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Punctuation Of The Complex Sentence

The rules for the punctuation of simple sentences apply equally to complex sentences.

1. The men who refuse to work should not be fed by charity.

2. Those who labor will win.

3. Only those who have excelled shall enter the lists.

4. I gave the basket to the boy, who stood waiting for it at the door.

5. Miss Carmen, who is my friend since our schooldays, is to sing this evening.

6. The stream, which was greatly swollen by recent rain, had overflowed its banks.

Try to see the difference between the clauses in the first three sentences and those in the last three. It is clear that the meaning will be obscure if we omit the clauses in the first three sentences. In the first sentence, who refuse to work restricts the number of men who should not be fed by charity. In the second sentence, who labor restricts the number of those who will win. In the third sentence, who have excelled restricts the number of those who shall enter the lists. All the clauses in these sentences are therefore restrictive.

Restrictive clauses, unless long and involved, are not separated from the words they modify by commas.

In the fourth, fifth, and sixth sentences the clauses are not restrictive, but each adds a coordinate thought.

Each could be made a coordinate statement as follows:

1. I gave the basket to the boy; he was waiting for it at the door. 2. Miss Carmen is to sing this evening; she has been my friend since our schooldays. 3. The river has overflowed its banks; it was swollen by recent rains.

Coordinate statements and non-restrictive clauses are separated or marked off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Write five sentences using restrictive clauses; five using coordinate statements; five using non-restrictive clauses.

1. Shall we, if we are not members, be admitted?

2. Along with much error this statement, as I think, contains some truth.

3. As I have already suggested, political systems are as good as the state of society admits.

The above sentences show that adverbial clauses preceding or placed within principal statements are set off by commas. If the adverbial clause follows the principal statement and both are short, no comma is required.

4. While the acquisition of knowledge is made repugnant; while the pupil is never allowed the free exercise of his own will; while the teacher is the autocrat of the school, holding the pupil under severe discipline; there will be a tendency to discontinue study when free from the coercion of parents and teachers.

This sentence shows that coordinate clauses in a series are separated from one another and from principal statements by semicolons.


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