The complex sentence
A complex sentence of two clauses, one is the basic element, whereas the other is a constituent or part of the first. The first one is called the main (or principal) clause, the second the subordinate clause.
Formal indicators of subordination (connectors)
Subordination is marked by some formal signals contained either in the subordinate clause or in both — the main and the subordinate clause.
These formal signals may be conjunctions or connectives.
Conjunctions are specialized formal devices (connectors) the only function of which is to link clauses and express the relation between them. They usually stand at the beginning of a subordinate clause. The only exception to this rule is the complex sentence with a concessive clause, where owing to partial inversion the conjunction may come second, after the word which is the focus of concessive meaning.
Conjunctions may be one word-form (that, because, though, etc.), phrasal (in order that, providing that, for all that, so far as, etc.), or paired (or correlative, that is, correlated with some element(s) in the principal clause: as… as, such… as, etc.). Some conjunctions may be used in combination with particles (even if, even though, even when, just as, if only).
Connectives combine two functions – that of linking clauses and that of a part in the subordinate clause
Connectives are subdivided into conjunctive words (conjunctive subordinating pronouns and adverbs), which are used to join nominal clauses and relative words (pronouns and adverbs), used to join attributive clauses. Some conjunctive and relative words coincide in form.
The difference between conjunctive words and relative words lies in their role within the sentence or clause. In the case of conjunctive words the choice is determined by the structure and meaning of the subordinate clause itself:
e.g. don’t know who he is. (who is a predicative: he is who)
In the case of relative words the choice depends on the antecedent: in the main clause:
E.g. This is the book which I promised you.
The relationship of subordination requires only two members, a complex sentence may consist of more than two clauses. It may form a hierarchy of clauses. This is called consecutive or successive subordination.
I see that you have lost the key (which I gave you)
Main clauses ? Subordinate clause ? Subordinate clause
The main clause may have several subordinate clauses of equal rank, that is coordinated with one another. This kind of relationship is called parallel subordination or co-subordination, and the subordinate clauses are homogeneous.
Main clauseSubordinate clause | and | Subordinate clause
e.g. I know that you are afraid of me and that you suspect me of something.
The main clause may have several subordinate clauses with different functions.
e.g. All she saw was that she might go to prison for a robbery she had committed years ago.
Main clause All… was… ;—————————————— Predicative clause … that she might go to prison for a robbery…
Attributive clause.. …she saw… Attributive clause .. .she had committed years ago.
Occasionally the two ways of joining clauses may result in a sentence of great complexity, when two or more main clauses are coordinated, each of them being the “main” in relation to their subordinate clauses.
e.g. The walls were panelled, because this was the office of the department chairman, and because this department was physics, the panels held small engraved portraits of Newton, Leibnitz, Faraday, and other scientists.
Main clause The walls were panelled—————and———————— main clause the panels held small engraved portraits of… scientists
Subordinate clause of cause…because this was the office of the department chairman Subordinate clause of cause …because this department was physics…
Subordination is used to join clauses with a different degree of interdependence or fusion, in the same way as parts of the sentence are joined to one another with a different intensity of connection. Therefore some clauses – subject, predicative, most object clauses – are obligatory for the completeness of main parts, which are otherwise deficient.
THE COMPLEX SENTENCE WITH NOMINAL CLAUSES
All nominal clauses have a function approximating to that of a noun or a nominal phrase. They may fulfill the function of a basic part of the main clause: a subject clause functions as subject of the main clause which has no subject of its own, a predicative clause functions as predicative to the link verb within the main clause; an object clause refers to verbs in different forms and functions, to adjectives, statives and occasionally to nouns, and may be obligatory or optional, an appositional clause – refers to a noun either with a very general meaning or requiring additional information and is therefore essential to the meaning of the sent.
THE COMPLEX SENTENCE WITH A SUBJECT CLAUSE
A subject clause may be introduced by conjunctions (that, if, whether, whether… or, because, the way) or connectives. The latter may be either conjunctive pronouns (who, whoever, what, whatever, which) or conjunctive adverbs (where, wherever, when, whenever, how, why).
Types of subject clauses
Complex sentences with subject clauses may be of two patterns:
1. When a subject clause precedes the predicate of the main clause:
e.g. What I need is a piece of good advice.
Subject clauses of this type cannot be joined asyndetically, as the opening words signal the subordinate status of the clause. The main clause having no subject is deficient in its structure and meaning unless joined with the subordinate clause.
e.g. What you say is a good piece of advice.
2. When a subject clause is in final position, the usual place of the subject being occupied by formal it:
e.g. It seemed unfair to him that he should suffer more than his wife.
In exclamatory sentences the formal it may be only implied.
e.g. How wonderful that they should meet at last! (How wonderful it is…)
In this pattern of the complex sentence the subject clause may be joined asyndetically.
THE COMPLEX SENTENCE WITH PREDICATIVE CLAUSE
A predicative clause may be introduced by conjunctions (that, whether, whether… or, as, as if, as though, because, lest, the way), or connectives. The latter may be conjunctive pronouns (who, whoever, what, whatever, which) or conjunctive adverbs (where, wherever, when, whenever, how, why).
e.g. The fact was that he had forgotten about it.
The choice of conjunction is closely connected with the meaning of the word functioning as the subject of the main clause. Thus the conjunction because is used when the word functioning as subject expresses reason, the conjunction whether — when it expresses doubt or implies choice. The connective when is used when the noun functioning as subject expresses a temporal notion (time, day, evening, moment) and the connective where is used when it denotes a place.
If the subject denotes order, proposal, request, suggestion, arrangement, desire, etc., the conjunction that is generally used, followed by a clause with the predicate in the subjunctive mood (should + infinitive).
e.g. Our proposal is that you should join in.
Predicative clauses with comparative meaning are introduced by the comparative conjunctions as, as if, as though.
e.g. It was as though our last meeting was forgotten.
Predicative clauses introduced by the conjunctions as, as if, as though should not be confused with adverbial clauses of comparison introduced by the same conjunctions. A predicative clause immediately follows the link verb, which does not express complete predication without the clause. In the case of an adverbial clause, the preceding verb is that of complete predication and the clause may be distant from the verb it modifies, for instance.
e.g. Mrs Abinger hated to be talked to as if she were a child.
Predicative clauses may be joined asyndetically. In this case they are usually separated by a comma or a dash.
e.g. The result was, his master raised his wages a hundred a month.
Types of predicative clauses
I. They may follow the main clause in which the subject is a notional word, although it usually has a very general meaning (thing, question, problem, news, sensation, evil, rule, trouble, etc.). In this case the predicative clause discloses the meaning of the subject.
e.g. The rule was that they walked down to the cliff path and travelled up in the lift.
II The predicative clause may follow the main clause in which the subject is expressed by the impersonal pronoun it. In this case the predicative clause describes the situation, either directly or by means of comparison.
e.g. It appears he hasn’t been there.
THE COMPLEX SENTENCE WITH OBJECT CLAUSEAn object clause may be introduced by conjunctions (that, if, whether, whether… or, lest), or connectives. The latter may be conjunctive pronouns (who, whoever, what, whatever, which), or conjunctive adverbs (where, wherever, when, whenever, why, how).
An object clause may refer to any verbal form, either finite or nonfinite
e.g. Jon followed, wondering if he had offended her.
An object clause may either follow or precede the main clause; it may be joined asyndetically and in this case it always follows the main clause.
e.g. What she thinks it would be impossible to say.
Object clauses may refer to some adjectives expressing perception, desire, feeling, assurance (certain, sure, sorry, pleased, desirous, jealous, anxious, etc.), and to statives (aware, afraid, etc.).
e.g. I’m very sorry I disturbed you.
After some adjectives denoting a state (glad, sorry, happy, etc.) the object clause may imply semantically the cause of that state.
e.g. I am very sorry I disturbed you ——? I am very sorry because I disturbed you.
After adjectives and participles denoting wish or intention (anxious, determined, interested, etc.) the object clause may imply purpose: I am anxious that you should succeed.
e.g. She had green eyes and a spattering of what Joseph called American freckles across the bridge of her nose.
Types of object clauses1. An object clause may directly follow the word it refers to (a non-prepositional object clause). In this case it is parallel in function to a direct object.
e.g. I know when I am wasting time.
A typical most recurrent type of object clauses is indirect speech following verbs of saying.
e.g. He said he had never heard of it.
Like subject clauses, object clauses may be preceded by the formal it, usually after the verbs to feel, to believe, to consider, to find, to take, to like, to insist on, etc.
e.g. I like it when people are nice to me.
An object clause may refer to formal it followed by the objective predicative after the verbs to think, to find, to make, to consider, etc.
e.g. I found it strange that she could speak so calmly.
2. Object clauses parallel in function to indirect objects are very rare. However, they are possible, the necessary condition for it being that the object clause should be followed by a direct object.
e.g. You may give whoever you like any presents.
3. There are also cases when an object clause functions like a cognate object to a verb.
e.g. He and his mamma knew very few people and lived what might have been thought very lonely lives.
4. An object clause may be joined to the main clause by the prepositions after, about, before, beyond, for, near, of, as to, except, etc. (a prepositional object clause). In this case it is parallel in function to a prepositional non-recipient object. If a preposition is very closely attached to the preceding verb or adjective (to agree upon, to call for, to comment upon, to depend on, to hear of, to insist on, to be certain of, to be sorry for, etc.) it generally precedes the object clause.
e.g. I want to be paid for what I do.
Some prepositions which would be indispensable before nouns or gerunds used as objects are not always necessary before object clauses.
e.g. We insisted that he should stay with us.
(We insisted on his staying with us.)
The preposition is retained when there is a formal object it followed by an object clause.
e.g. We insisted on it that he should stay with us.