My first language is not English. I am currently preparing for the IELTS exam. Today I saw a YouTube video about the IELTS writing task. In this video, the teacher gave an example of a complex sentence which is:

"The amount of people from an English town deciding to start a vegetarian diet increased steadily by approximately 125 from about 75 to 200 between 2004 and 2007. "

In another video, the teacher gave some more examples of complex sentences:

Between 2004 and 2007, the number of people increased steadily from about 75 to 200.

There was a steady increase in the number of people from about 75 to 200 between 2004 and 2007.

The number of people becoming vegetarian experienced a steady increase from about 75 to 200 between 2004 and 2007.

I myself cannot see any subordinate clause or dependent clause in the four sentences. I do not know why are they considered complex sentences. Can anyone help me ASAP please? My IELTS exam is very near :(.

Thanks a lot.

  • 2
    I don't know what the "technical" definition of a complex sentence is... but that first one, particularly, seems ridiculously complex and poorly worded to boot. And I honestly can't get past the use of "amount"... which I find really unacceptable.
    – Catija
    Aug 4, 2016 at 20:35
  • 2
    The number of people also cannot "increase steadily by approximately 125". That's like saying "The car's speed increased steadily by 40 mph from 20mph to 60mph."
    – TimR
    Aug 4, 2016 at 21:11
  • 2
    As a note, cross posting identical questions on different sites is strongly discouraged. Please pick which site you'd like your question on and only ask it there unless you have a specific reason to address it to another community. ELU and ELL are similar enough that you should not really ask it in both places.
    – Catija
    Aug 4, 2016 at 21:15
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Your opinion of the below is solicited. Aug 4, 2016 at 21:51
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers Neither, frankly, do I. But many of our learners (and a few of our native schoolchildren, if they're taught anything at all) are taught with great earnestness that they ought to care; so it's mere courtesy to take it seriously before blowing it up. Aug 4, 2016 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


These are not (as you observe) "complex sentences" in the sense in which the term was traditionally taught; they are merely "complicated" in various ways.

But the term "complex sentence", however you define it, doesn't provide any sort of useful category for learning or using the English language; we managed to write pretty good sentences for several hundred years before the term was invented around 1830, and many of us who were forced to learn and apply the term have managed forget it and write pretty good sentences without once worrying about what category they belonged to.

So I hope that the IELTS doesn't ask you anything so irrelevant to assessing your mastery of the language as (for instance) "Which of the following sentences is/are complex?"

I suggest you ignore the terminology and focus on what is of value in IELTS Liz' video, which is her exposition of the variety of constructions through which any given thought can be expressed—and her very plausible suggestion that demonstrating your ability to use many of those constructions competently will enhance your score.

According to this site; but its modern significance doesn't seem to have been pinned down until 1863.
. . . meaning that I find it plausible; but I'm not familiar with the IELTS test and canons of grading, and anyone who is should feel free to correct what I have said.

  • 1
    The WWW is rife with sites which contain such statements as "‘Complex sentences are not actually very complex; they are just simple two or more simple sentences put together." (sic). I've deleted my answer, although I think it does provide useful guidance for someone hours away from an exam... Aug 4, 2016 at 22:09
  • 2
    @Cardinal Thank you. I hoped that was the case, because those examiners seem to actually know something about the language besides the prejudices they were taught in school; but we see so many really bad exam questions around here I worried about the quality of my advice. Aug 4, 2016 at 22:19
  • 2
    @P.E.Dant Of course it asks them to write essays, but I am sure that it does not ask "which one of these sentences are complex", ''cross out the complex sentence " or "what is the difference between attributive adjective and predicative adjective" and this sort of thing.
    – Cardinal
    Aug 4, 2016 at 23:13
  • 2
    @Cardinal: You'll ace it (even if you have to look that one up! :) But idiomatically, I am preparing to take the exam is more natural, I would say. Aug 5, 2016 at 0:34
  • 1
    The OP's first example is complex because it contains the subordinate dependent clause "deciding to start a vegetarian diet" (it modifies the NP "amount of people .."). And so is the last one since it contains the subordinate dependent clause "becoming vegetarian" (modifying the NP "the number of people").
    – BillJ
    Aug 5, 2016 at 7:18

You must log in to answer this question.

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