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THE COMPLEX SENTENCE
§ 3. A complexsentence consists of a principal clause and one or more subordinate clauses.
N о t e. — This definition is true, however, only in a general sense. In an exact
sense there is often no principal clause; this is the case with complex
sentences containing a subject clause or a predicative clause.
(For a detailed treatment of this phenomenon see § 4, 5.)
Clauses in a complex sentence may be linked in two ways:
1. Syndetically, i. e. by means of subordinating conjunctions or connectives.
There is a difference between a conjunction and a connective. A conjunction only serves as a formal element connecting separate clauses, whereas a connective serves as a connecting link and has at the same time a syntactic function in the subordinate clause it introduces.
More and more, she became convinced thatsome misfortune had overtaken
Paul. (Cronin) (CONJUNCTION)
All thathe had sought for and achieved seemed suddenly to have no meaning.
2. Asyndetically, i. e. without a conjunction or connective.
I wish you had come earlier. (Heym)
Circumstances try the metal a man is really made of. (Collins)
A subordinate clause may follow, precede, or interrupt the principal clause.
His steps quickened as he set out for the hotel. (Cronin)
As the family had no visitors that day, its four members dined alone together. (Dickens)
It was dull and dreary enough, when the long summer evening closed in, on that Saturday night. (Collins)
A complex sentence may contain two or more homogeneous clauses coordinated with each other.
They were all obstinately of opinion that the poor girl had stolen the
moonstone, and that she had destroyed herself in terror of being found out.
What Mr. Pancks knew about the Dorrit family, what more he really wanted
to find out, and why he should trouble his busy head about them at all, were
questions that often perplexed him. (Dickens)
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A subordinate clause may be subordinated to the principal clause or to another subordinate clause. Accordingly we distinguish subordinate clauses of the first, second, third, etc. degree of subordination.
He never asked why Erik was giving up academic work. (Wilson)
I don’t mind making the admission... that there are certain forms of so-called
humor, or, at least, fun,which I am quite unable to appreciate. (Leacock)
I think I have noticedthat they have an inconsistent way of speaking about
her,as if she had made some great self-interested success in marrying Mr.
According to their grammatical function subordinate clauses are divided into subject, predicative, attributive, object, and adverbial clauses.
§ 4. Subject clauses perform the function of subject to the predicate of the principal clause. Attention should be paid to the peculiar structure of the principal clause, which in this case has no subject, the subordinate clause serving as such.
What I want to do is to save us both. (Dreiser)
If a subject clause follows the principal clause the so-called introductory it is used in the principal clause.
Itwas always possible that they might encounter some one. (Dreiser)
N o t e. — There is another view of the analysis of sentences of this type,
according to which it is the subject of the principal clause, and the subordinate
clause is a predicative clause.
Subject clauses are connected with the principal clause in the following way’s;
(a) by means of the conjunctions that, if, whether.
It was unfortunate that the patient was brought in during the evening. (Heym)
Whether she was determined to bring matters to a crisis, or whether she was
prompted by some private sign from Mr. Buff, is more than I can tell.
(b) by means of the connectives who, which, what, whoever, whatever (conjunctive pronouns); where, when, how, why (conjunctive adverbs).
What was done could not be undone. (Hardy)
Whatever I can do for you will be nothing but paying a debt... (Eliot)
It’s a grand thing when you see the working class in action. (Lindsay)
It is a pity her brother should be quite a stranger to her. (Eliot)
Subject clauses are not separated from the principal clause by a comma except when we have two or more subject clauses coordinated with each other.
Who her mother was, and how she came to die in that forlorn-ness, were
questions that often pressed on Eppie’s mind. (Eliot)
It was plain, pitiably plain, that he was aware of his own defect of memory,
and that he was bent on hiding it from the observation of his friends. (Collins)
N o t e. — Formally it is possible to distinguish a subject clause in sentences
with an emphatic construction; however, in meaning they are equivalent to
It was his uncle who spoke first. (Priestley)
It was there that the offensive was to begin. (Hemingway)
It was very seldom that I uttered more than monosyllables in Dr. John’s
presence. (Ch. Bronte)
It was not till she was quite close that he could believe her to be Tess. (Hardy)
§ 5. Predicative clauses perform the function of a predicative. The peculiarity of complex sentences with a predicative clause is that in the principal clause we find only part of the predicate, i. e. a link verb, which together with the predicative clause forms a compound nominal predicate.
Predicative clauses are connected with the principal clause in the following ways:
(a) by means of the conjunctions that, if, whether, as if.
Our attitude simply is that facts are facts. (Leacock)
The thing to be settle on now is whether anything can be done to save him.
It was as if these men and women had matured. (Heym)
It seems as if all these years I’ve been living under false pretences. (Cronin)
I felt as if death had laid a hand on me. (Eliot)
(b) by means of the connectives who, which, what (conjunctive pronouns), where, when, how, why (conjunctive adverbs).
But this time, just about sunset, was always what I loved best. (Eliot)
The question was how was the matter to be kept quiet. (Dreiser)
That was why you were not one bit frightened. (Eliot)
Another thing... was they had nurse Andrews staying on with them that week.
As a rule predicative clauses are not separated by a comma; a comma is used if we have two or more predicative clauses coordinated with each other.
But the chief reason is, that Mirah will desire to watch over you, and that you
ought to give her the guardianship of a brother’s presence. (Eliot)
N o t e. — In a sentence containing a subject clause and a predicative clause
the principal clause is represented only by the link verb.
What we want to know is what the French are going to do now. (Greene)
§ 6. Object clauses perform the function of an object to the predicate-verb of the principal clause.
I don’t know what you are talking about. (Gow and D’Ussean)
An object clause may also refer to a non-finite form of the verb, to an adjective, or to a word belonging to the part of speech expressing state.
I formed the habit of calling in on him in the evening to discuss what I had
I ventured on asking why he was in such a hurry to get back to town.
Mr. Bruff folded up the will, and then looked my way apparently wondering
whether I did or did not mean to leave him alone with my aunt. (Collins)
Soames averted his eyes and became conscious that Winifred and he were
They were not sure what the morrow would bring forth. (Dreiser)
The poor girl is anxious that you should be at her wedding. (Trollope)
She was aware that someone else was there. (Eliot)
Object clauses are connected with the principal clause in the following ways:
(a) by means of the conjunctions that, if, whether.
You know quite well, Ariadne, that I have not an ounce of pettishness in my
Jane... wondered if Brian and Margaret were really suited for one another.
Time will show whether I am right or wrong. (Collins)
(b) by means of the connectives who, which, what, whatever, whoever, whichever (conjunctive pronouns); where, when, how, why (conjunctive adverbs).
I’ll do just what I say. (Dreiser)
I half rose, and advanced my head to see how she was occupied. (Ch. Bronte)
He wondered why he should look back... (Wilson)
I don’t know where he developed his prose style, probably in the best of
schools, the open air. (Nichols)
He said there was nothing much the matter with me. (Maxwell)
An object clause may be introduced by a preposition.
I am always ready to listen to whatever you may wish to disclose. (Eliot)
I found it hard to keep my mind on what the colonel was saying. (Greene)
An object clause is sometimes preceded by the introductory object it.
I insist upon it that you tell me what you mean. (Trollope)
As a rule object clauses are not separated by a comma from the principal clause. A comma may or may not be used if the object clause precedes the principal clause.
What I used not to like, I long for now. (Eliot)
What happened then I do not know. (Conan Doyle)
If we have two or more homogeneous object clauses they are separated from each other by a comma.
I can’t tell you what tricks they performed, or how they did it. (Collins)
N o t e. — A sentence containing direct speech consists of two independent,
“I don’t deserve to be mocked at,” she said in a stifled voice. (Lindsay)
“Well,” I thought, “at any rate, judging by the smell, the food must be good.”
§ 7. Attributive clauses serve as an attribute to a noun (pronoun) in the principal clause. This noun or pronoun is called the antecedent of the clause. According to their meaning and the way they are connected with the principal clause attributive clauses are divided into relative and appositiveones.
Attributive relative clauses qualify the antecedent, whereas attributive appositive clauses disclose its meaning.
The facts those men were so eager to know had been visible, tangible, open to
the senses. (Conrad) (ATTRIBUTIVE RELATIVE CLAUSE)
The fortunate fact that the rector’s letter did not require an immediate answer
would give him time to consider. (Hardy) (ATTRIBUTIVE APPOSITIVE
Attributive relative clauses are joined to the principal clause syndetically — by means of connectives, and asyndetically; attributive appositive clauses only syndetically — by means of conjunctions.
§ 8. Attributive relative clauses can be restrictive and non-restrictive or descriptive.
1. An attributive relative restrictiveclause restricts the meaning of the antecedent. It cannot be removed without destroying the meaning of the sentence. It is not separated by a comma, from the principal clause because of its close connection with it. Attributive relative restrictive clauses are introduced by:
(a) relative pronouns (who, whose, which, that, as1 );
(b) relative adverbs (where, when);
1 As introduces attributive clauses when the demonstrative pronoun such is used in the principal clause.
You could not but feel sympathy for a man who took so much delight in
simple things. (Maugham)
...but there is no private life which has not been determined by a wider, public
All that could be done had been done. (Dreiser)
He sang a loud song... such a song as the Spanish wagoneers sing in Algeria.
And he is now come to that stage of life when a man like him should enter
into public affairs. (Eliot)
They spoke no more all the way back to the lodging where Fanny and her
uncle lived. (Dickens)
There was simply nothing else he could do. (Coppard)
I think my father is the best man I have ever known. (Shaw)
2. An attributive relative non-restrictiveclause does not restrict the meaning of the antecedent; it gives some additional information about it. It can be left out without destroying the meaning of the sentence. As the connection between the principal clause and the attributive non-restrictive clause is loose, they are often separated by a comma.
Attributive relative non-restrictive clauses are in most cases introduced syndetically by means of:
(a) relative pronouns (who, which);
(b) relative adverbs (where, when).
Mr. Prusty, who kept no assistant, slowly got off his stool. (Cronin)
She uttered a wild scream, which in its heart-rending intensity seemed to echo
for miles. (Hardy)
He went in alone to the dining-room where the table was laid for one.
The relative pronoun that is hardly ever used to introduce an attributive relative non-restrictive clause.
He had emotion, fire, longings, that were concealed behind a wall of reserve.
A variant of the attributive non-restrictive clause is the continuativeclause, whose antecedent is not one word but a whole clause. Continuative clauses are always separated from the principal clause by a comma.
A continuative clause is introduced by the relative pronoun which, rendered in Russian by the pronoun что.
Mr. Manston was not indoors, which was a relief to her. (Hardy)
But to-day... he had slept only in snatches, which was worse than not sleeping
at all. (Cronin)
For this purpose they probably lowered the bridge, which can be done quite
noiselessly. (Conan Doyle)
N o t e. — The connection between the attributive continuative clause and the
principal clause is so loose that it is doubtful whether we have here a
subordinate or a coordinate clause; it may be considered a borderline case
between subordination and coordination.
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