What type of sentences would the following be considered: they all have multiple clauses so would they be considered complex?

'I don't like cooking ready meals.'

'I don't like to cook ready meals'

'What I wish for them is the same I wish for you'.

'I believe that I won it'

They are arbitrary examples of sentences I find confusing, when explaining. Are the examples that don't have any subordinate conjunctions considered, but have participles instead, simple or something else?

I am using David Crystal's Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the english language but it doesn't explain some concepts well.

All help appreciated.

  • 2
    My advice to you is to ignore the term 'complex sentence' (as well as 'simple' and 'compound'). These are not terms normally used by linguists or grammarians, so they have no place on this website.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 12 at 14:11
  • Note that subordinate clauses are not always introduced by a relative pronoun or a subordinator. Very often there is no overt marker of subordination. For example, in This is the book [he was looking at], the bracketed clause is marked as subordinate both by the absence of a relative word( or a subordinator), and by the absence of the understood object of "at".
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 12 at 15:11
  • Further, some non-finite clauses are not introduced by a subordinator, for example, I remember [telling you about my appointment], where the bracketed subordinate clause has no marker at all of subordination.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 12 at 18:20
  • I’m voting to close this question because this question was originally on ELU, then migrated to ELL and now is here. I believe it may be a cross-posting but I can't check while I'm writing this.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 13 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


Complex Sentence Definition: A complex sentence is a sentence which includes: at least one main clause, and at least one subordinate clause.

glossary of linguistics terms

A subordinate clause is introduced by a subordinating conjunction (because, but, for, and, but, nor, or etc.) or a relative pronouns (who, what, whom, which, that). ("that" are sometime implied. "The car [that] I saw was blue")

Sample sentences:

  • I don't like cooking elaborate meals.' [simple sentence, no subordinate clause: subject + predicate, just a main clause; like is transitive and stative]

  • I don't like to cook elaborate meals' [simple sentence, verb + to infinitive as direct object, that is, it completes the sentence; like is transitive (direct object: cooking elaborate meals and can take a to infinitive or a gerund (see above)]

  • What I wish for them is the same I wish for you. [simple sentence with "the same I wish for you" as subject complement of "what I wish for". Neither piece can stand alone. This sentence is also an inverse copular construction on the model of: Fred is the plumber; The plumber is Fred. Please note, I am only pointing out the sentence can be reversed, and not the finer or academic points about these forms. inverse copular construction

  • I believe that I won it' [complex sentence: "I believe", main clause; "that I won it", dependent clause]

(Please note: ready meals means meals you buy in a supermarket which are pre-cooked, ready is an adjective, so I am changing it to elaborate which I find less troublesome.)

  • @BillJ It isn't wrong. It's just not CGEL. In traditional grammar, a complex sentence is a sentence that contains an independent clause (or main clause) and at least one dependent clause. Put another way, a complex sentence is made up of a main clause with one or more dependent clauses joined to it with an appropriate conjunction or pronoun. thoughtco.com/what-is-complex-sentence-1689887
    – Lambie
    Commented Jun 13 at 17:15
  • I am well aware how trad grammar defines a complex sentence, which is why I used the term 'elementary grammar' in my answer. To say it's just not CGEL is a ridiculous comment. Listen up: as I said in my answer, the OP's first example has a matrix (main) clause and a subordinate one so it satisfies the definition of what trad grammar calls a complex sentence. Yet you wrongly claim it's a simple sentence!
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 13 at 17:28

[1] [I don't [like [cooking ready meals]]].

There are three clauses in [1], as bracketed, two of which are subordinate. The outer set of brackets surround the matrix (main) clause, i.e. the whole sentence. The next set surround the subordinate "like" clause functioning as complement of "don't". The inner set surround the subordinate "cooking" clause functioning as complement of "like". Elementary grammar calls this a complex sentence.

[2] [I don't [like [to cook ready meals]]].

This has the same structure as [1], except that the to cook subordinate clause is an infinitival clause, as opposed to the gerund-participial (ing) clause in [1].

[3] [What I wish for them] is [the same (that) I wish for you].

This consists of two noun phrases (bracketed) linked by the copular verb "be".The first NP functions as subject, the second as subjective predicative complement of "be". Both noun phrases contain an embedded relative clause. Elementary grammar calls this a simple sentence.

[4] [I believe [that I won it]].

This consists of two clauses, one of which is subordinate. The outer brackets surround the matrix (main) clause, i.e. the whole sentence. The inner brackets surround the subordinate that clause functioning as complement of "believe". Elementary grammar calls this a complex sentence because it consists of a main clause and a subordinate one.

  • 2
    Why do you treat do-support as a separate clause?
    – Keelan
    Commented Jun 12 at 21:49
  • @Keelan Because auxiliaries, including supportive do, are just as much catenative verbs as lexical ones.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 13 at 6:38
  • 1
    In the traditional analysis of do-support, do is the realization of a T head which selects for an untensed VP with the main verb as head, both in the same clause (a CP). This is different from catenative verbs like agree to V, where agree has moved from V to T and selects for a clausal complement. This is precisely because do has no lexical content. If do were a catenative verb, we would expect that do-support is not needed for catenative verbs, contrary to fact (*he helped not cook).
    – Keelan
    Commented Jun 13 at 17:10
  • It's unclear to me what you're calling a 'clause'. Do you mean 'phrase' or 'constituent'?
    – Mitch
    Commented Jun 13 at 18:31
  • 1
    @BillJ No, downvotes are an essential part of how this site runs for raising the signal above noise.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 15 at 1:24

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