Glossary: complex sentence


A sentence containing a main clause with at least one subordinate clause inside it, e.g. I looked after the children while Sam was away. This whole sentence is a main clause which contains a subordinate clause, while Sam was away. A complex sentence is thus a kind of multi-clause sentence.

Sentence generator

What did you and your family do on the holidays? In this activity you will experiment with our special sentence generator which reports on some unusual holiday happenings.

Sentence generator: Activity

Click on each column to scroll up and down, and make different combinations.

Click on the dice at the top of the columns to get a new random ordering of elements.

In slide 2, re-order elements by clicking within a column and dragging to left or right (or by clicking on the arrows at the tops of the columns).

Writing with different sentence types

In this lesson, students explore the effects of using different types of sentences, such as simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences. In the National Curriculum compound sentences and complex sentences are now lumped together as multi-clause sentences.

Sentence types: Simple, compound or complex?

Simple, compound or complex? Look at each of the following examples, and click on the right sentence type.

Clauses: Further guidance for teachers

Modern grammatical descriptions of English differ in some ways from the accounts in traditional grammars. This can sometimes lead to confusion. Here we note a few important differences in relation to the analysis of clauses and sentences.

Clauses: Main and subordinate clauses

Typically, a clause expresses a particular situation – an event or state of affairs. To do this, it usually needs to contain a verb. Here is an example of a clause:

  • My brother phoned me on Tuesday night.

This expresses an event, with the verb phoned indicating the type of event.

Here are some more examples of clauses, with the verb phrases highlighted:

Sentence types: simple, compound, complex

This unit further explains simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences, which were introduced in the unit 'Clauses: main and subordinate'. Simple sentences contain one clause, while compound and complex sentences contain more than one clause.

National Curriculum note: The National Curriculum now refers to sentences that contain one clause as single-clause sentences, and those that contain more than one clause as multi-clause sentences.


Englicious contains many resources for English language in schools, but the vast majority of them require you to register and log in first. For more information, see What is Englicious?

Englicious (C) Survey of English Usage, UCL, 2012-15 | Supported by the AHRC and EPSRC. | Cookies