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I learned there are 4 classifications of sentences. Simple, compound, complex and compound-complex sentences. I was thinking, what type is this sentence:

Can we become friends if you don't mind?"

In this sentence, we have a connecting word 'if' which dictates this is a compound sentence but 'you don't mind' is subordinate clause which dictates this is complex sentences.

Also, just wanna confirm, the word 'we' is the subject here. Right?

Note: I'm a curious learner, so I get confused even at basic levels. So, please forgive me if I'm making simple things confusing for no reason. I appreciate your help in erasing my confusion.

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  • Can you say why you think "'if dictates this is a compound sentence"? This is what is causing your confusion.
    – Shoe
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 11:50
  • Because "if" is a connecting word. By definition, when two or more simple sentences(subject+predicate) are joined together by a connecting word (but, and, or, etc.) we get a compound sentence. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 12:39
  • If is a subordinating conjunction, unlike e.g. but, and, or, which are coordinating conjunctions. Clauses joined by subordinating conjunctions make complex sentences.
    – Shoe
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 13:07

2 Answers 2

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This is a complex sentence. It is formed with a subordinating conjunction "if". The condition isn't a complete meaningful sentence by itself, it is subordinate to the main clause.

The odd thing is that the main clause is a question, not a statement. Normally conditional complex sentences have indicative main clauses. You can have questions with conditional clauses. They let you agree on hypotheticals for answering the question. "If we go shopping tomorrow, can we buy some wine?"

But in this case it is just a conversational tactic, asking the person not to mind about becoming friends. It frames the question, makes it less direct, more tactful, more polite.

But ignoring the meaning, the structure is a complex sentence, with "if" as a subordinating conjunction.

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  • Thank you so much for your answer. It helped alot🙏 Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 16:32
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I'd analyse the clause if you don't mind as an adjunct (addressee-orientated pragmatic marker adding politeness / 'oiling' tricky conversation) here rather than part of the matrix sentence; it can be replaced by 'sorry', 'with your permission', or 'begging your pardon' on occasion.

Dictionaries (for example, Collins) include the complete expression:

if you don't mind [PHRASE]

People use the expression if you don't mind when they are rejecting an offer or saying that they do not want to do something, especially when they are annoyed.

[feelings]

  • 'Sit down.'—'I prefer standing for a while, if you don't mind.'
  • If you don't mind, we won't talk about it any more.

Pragmatic markers aren't part of the matrix sentence.

The 'simple / compound / comp...' classification of sentences is a simplified model. Over-simplified.

.............

Obviously, 'Can Jim and Joe become friends if Jim has stolen Joe's bike?' must be analysed differently.

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  • So, that means 'if you don't mind' is not the correct clause. Instead, the sentence should be "with your permission, can we be friends?". Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 13:13
  • No, hassan. Parentheticals (words or longer strings – phrases or clauses, even new sentences) can be removed from the text with minimal (usually no) adjustment to punctuation etc and no change to the matrix sentence's root meaning. But of course some information, often important, will also be removed. But parentheticals are fine. // eg 'Paul, would you open the window, please.' 'Paul' and 'please' are parentheticals, the first a vocative, the second a politeness marker. 'would you open the window' (it would need a capital if used alone) is the matrix sentence (interrogative and simple). Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 14:31
  • English is my third language so I'm having a little hard time understanding this. Can you please clarify in a simplified way? Are you saying, the sentence should be "can we become friends?" because "if you don't mind?" is pragmatic marker and has no link to the main information. So that means, "can we become friends?" is now a simple and interrogative sentence. Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 15:23
  • It seems it depends on whether you expect the person to disagree. If it's purely a formulaic thing and they aren't going to disagree then it's no different to a politeness marker or something like that. It's similar to how "can you open the door?" can be a polite imperative or a genuine question.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 16:41
  • "Can we become friends if you don't mind?" doesn't sound like something a native speaker would say, hassan. "Could you shut the door, if you don't mind, Peter?" is more likely. Here, I'd treat "Could you shut the door?" as the basic (matrix) sentence, obviously an interrogative question using a modal (could) for politeness, and 'if you don't mind' and 'Peter' as add-ons ('parentheticals'). Here, 'if you don't mind' is to my mind a unit having the same role as 'please' would do. There is no expectation that 'minding' will be seen as a true condition of compliance Commented Dec 22, 2022 at 19:57

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