Analysis of a complex sentence

Posted by Manjusha. Filed in English Grammar

A complex sentence consists of one main clause and one or more subordinate clauses.

The first thing we need to do to analyze a complex sentence is to find out the main or principal clause.

Study the example sentence given below.

The sentence given above consists of four clauses. To find out the number of clauses in a sentence you just need to count the number of finite verbs in that sentence.

A sentence that has two finite verbs has two clauses. In the same way, a sentence that has four finite verbs has four clauses.

Verbs can be finite or non-finite. Infinitives, participles and gerunds are non-finites. All other verbs are finites.

So, in the example given above the finite verbs are: was asked, lived, answered and was.

Now let us analyze that sentence:

Analysis of the complex sentence

1. The old man answered. (Main clause)

2. Whenever he was asked that question (Adverb clause of time modifying the verb answered.)

3. Who lived in that house (Adjective clause modifying the noun man.)

4. That the earth was flat (Noun clause which acts as the object of the main verb answered.)

Note that an adverb clause of time says when something happens. An adverb clause of place says where something happens. Adverbs usually express ideas such as time, place, manner, frequency etc.

A noun clause usually acts as the subject or object of the verb in another clause. In the example given above, the noun clause is the object of the verb in the main clause.

Sometimes a subordinate clause has another subordinate clause within it.

Now let’s analyze another sentence.

Before you start analyzing this sentence you have to find out the number of finite verbs in it.

There are three: think, pocketed and was lying.

You can find more information about finite and non-finite verbs on this page.

Analysis of the complex sentence

1. I think. (Main clause)

2. That he pocketed the mobile phone (Noun clause which acts as the object of the verb think.)

3. Which was lying on the table. (Adjective clause which modifies the noun mobile phone.)

Sections in this article

Tense rules - overview
The simple present tense
The present progressive tense
The present perfect tense
The present perfect progressive tense
Present tenses to talk about the future
The simple past tense
The past progressive tense
The past perfect tense
Correct use of the past perfect tense
The past perfect progressive tense
Past verb forms with present or future meaning
The simple future tense
The future progressive tense
The future perfect tense
Tenses in subordinate clauses


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