So far we have been dealing, mostly, with simple sentences, as opposed to complex or compound sentences.
A simple sentence is defined as a sentence containing just one independent clause.
What’s a clause? A clause is a group of word containing a finite verb and a subject. It is an independent clause if it states a complete idea – if it stands on its own. It is a dependent clause if it is subordinated to another clause.
What’s a finite verb? This is a verb that has been inflected to show tense. Sometimes this inflection is on the verb itself
He walked to school.
sometimes it’s on the auxiliaries
He has been walking to school.
sometimes it doesn’t seem to be there, but is.
I walk to school every day.
In this last case we have a present tense verb that looks exactly like the infinitive (uninflected) form of the verb: (To) walk. L
Non-finite /infinitive verb forms include the infinitive (to walk), the gerund (walking) and the participle (walking, walked). Notice that some of these forms are used in verb phrases, so yes, this is going to get tricky.
The key thing to remember is that to have an independent clause we must have three things: A subject, a finite verb, and a complete idea.
Elvis danced all night.
Marie gave the dog her sandwich.
No one is upset yet.
Dependent clauses also have subjects and finite verbs, but their ideas are incomplete.
Even though I hate fish, I ordered bass.
We were late because Jed overslept again.
Both of the underlined clauses have subjects (I, Jed) and finite verbs (hate, overslept), but neither expresses a complete idea. This is because of the subordinating conjunction that connects each to its main (or independent) clause – subordinates it to its main clause (even though, because).
Sentences like this – sentences in which we have a dependent clause modifying an independent clause – these are called complex sentences.
Compound sentences are sentences in which we have two independent clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction:
Lily drove to school, and Maria drove home.
I want pie, but you can have cake.
Compound-complex sentences are sentences in which we have two independent sentences linked by a coordinating conjunction in which at least one of these sentences has a dependent clause.
Lily drove to school, because the truck had been left at her house, and then Maria drove home.
Test yourself: Which of these sentences contain dependent clauses?
(1) James drove to school after work.
(2) My mother, after she found my books, called the school.
(3) Since last summer, we have skipped eating lunch.
(4) No one wants the job because the hours are too crazy.
(Scroll down for the answer!)
(Answer: Odds don't, evens do. Remember that all clauses, dependent or independent, must contain both a subject and a finite verb. Hit me up in the comments if you still don't get it.)