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Is this sentence complex or compound:

I have not only a book but also a computer.

Here, I think two independent clauses have been connected by the conjunction but. So, as per my idea, it's a compound sentence? What do you think?

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    Maybe you need to add a second example: "Not only do I have a book, but I have a computer". Apr 10, 2015 at 8:38

3 Answers 3

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The sentence is simple; it contains only one clause. Let's confirm this by removing the not only...but also part:

I have a book and a computer.

In the sentence above, I have removed the emphasis of having a computer in addition to having a book, but the basic structure is the same. The sentence contains just one clause made up of a subject (I) and a predicate (have a book and a computer).

Though it is not a compound sentence, your sentence does contain a compound object consisting of the nouns book and computer, which are connected by the correlative conjunction not only...but also.

Though not only X but Y does not occur across two separate clauses in the sentence you gave, it can do so:

Not only was he short, (but) he was also fat.

(Per CGEL, but can be omitted when it's introducing the main clause.)

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  • thanx.your last mentioned sentence - "Not only was he short, (but) he was also fat" isn't it compound? Apr 10, 2015 at 4:39
  • @rafiurrashid To me, it seems like a complex sentence rather than a compound sentence. Not only was he short appears to act as a subordinate clause to (but) he was also fat. On the other hand, if we rewrote it with the conjunction and, it would clearly be a compound sentence: He was short, and he was (also) fat.
    – pyobum
    Apr 10, 2015 at 4:51
  • to be a complex sentence there should be a subordinating conjunction which will connect the two adjacent clauses. but is there any in your sentence? rather,"He was not only short" seems to me an independent clause though it doesn't express a complete and logical conclusion. But It has surely satisfied the grammatical logistics. Apr 10, 2015 at 5:07
  • @rafiurrashid To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. This site describes correlative conjunctions as "do[ing] the same thing that coordinating conjunctions do...," which suggests that both of the clauses in my last sentence are independent, making it a compound sentence. My earlier impression of it being complex came from interpreting Not only as a subordinating conjunction (now I'm doubting that it is). Perhaps some of our "resident experts" will share their thoughts on this.
    – pyobum
    Apr 10, 2015 at 5:16
  • @rafiurrashid I just posted a question specifically regarding clauses with not only...but also here. I will keep an eye on it for a good answer.
    – pyobum
    Apr 10, 2015 at 5:50
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You suggest that you think this is a compound sentence. If so, there would have to be two independent clauses joined by a conjunction. You suggest that "but" is the conjunction. If that were true, the clauses would be "I have not only a book" and "also a computer". The second phrase does not have a verb so it cannot be an independent clause. The first sentence has both a subject and a verb, but it doesn't make sense by itself due to the "not only". So this is not a compound sentence.

So is this a complex sentence? To be a complex sentence, you need an independent clause and a dependent clause joined by a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun. In this case, we do not have a subordinating conjuction or a relative pronoun, so it cannot be a complex sentence.

The correct answer is that this is a simple sentence with a compound object (sorry about the video link, I couldn't find a good text description). The subject is "I", the verb is "have" and the object is the compound direct object "not only a book but also a computer". The phrases "not only... but also..." make up a correlative conjunction. The fact that this is a simple sentence can be seen more easily if you change it to "I have a book and a computer" or "I have a book". In those two sentences and the original, the only thing that is changed is the object ("not only a book but also a computer", "a book and a computer", and "a book"); the structure of the sentence is the same.

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  • Thanx,I have just learnt about compound object from your explanation unknown to me previously. However, please have a look on the sentence- "I have nothing but your letter" . Is the presence of compound object found here too? Apr 10, 2015 at 4:44
  • I believe the phrase "nothing but" is an adverb modifying "your letter" so you do not have a compound object. Apr 10, 2015 at 4:54
  • then what is the way to identify a compound object in a sentence? Apr 10, 2015 at 5:09
  • A compound object is an object containing two nouns linked by a conjunction. I believe you are confused because the word "nothing" can be both a noun and an adverb, depending on context. The phrase "nothing but" is always an adverb. I don't know a general rule for determining that, though. Apr 10, 2015 at 8:42
  • You correctly identified my confusion.You are saying 'nothing but' as an adverb.ok,but what about only 'nothing'? isn't it a pronoun here? then if I consider 'but' as the expected conjunction ,you may find that it is joining 'nothing' & 'your letter'; thus the whole part(nothing but your letter) is satisfying your definition of a compound object...isn't it? If I made any mistake pls tell. Apr 10, 2015 at 9:18
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Two coordinate clauses—"I have a book" and "I have a computer" — are joined together by a correlative conjunction: Not only...but. So this is a compound sentence.

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