Can a adverb dependent clause in a compound-complex sentence modify multiple independent clauses? For example like the examples below.

How can I tell how many independent clauses a dependent clause modify in a compound-complex sentence?

I put the dependent clause at the beginning for Example 1.

Example 1:

If you don't feel tired in the language class, it doesn't mean you will be good at languages, but it means you are passionate about languages.

How about putting the dependent clause at the end like the two examples below?

Example 2:

You are not necessarily an introvert, but you are a quiet type of person if you don't feel like talking to classmates often.

Example 3:

Miraculously, the couple suffered only light injuries, and no other residents of the building were injured as the old building collapsed.

1 Answer 1


In your examples, the dependent clause only affects one of the independent clauses. Examples 2 and 3 are awkward because of this, they don't automatically get the context provided by the dependent clause. The reader finds the dependent clause and assumes that it must apply to the first clause as well, but feels uneasy about it.

Example 1 strikes me as uncomfortable because you use the dependent clause as the subject of the first independent clause, but hide it behind a pronoun. I don't recommend doing that, you should use it as a subject directly. This is okay in speech, but less clear in writing.

I would attempt to condense the clauses if I were writing this. Here are my rewrites:

Not tiring easily during language classes doesn't mean that you will be proficient at languages, but you almost certainly have a passion for languages.

I removed the pronoun here as I said above. Note that this rewrite has an implicit "if you do" or "if so" at the end of the last phrase tying it to the subject of the first phrase.

You are not necessarily an introvert if you don't feel like talking to classmates often, but you are a quiet type of person.

This placement leads to the clearest reading.

As the old building collapsed, the couple suffered only light injuries and no other residents of the building were injured.

I had to take out the miraculously, because it took up the room the other clause needed. It's too unclear to have two adverbs like that.

  • Thank you for your explicit answer. Just to ensure (because I am dumb), you mean a dependent clause can definitely modify multiple independent clauses, but it is better to place the dependent clause at the beginning (like your last example) or place it after the first independent clause (like your second example) because it is unnatural to place it at the end and say it affects two independent clauses?
    – vincentlin
    Oct 30, 2019 at 3:00
  • 1
    I think that you need to apply it directly to the first clause so that it's in the reader's mind as context for the second clause. Whether it comes before or after the first clause doesn't matter so much. Grammatically, the dependent clause still doesn't directly apply to the second clause, but it's in the reader's head so they'll make the connections you want. They'll add any necessary "if you do", "if so", etc in their head to clean it up. Oct 30, 2019 at 14:42
  • 1
    This is a messy piece of grammar, so these rules are not hard and fast. You're more or less relying on the reader to make the connections, and there's a chance they won't. Still, it's not unexpected in most writing, unless it's specifically designed to be as easily understandable as possible. Oct 30, 2019 at 14:44
  • Thank you. Yes, it is indeed a nuance. It took me a while to get a feel for it; thus I asked them here. Your explanations help me confirm it, and now thanks to you, I can use them more with more confidence.
    – vincentlin
    Oct 30, 2019 at 17:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .