definition. — Frequently, in the course of our thinking, one leading thought stands out among several closely related but less prominent ones. The main thought can sometimes be expressed by subject and predicate with words or phrases as modifiers, and then we have a simple sentence. But oftentimes the lesser or subordinate ideas cannot be confined within the limits of a word or a phrase, but must be put into clauses and then joined to the main thought. This makes a complex sentence. A clause, grammatically considered, is a group of words consisting of a subject and predicate, but showing clearly by its form and construction, and by its sound if read aloud, that it is incomplete; that its thought is subordinate to a greater thought. For example, “on the road to town '' is a phrase; “when he was on the road to town’ is a clause; “I saw him when he was on the road to town,” the complete complex sentence. The complex sentence, then, has one independent all-important thought combined with a thought or thoughts subordinate or minor. In a simple sentence there is but one thought. In a compound, there are combined thoughts which are equal, coördinate, independent; in a complex sentence there are combined thoughts which are unequal, and some of them subordinate, dependent.

Illustrations. – To illustrate, let us examine this sentence:

He came in while I was writing to him.

We see that “He came in ’’ makes a complete statement and might properly be followed by a period. This is not true, however, of the remainder of the sentence – “while I was writing to him.” There is no completeness here. It seems to hang from nowhere until we supply something for it to depend upon. Moreover, the lesser thought contained in this dependent clause could not be adequately and grace

fully expressed by means of a mere phrase. To choose an

other illustration,
The boy who threw the ball is eighteen years old

is a complex sentence, but this section of it, “who threw the ball,” could not stand alone, for it is incomplete. Here the independent clause is that part of the thought that can stand by itself and make complete sense; that is, “The boy is eighteen years old.” The dependent clause, however, again could not be expressed adequately by a word or a phrase. Try to reduce either of these illustrative dependent clauses to a phrase or a clause, and you will get very inaccurate and very awkward results. The Use of Complex Sentences. – Most of our expression has to do with complex sentences, for the simple reason that most of our thoughts are busy assorting our ideas, establishing major and minor, greater and less. Primitive peoples and children hold discourse by means of simple sentences. The older we grow, the more we learn, the more necessary it becomes for us to point out nice relations in our sentence thoughts. It is one thing for the savage to say, “I caught a fish.” But suppose you were the fisherman, suppose that you used a dark fly when all the rest were trying light, suppose you wish to explain that your choice of fly resulted in hooking a fish a pound larger than the average. If you are to say just what you mean, you will require more complex modes of expression. You will use, not a simple sentence, but a complicated arrangement of clauses like this —

It was not luck, but the use of the proper fly for this weather, that enabled me to catch a two-pound trout when you were getting only small fish. .

And this is necessary in order to express your thought.

Thought Relationships in the Complex Sentence. — The members of a complex sentence have naturally a set of relationships quite different from those of a compound sentence. They are joined together by different connectives, called subordinate connectives, or “connectives of inequality.” These relationships may be classified as were those of the compound sentence, and the useful means of connection indicated here also. It is thinking out clearly the true relationship between your chief statement and the clause by which you wish to modify it, and using the right words to express this relationship, that make you master of the complex sentence.


1. Where the dependent clause is used for any of the services performed by a noun, as in, “I fear that I cannot come,” or “What he thought did not interest me.”

2. When the dependent clause is used as an adjective, that is, to modify a noun or pronoun in the principal clause, as in, “Here is an automobile which you would do well to examine before making your purchase.”

The connectives used here are the relative pronouns or

words which are their equivalents: who, which, what, that, when (meaning time at which), and where (meaning place at which or in which). The two latter are used in indirect statements and questions.

3. When the dependent clause is used as an adverb, to modify any part of speech in the principal clause other than a noun or a pronoun, as in, “I flew in the aéroplane as a bird flies.”

The connectives used here may be called either conjunctive adverbs or adverbial conjunctions. They vary according to the various kinds of relationships possible in complex sentences which have adverbial clauses. There are eight of these relationships:– a. Place, expressed usually by where, whence, whither, as in, “Where the water was deep, I swam.” b. Time, expressed by when, whenever, while, until, before, etc., as in, “I stumble whenever I follow that path.” c. Manner, expressed by as, how, etc., as in, “I ran as a deer runs.” *d. Cause, expressed by for (only when it means “because ’’), since, because, as in, “I like him because I see honesty in his face.” e. Purpose, expressed by so that, lest, in order that, as in, “I punish you in order that you may remember next time.” f. Condition, expressed by if, unless, provided, as in, “If you go, I can send the boy with you.” g. Concession, expressed by though, or its equivalents, as in, “She paid him, though she remained unsatisfied.” h. Comparison or Degree, expressed by as (never “like ’’), than, - when preceded by a comparative (never

1 The resemblance between the coördinate clauses of reason discussed as

relationship 6 of the Compound Sentence, and these subordinate clauses of cause is confusing. The clauses of reason are independent statements of the reason for advancing the thought uttered in the first part of the sentence. The clauses of cause are only modifiers of the main thought, and incomplete without it. A slight alteration will change one form into the other. Notice the different shading of thought obtained by making our exemplary sentence above compound instead of complex: —

“He will be popular, for I know that I see honesty in his face,”

used with “different,” as “different than”), just as, etc., as in, “He is stronger than I am.” "

EXERCISES I. Compose sentences illustrating the different types of connectives of inequality. II. Answer the following questions by means of complex sentences. Classify the connective used:— 1. What is the difference between a compound and a complex sentence? 2. How does a simple sentence differ from a complex sentence? 3. Why are not all sentences simple 2 4. What difference is there between connectives of equality and connectives of inequality ? III. Make complex sentences by adding to the following clauses. Tell what kind of clause each one is and what it explains or modifies : — 1. When I reached home — — 2. — that I found — — 3. If I go

1 Subordinate conjunctives are sometimes classified as follows: —

Place — where, whence, whither.

Time when, whenever.

Manner—as, how.

Cause—for (only when it means “because.” When “for” explains, it is a connective of equality. See pp. 49 and 57), since, because.

Purpose—that, lest.

Condition if, unless, provided.

Concession—though, although.

Comparison — as (never “like '').

Degree— than (preceded by comparative adjective or adverb, never with “different ’’).

Result—so that — “He did it so well that I was pleased.” “That,” “if,” “whether,” are also used as initiative or introductory conjunctions in noun clauses, – “That he is wrong, has been proved.”

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