Thursday, June 20, 2013
The Rules of Writing-Syntax-The Sentence-Complex Sentences
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: June 17, 2013
As we encounter the third kind of sentence, we can put our knowledge of dependent and independent clauses to the test.
Complex sentences contain one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. By using the sentence constructions so far reviewed, we hope to show a logical progression from simple to complex.
Sonia is cute. I hate her.
Sonia is cute, but I hate her.
Although Sonia is cute, I hate her.
In the third example, the use of a subordinating conjunction, also called a subordinator, transforms a simple sentence into a dependent clause. (The most common subordinating conjunctions are after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that, though, till, until, when, where, whether, while, etc.)
The order of dependent/independent clauses is not important in this sentence classification. Examples:
Dependent Clause—Independent Clause
Because of the weather,—we didn’t go sailing
Although we had to run,—we made it to the airport in time.
Independent Clause—Dependent Clause
I missed the shooting stars,—although I stayed up late.
I will go home,—after I buy the dynamite.
Dependent Clause—Independent Clause—Dependent Clause
Even though Lisa enjoyed the book,—she will not buy its sequel—because the reviews are awful.
After a swim,—we strolled along the promenade—before we dressed.
For writers, these three sentence kinds, their nature and iterations are important to convey the weight or importance of correlative ideas. Let’s examine once more the examples above, this time in terms of “weight.”
In the first example, though tone and meaning differ, both sentences have equal weight. Both express clear ideas. “Sonia is cute,” is a complete statement. Of course, its meaning will hinge on Sonia’s age. If she’s a toddler, the sentence conveys the image of a cuddly little princess. If she were in her twenties, the image would remain positive but with ambiguous undertones. “Cute” is often a crutch adjective to describe someone who doesn’t merit “gorgeous” or “beautiful.” The second sentence is equally direct: “I hate her.” It shares the properties of the first sentence. If Bobby (aged six) were to stomp out of his older sister’s room, complaining she stole (make that borrowed) his computer game, the scene wouldn’t have the same meaning if Bobby was forty, drunk, and in possession of a baseball bat.
In other words, both sentences in the first example are round, and the reader wouldn’t know which of these ideas have more weight in the story. The writer must understand the construction well enough to know if the thoughts have equal value.
In the compound example, “Sonia is cute, but I hate her,” there’s added nuance, but unless the surrounding text bolsters one or the other idea, the reader cannot determine which is more important, since both clauses could still stand as independent sentences.
In the third example, however, the sentence has changed. The first clause “Although Sonia is cute,” is an incomplete thought, or in grammar parlance a dependant clause. We need something else to finish the idea; we need a dependent clause such as “I hate her.”
A complex sentence is different from a simple sentence or a compound sentence because it shifts the focus over to the most important idea. In, “Although Sonia is cute, I hate her.” The subordinating conjunction drains the first clause of its importance. Now we know that regardless of Sonia’s cuteness, hate wins the day.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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