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As its name suggests, this type of sentence combines the features of compound and complex sentences:
- being compound, it contains more than one independent clause (IC); and
- being complex, it contains at least one dependent clause (DC).
The compound-complex sentence allows for an endless variety of sentence patterns, from very basic to highly complex.
The most basic pattern has two independent clauses (IC + IC), together with one dependent clause (DC), which can be attached at the beginning, middle or end. Here are some examples from Canadian authors, with the dependent clauses in italics.
DC at the beginning: DC + IC + IC
- When she asked him where to get the Montreal train, he pointed across the station to a queue of people lined up before a pair of gates, and she picked up her suitcase and made her way toward it. [Hugh Garner, “A Trip for Mrs. Taylor,” 1969]
DC in the middle: IC + DC + IC
- The time is not far distant when [Canada] shall be the theme of many tongues, and the old nations of the world will speak of her progress with respect and admiration. [Susanna Moodie, Life in the Clearings, 1853]
DC at the end: IC + IC + DC
- He pushed on between daisy-starred meadows and fields of young oats, and there on the shoulder of the hill was the long, low log house, tree-shaded and friendly, where he had been born. [Grace Campbell, Thorn-Apple Tree, 1942]
More complex patterns
A compound-complex sentence very often contains more than three clauses. Here is just one example of a longer sentence, containing five clauses:
2 ICs with 3 DCs: IC + DC + DC + DC + IC
- Any man will admit, if need be, that his sight is not good, or that he cannot swim, or shoots badly with a rifle, but to touch upon his sense of humour is to give him a mortal affront. [Stephen Leacock, Further Foolishness, 1916]
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A tool created and made available online by the Translation Bureau, Public Services and Procurement Canada