What is a compound-complex sentence in English?

This is the sixth of eight lessons about Sentence Structures. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Focus specifically on compound-complex sentences

– Discuss the combination of compound and complex structures

– Provide an example to guide the learner’s understanding

Lesson 6

The final sentence structure of the four grammatical sentence-structures available to a writer is the compound-complex sentence. Simply put, if you have a good understanding of both compound and complex sentence structures, then the compound-complex structure shouldn’t cause you too much difficulty as this is structure is simply a combination of the two.

If we take the compound sentence, which requires two or more independent clauses, and mix it with the complex sentence, which is a combination of one independent and one dependent clause, we’re left with a compound-complex sentence structure which will contain, at a minimum, two independent clauses and one dependent clause. Although such sentences may become difficult to read in practice, in theory there is no limit to how long a compound-complex sentence may be, and therefore how many clauses may be conjoined or embedded.

For example, although somewhat awkward, the following compound-complex sentence that contains eleven clauses is 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.


With this example in mind, pay careful attention to both the punctuation when creating compound-complex sentence structures and also the types of dependent clauses being used. We’ve broken down the previous compound-complex example for you into the following clause types:

Sentence Structures 6.1 Clause Types
6 of 8 Lessons Completed


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