What is a complex sentence?

 

The term ‘complex sentence’ simply means a sentence with more than one clause. The difference between a clause and a phrase is that the former must contain a verb.

This article will look at a few common kinds of clauses. The main aim behind this is to make you aware of the variety of structures that are available for expressing yourself. Showing that you can use a range of structures is an essential requirement for getting a level 7 score.

What is the difference between dependent and independent clauses?

 

As the names suggest, an independent (or ‘main’) clause is one that can exist on its own.

Example: ‘I worked eight hours today.’

In contrast, you cannot use a dependent (or ‘subordinate’) clause on its own to form sentences.

Example: ‘Because I had a lot to do.’ is not a sentence.

‘I worked eight hours today. because I had a lot to do.’ is a sentence.

What is the difference between finite and non-finite clauses?

 

A finite clause refers to a clause with a verb that shows tense. They can be main or subordinate clauses.

Examples: ‘It is raining..’, ‘Although it rained, …..’

A non-finite clause contains a verb but one that does not indicate tense. Non-finite verbs are mainly only used in subordinate clauses. Such clauses are often used when the subject is the same in the subordinate and main clause.

Example: ‘After taking the exam, I went out with my friends.’

What is a relative cause?

 

A relative clause allows the writer to give more information about a subject or object without having to repeat words already used. Instead of needing two sentences, the writer can convey information in one sentence.

Example: ‘The policeman stopped the car. The car was swerving all over the road.’ This can become:

‘The policeman stopped the car, which was swerving all over the road.’

There are three types of relative clauses: defining, non-defining, and sentential.

What is a defining relative clause?

 

A defining relative clause as its name suggests, defines the subject or object it refers to. By ‘defines’, we mean gives essential information.

Examples: ‘She is the woman who gave me the idea for the project.’

‘I like a car which I can drive without worrying about breaking down.’

What is a non-defining relative clause?

 

A non-defining relative clause is used to give extra but not necessary information about a subject or object. In this case, ‘not necessary’ means we don’t need the extra information to understand the content of the main clause. Commas are required to separate the main and subordinate clause.

Example: ‘My boss, who I’ve known for over twenty years, suddenly decided to leave the company.’

What is a sentential relative clause?

 

This type of clause refers to the whole of a clause or a whole sentence. The pronoun used for such clauses is always ‘which’.

Example: Everyone worked and no-one wanted to leave until the job was done, which impressed me a lot.

The key to accurately using relative clauses is to understand which relative pronouns are required. Here is a table with the main pronouns showing when they should be used.

 

Relative pronounType of clauseWhat or who they refer to
whodefining and non-definingpeople ( pets also possible)
whichdefining and non-defining; sententialanimals and things
thatdefiningpeople, animals and things
whosedefining and non-definingpossessive for people, animals, and sometimes  things in formal situations
whomdefining and non-definingpeople in formal styles and in writing
no relative pronoundefiningWhen the relative pronoun refers to the object of the main clause


Exercise 1

 

How many clauses are there in the following sentences taken from answers to task 1 (general and academic) questions?

 

  1. I’d like to study electrical engineering at university in Australia next year and I hope you can give me some advice.

 

  1. When I got home, I discovered that there was a small hole in the left sleeve, where the stitching had unravelled.

 

  1. By comparing fruit sugar, cane sugar and honey, which are all common ingredients of sweet foods, we find that cane sugar lowers pH levels for the longest period, thus producing the greatest risk of the three.

 

Exercise 2

 

 

Identify the clauses in the following and note whether they are finite (fin) or non-finite(non-fin).

  1. Being short of money, I always check prices carefully before buying anything.

 

  1. Having said this, many people still prefer LPs to CDs.

 

  1. If you want to learn to speak a foreign language fluently, then you should seriously consider going to live for a lengthy period of time in a country which speaks the language you are learning.

 

Exercise 3

 

 

Choose the correct relative pronoun in the following:

  1. He is very conservative, that/which is why he so dislikes change.

 

  1. A group of researchers, all of which/whose members are under 30 have made an amazing breakthrough.

 

  1. The chart that/ which is easiest to understand is the middle one.

 

  1. The calculation, that/which I carried out yesterday, unfortunately proved to be inaccurate.

 

Exercise 4

 

 

In which of the sentences below can the parts in bold  be omitted?

 

  1. The examples that were given were all misleading.

 

  1. The results, which were released yesterday, have forced the forced the team to reconsider the project.

 

  1. A sample, which was 6cm long, was used in the demonstration.

 

  1. The universities that will survive are those that can offer high level tuition at a reasonable price

 

Exercise 5

 

 

The following are excerpts from answers to Task 2 questions. Add the missing subordinate clauses from the box below.

Qn: “Although abuse of the system are inevitable, social welfare payments are essential to protect the rights citizens have to a guaranteed minimum income in a democratic society” Discuss.

 

  1. The second reason is that crime increases when people have no means of support. The desperately poor inevitably turn to crime, …………………………………………………..

 

  1. It is surely the fault of the government ………………………………………………..

 

  1. ……………………..welfare payments the poor are destined to become poorer.

 

Qn:  Studying the English language in an English-speaking country is the best but not the only way to learn language. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

 

  1. …………………………………, their knowledge of grammar is often quite advanced.

 

  1. Also, students can experience the culture firsthand,……………………… This is especially true, ……………………………….., as exchange students for example.

 

  1. In general,…………………………………………….. , a reasonable level of English can be achieved in one’s own country,……………………………………………………….

 

if they choose to live with a British familyif a student is gifted and dedicated to studyNot having
if there are long-term unemployed.which is not only dangerous but costly. Although their spoken English is not usually of a very high standard
even though it is preferable to study English in an English-speaking countrywhich is a great help when trying to understand the language 

 


Look out for complex sentences when you are reading. The more you read the more you can build up the range of sentence patterns you feel confident to use.

 

FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course

 

If you are serious about taking your IELTS writing to the next level, sign up for your FREE 3 part IELTS writing video course that takes you through both task 1 and task 2. The video lessons are led by our highly experienced UK native IELTS teacher, Katherine. We also provide you with exercises to test your understanding!

Sign up your FREE IELTS writing video course by clicking here: https://swoosh-english.thinkific.com/courses/ielts-writing-video-course

Don’t forget to COMMENT and SHARE with friends and classmates who are doing the IELTS exam also.

 

Answers to exercises

 

 

Exercise 1
 

How many clauses are there in the following paragraphs taken from answers to task 1 (general and academic) questions?

 

  1. I’d like to study electrical engineering at university in Australia next year / and I hope you can give me some advice.  2

 

  1. When I got home ,/ I discovered that there was a small hole in the left sleeve,/ where and the stitching had unravelled.   3

 

  1. By comparing fruit sugar, cane sugar and honey, / which are all common ingredients of sweet foods, / we find that cane sugar lowers pH levels for the longest period,/ thus producing the greatest risk of the three. 4

 

Exercise 2

 

Identify the clauses in the following and note whether they are finite (fin) or non-finite(non-fin).

  1. Being short of money, / I always check prices carefully / before buying anything.

                   non-fin                                      fin                                    non-fin

 

  1. Having said this,/ many people still prefer LPs to CDs.

                  non-fin    /                                              fin                               

 

  1. If you want to learn to speak a foreign language fluently

              non-fin

then you should seriously consider /

                       fin

 going to live for a lengthy period of time in a country  /

                    non-fin

which speaks the language / you are learning.

                  fin                              fin


Exercise 3

 

Choose the correct relative pronoun in the following

 

  1. He is very conservative, that/which is why he so dislikes change.

 

  1. A group of researchers, all of which/whose members are under 30,have mad an amazing breakthrough.

 

  1. The chart that/ which is easiest to understand is the middle one.

 

  1. The calculation, that/which I carried out yesterday, unfortunately proved to be inaccurate.
Exercise 4

 

In which of the sentences below can the parts in bold  be omitted?

Can omit

  1. The examples( that were )given were all misleading.

 

  1. The results,( which were )released yesterday, have forced the forced the team to reconsider the project.

 

  1. A sample, (which was) 6cm long, was used in the demonstration.
 

 

Cannot omit:

 

  1. The universities that will survive are those that can offer high level tuition at a reasonable price
 
Exercise 5

 

The following are excerpts from answers to Task 2 questions. Add the missing subordinate clauses from the box below.

 

  1. The second reason is that crime increases when people have no means of support. The desperately poor inevitably turn to crime, which is not only dangerous but costly.
  2. It is surely the fault of the government if there are long-term unemployed.
  3. Not having welfare payments, the poor are destined to become poorer.
  1. Although their spoken English is not usually of a very high standard, their knowledge of grammar is often quite advanced.
  2. Also, students can experience ‘the culture’ first-hand, which is a great help when trying to understand the language. This is especially true if they choose to live with a British family, as exchange students for example.
  3. In general, even though it is preferable to study English in an English-speaking country, a reasonable level of English can be achieved in one’s own country, if a student is gifted and dedicated to study.

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