How can I write compound-complex sentences?

This is the third and final chapter about Compound-Complex Sentences. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Review compound and complex sentence structures in English

– Discuss how compound-complex sentences are formed

– Include examples of the rules and forms of compound-complex sentences to help guide writer accuracy

Chapter 3

In this third and final chapter we focus on the most complex sentence structure of the four constructions available to a writer, which is the compound-complex sentence. Simply put, if you have a good understanding of both compound and complex structures, then compound-complex sentences shouldn’t cause you too much difficulty. This is because the compound-complex structure is simply a combination of these two sentence types.


Review: Compound Sentences

Compound sentences are created by joining two or more independent clauses with commas (,) and coordinating conjunctions such as ‘and’, ‘but’ and ‘or’, or by using semicolons (;). Remember, and as the examples below demonstrate, independent clauses are complete thoughts that may stand alone as complete sentences (i.e., they do not require any other clauses to be grammatical): 

Review: Complex Sentences

Complex sentences, however, require a combination of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses to be grammatical. Remember that the best way to spot a dependent clause is to look out for subordinate conjunctions such as ‘because’, ‘even though’ and ‘while’ or relative pronouns such as ‘who’, ‘which’ and ‘that’, as in the following examples:

Compound-Complex Sentences

By mixing compound sentences with complex sentences, writers can easily create a compound-complex sentence structure which will contain, at a minimum, two independent clauses and one dependent clause. In theory, there is no limit to how long a compound-complex sentence may be, although very long sentences may become difficult to read in practice.

For example, although somewhat awkward, the following compound-complex sentence containing eleven clauses is in fact perfectly grammatical:


  • Thinking hurriedly about his words1, the professor, given confidence by years of experience2 and energised by the anticipatory crowd3, stepped onto the stage4 to make his guest appearance5 even though he wasn’t prepared6 to make a speech or deliver this lecture, which he’d spent barely five minutes rehearsing7, to the audience of peers and students8 who sat eager-eyed9, awaiting the first word10 that would soon leave his mouth11.


Thinking more carefully about this example, students should pay careful attention to both the punctuation of compound-complex sentence structures and also the types of dependent clauses being used. We’ve deconstructed the previous compound-complex example for you into the following clause types:

As can be seen in sentences 2 and 3 of this example, when identifying compound-complex sentences, students should also watch out for reduced adjective clauses (also known as relative clauses) in which the relative pronoun and verb have been hidden or deleted:

Good work on completing this short reader on compound-complex sentences. Now consider attempting our Chapter 3 activities to check your understanding.

3 of 3 Chapters Completed


Once you’ve completed all three chapters in this short reader about Compound-Complex Sentences, you might then wish to download our Chapter Worksheets to check your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Chapter 1 explores the topic: Why are sentence structures important in EAP? Our Chapter 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Chapter 2 explores the topic: Which sentence structures in English are complex? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Chapter 3 explores the topic: How can I write compound-complex sentences? Our Chapter 3 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

To save yourself 2 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our Compound-Complex Sentences Chapter Worksheets. This All-in-1 Pack includes every chapter, activity and answer key related to this topic in one handy and professional PDF.

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Autumn 2022