What’s a compound-complex sentence?

Compound-Complex Sentence


All the sentence patterns that I presented previously belong to the category of the simple sentence, which basically consists of one subject and one predicate. There’s really nothing complicated about compound and complex sentences. You are using them all the time. The Chinese form compound and complex sentences in much the same way as you do in English.

VIII. Compound Sentence = Independent Clause + Independent Clause
When you stick two or more independent statements together, you have formed a compound sentence.
Each statement within a compound sentence follows the structure of a simple sentence, and is called an independent clause. Just as we have likened the simple sentence to a small one-story dwelling, we could think of a compound sentence as a one-story duplex, triplex or quadruplex. Each individual unit is an independent entity that does not affect the other units.

The independent statements in a compound sentence are usually joined togther by such conjuctives as “and”, “or”, “but” and “however”.

As shown in the following example, the “and” conjunctive is often omitted in Chinese:

我会说英语, 我也会说葡萄牙语.
Wǒ huì shuō yīngyǔ, wǒ yě huì shuō pútáoyáyǔ.
I speak English, and I also speak Portuguese.

可是. (kěshì) and 但是. (dànshì) both mean “but” or “however”.

我会说英语, 可是我不会说葡萄牙语.
Wǒ huì shuō yīngyǔ, kěshì wǒ bùhuì shuō pútáoyáyǔ.
I speak English, but I cannot speak Portuguese.

IX. Complex Sentence = Dependent Clause + Independent Clause
A complex sentence is like a two-story house, the upper story being dependent on the lower story because it cannot stand on its own. There are a few different types of dependent clauses. The following examples employ adverbial clauses that describe a condition under which the action in the independent clause takes place. For additional examples of the various types of dependent clauses, see Chapter 25 of “Learn Chinese through Songs and Rhymes”.

如果你累了, 休息一下吧. .
Rúguǒ lèi le, xiūxī yīxià ba.
If you feel tired, rest a bit.

Obviously, “If you feel tired” is not a complete sentence. If you just say this to someone, and nothing else, he or she would be cranking his or her neck in anticipation of what’s to follow. This is why such a clause is called a dependent clause. The main statement, “rest a bit” is the independent clause.

The following line is quoted from the second stanza of 情人的眼泪 (qíngrén de yǎnlèi), or “Lover’s Tears”. We talked about the first stanza of this song in a previous post.

要不是有情郎跟我要分开,
Yàobushi yǒu qíng láng gēn wǒ yào fēnkāi,
Were it not that my lover is parting with me,

我眼泪掉不会掉下来, 掉下来.
Wǒ yǎnlèi bùhuì diào xiàlai, diào xiàlai.
my tears won’t be falling down, falling down.

Now that the rainy season is upn us, you might want to heed this advice:

当你感觉天色不对的时候,
Dāng nǐ gǎnjué tiānsè bùduì de shíhòu,
At the time when you sense that the color of the sky isn’t right,

那么, 你最好把雨伞带好.
nàme, nǐ zuìhào bǎ yǔsǎn dài hǎo.
then it’s best that you bring the umbrella along.

Just as with English, you can often omit a few words from a sentence and still retain its full meaning. You can see how this is done in the third stanza of the lyrics for the song, 雨中即景 (Yǔ Zhōng Jíjǐng The Rain Impromptu), which we looked at previously.

感觉天色不对,
Gǎnjué tiānsè bùduì,
When you sense that the sky’s color isn’t right,

最好把雨伞带好.
zuìhào bǎ yǔsǎn dài hǎo.
it would be best to bring the umbrella along.

X. Compound-Complex Sentence = two or more independent clauses + one or more dependent clauses
Here we are talking about the eqivalent of a two-story duplex, in which one of the two units may be a single-level abode.

The following example contains two independent clauses and one dependent clause. Do you see that “如果下雨 (rúguǒ xiàyǔ)” is the dependent clause?

我会来, 但是如果下雨, 我会迟到.
Wǒ huì lái, dànshì rúguǒ xiàyǔ, wǒ huì chídào.
I will come, but if it rains then I will be late.

In the song, 給我一個吻 (Gěi Wǒ Yī Gè Wěn Give Me A Kiss), that we talked about before, there are actually two pairs of independent clauses nestled within a complex sentence structure.

纵然瞪著你的眼睛,你不答应,
Zòngrán dèng zhe nǐ de yǎnjing, nǐ bù dāying,
Though you glare at me, and you won’t consent,

我也要向你请求,决不灰心.
wǒ yě yào xiàng nǐ qǐngqiú, juébù huīxīn.
I still will beg you, and won’t lose heart.

Now, how would you translate the following sentence to Chinese?

He will come, but if when he comes, I’m not here, then we still won’t be able to meet.

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