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In grammars, types of sentences are defined as:

Simple: a sentence comprised of only one independent clause.

Compound: a sentence comprised of minimum two independent clauses.

Complex: a sentence comprised of at least one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

Then, what type of a sentence is the following?

The more ignorant a man is, the less modest he is.

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The more ignorant a man is, the less modest he is.

This is a correlative comparative construction in which "the more ignorant a man is" is a subordinate (dependent) clause.

The second clause is superordinate.

According to your sentence types, this is thus a complex sentence.

  • Should we even call them clauses? Except for the relative phrases, there are no verbs -- so it is made from subordinate and superordinate fragments. – amI Mar 16 at 7:26
  • What makes the difference: one dependent and the other independent? Both the clauses are equal and keep parallelism in the comparative construction. Does the position of the clause have any role to play in this kind of constructions? – mahmud koya Mar 16 at 13:45
  • @mahmudkoya Who says both clauses are equal? What evidence do you have to support that? (Further how can two independent clauses be separated by just a comma?) – BillJ Mar 16 at 13:48
  • @BillJ, Each clause has a subject, verb and subject complement of its own, and that makes them equal. – mahmud koya Mar 16 at 13:54
  • @mahmudkoya The second clause is superordinate: 'man becomes less modest as he becomes more ignorant'. The sentence as a whole is the matrix clause. – BillJ Mar 16 at 14:11
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Neither portion of the sentence can function as an independent clause on its own:

✘ The more ignorant a man is.
✘ The less modest he is.

Since each portion cannot stand on its own, and you cannot have a sentence composed of two dependent clauses, the sentence must be a single independent clause.

In fact, it takes the same essential form as other comparative independent clauses:

You are smarter than me.
The dog is faster than the cat.

Neither of those has a component that can be separated from the rest and be able to stand alone.

If you paraphrase the sentence in question, it actually becomes something like this:

A man's ignorance is in inverse proportion to his modesty.

The construction that uses a comma makes it appear as if one portion is a dependent clause while the other is an independent clause—but that's not the case.

Since it's a single independent clause, that makes it a simple sentence.

  • What about the paraphrase: "If a man is more ignorant then he is less modest." ? – amI Mar 16 at 7:23
  • @amI Although the meaning is the same, it wouldn't be a good example, because he is less modest actually is an independent clause. (The same is true of any if / then construction, where the then portion is an independent clause.) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 16 at 7:44
  • But your paraphrase also has an independent clause, while the OP does not. I am warning that any paraphrase can change the structure to where you can't say that the original sentence must share the same structure. – amI Mar 16 at 7:50
  • @am My paraphrase is a sentence with only an independent clause. And the point of my answer is that the original sentence must be an independent clause in its entirety—otherwise it would not be a valid sentence. At least not by the three categories that are given in the question. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 16 at 7:52
  • The original is two fragments -- there must be some elision going on. (I suspect that the elision would be closed class word[s].) – amI Mar 16 at 8:00

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