In a video on 'Oxford Online English' channel on YouTube (https://youtu.be/jul2urONzOQ?t=794 ), they said that `

You should write to her and thank her for the present

is a complex sentence. Is it? I think it's not.

You should do two things: you should write to her, you should thank her. The subject is one, which is 'you'. 'Write to her' and thank her' are complements of 'should'. Isn't it so? `

  • 1
    That video uses a different definition of "complex" than the one Americans are taught in school—a sentence that contains an independent clause and a dependent clause. By this definition, the example is not complex. Jul 30, 2021 at 12:01
  • Thank you, @JeffreyCarney I didn't know that in AmE and BE, there are different definitions of basic sentence structures.
    – i_yre_b
    Jul 30, 2021 at 12:27

1 Answer 1


A complex sentence contains more than one idea. One example of this is where you have a main clause, which ought to stand on its own, and then a minor clause that adds detail but would not stand on its own due to being subordinate, or dependent.

Your example fits that description of a complex sentence:

Main clause:

You should write to her.

This stands on its own.

Minor clause:

and thank her for the present.

This adds detail by saying what the letter would contain. It doesn't stand on its own because there is no subject.

You could just as easily present this the other way around by saying:

You should thank her for the present by writing to her.

This way, the main clause says that you should thank her, and the minor clause adds the detail on how you should do that.

  • Thank you, Astralbee, for the answer. However, as far as I know, a clause has to have a subject, and the minor clause that you pointed doesn't have one.
    – i_yre_b
    Jul 30, 2021 at 12:24
  • @i_yre_b Subordinate, or dependent clauses cannot stand on their own. They need a main clause to make sense. So a subordinate clause does not need to contain a subject when it has been stated in the main clause.
    – Astralbee
    Jul 30, 2021 at 13:52
  • Astralbee, there is no information like that anywhere. Can you provide any? The explanations I get clearly state that every clause has to have a subject. For example, chompchomp.com/terms/clause.htm or trentu.ca/history/subordinate-clause-and-complex-sentence
    – i_yre_b
    Jul 31, 2021 at 11:33
  • @i_yre_b Read this, and look at the examples of complex sentences: bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/z4hrt39/articles/zfxfwty
    – Astralbee
    Jul 31, 2021 at 11:47

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