Special Complications in Complex Sentences

Special Complications in Complex Sentences :


The processes of
coordination and subordination may be so utilized in one and the same sentence as to produce a very complicated structure.

Examples of such sentences are given below, for reference. Their structure, however elaborate, is always either
complex or compound complex .


The following sentences are complex. They contain either compound or complex clauses or both.

1. They preferred the silver with which they were familiar, and which they were constantly passing about from hand to hand, to the gold which they had never before seen, and with the value of which they were unacquainted.—MACAULAY.

The main clause of this complex sentence is….they preferred the silver to the gold. To this are separately attached two adjective clauses, both compound: (1) with which ... hand, modifying silver; (2) which they had ... unacquainted, modifying gold.

2. All London crowded to shout and laugh round the gibbet where hung the rotting remains of a prince who had made England the dread of the world, who had been the chief founder of her maritime greatness and of her colonial empire, who had conquered Scotland and Ireland, who had humbled Holland and Spain.—MACAULAY.

The sentence is complex. The main clause is…..all London crowded to shout and laugh round the gibbet. The rest of the sentence (where ... Spain) forms one long complex adjective clause, modifying gibbet. In this complex clause, the first clause (where ... prince) has dependent on it a compound adjective clause (modifying prince), made up of four coördinate clauses, each beginning with who. The subordination of this compound clause to that which precedes (where ... prince) produces the long complex subordinate clause where ... Spain.

3. As we cannot at present get Mr. Joseph out of the inn, we shall leave him in it, and carry our reader on after Parson Adams, who, his mind being perfectly at ease, fell into a contemplation on a passage in Æschylus, which entertained him for three miles together, without suffering him once to reflect on his fellow-traveller.—FIELDING

In this complex sentence, two subordinate clauses are separately attached to the main clause: (1) the adverbial clause as ... inn; (2) the adjective clause who ... fellow-traveller. This latter clause is complex, since it contains the adjective clause which ... fellow-traveller, dependent on who ... Æschylus, and modifying passage.

4. As I sit by my window this summer afternoon, hawks are circling about my clearing; the tantivy of wild pigeons, flying by twos and threes athwart my view, or perching restlessly on the white pine boughs behind my house, gives a voice to the air; a fishhawk dimples the glassy surface of the pond and brings up a fish; a mink steals out of the marsh before my door and seizes a frog by the shore; the sedge is bending under the weight of the reed-birds flitting hither and hither; and for the last half hour I have heard the rattle of railroad cars, now dying away and then revving like the beat of a partridge, conveying travellers from Boston to the country.—THOREAU

This sentence is complex. Its main clause is compound, consisting of a series of six coördinate simple clauses. The whole of this long compound main clause is modified by the adverbial clause with which the sentence begins (as ... afternoon).

5. That they had sprung from obscurity, that they had acquired great wealth, that they exhibited it insolently, that they spent it extravagantly, that they raised the price of everything in their neighborhood, from fresh eggs to rotten boroughs; that their liveries outshone those of dukes, that their coaches were finer than that of the Lord Mayor, that the examples of their large and ill-governed households corrupted half the servants in the country; that some of them, with all their magnificence, could not catch the tone of good society, but in spite of the stud and the crowd of menials, of the plate and the Dresden china, of the venison and the Burgundy, were still low men,—these were things which excited, both in the class from which they had sprung, and in that into which they attempted to force themselves, that bitter aversion which is the effect of mingled envy and contempt.—MACAULAY

This complex sentence, though very long, is perfectly easy to follow. It begins with a long compound noun clause (consisting of nine coördinate that-clauses). This would be the subject of the main predicate verb were, but for the fact that the pronoun these is inserted to act as the subject (referring back to the compound noun clause and summing it up in a single word). To the complement things is attached the adjective clause which excited ... contempt. This clause is complex, for it contains three adjective clauses, (1) from which they had sprung (modifying class), (2) into which ... themselves(modifying that), and (3) which is ... contempt (modifying aversion). All three are separately attached to the clause on which they depend, which excited that bitter aversion. Thus all that portion of the sentence which follows things forms one complex clause, modifying that noun.

6. That I may avoid the imputation of throwing out, even privately, any loose, random imputations against the public conduct of a gentleman for whom I once entertained a very warm affection, and whose abilities I regard with the greatest admiration, I will put down, distinctly and articulately, some of the matters of objection which I feel to his late doctrines and proceedings, trusting that I shall be able to demonstrate to the friends whose good opinion I would still cultivate, that not levity, nor caprice, nor less defensible motives, but that very grave reasons, influence my judgment.—BURKE

This is a fine example of a long, but well-constructed complex sentence. The main clause is…..I will put down, distinctly and articulately, some of the matters of objection. Upon this simple clause, everything else in the sentence depends in one way or another.

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