English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

These two sentences came up in a English Comp class and there was some discussion if the book was correct on whether they were simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex.

  • Whatever pizza Lucy orders is a meal in itself.
  • You can choose whatever crust you prefer and size you prefer.

I feel that the sentences are unnecessarily contrived; but could someone explain how you should properly parse them and define if the sentences are simple, compound, complex or compound-complex?

A simple sentence has one independent clause.
A compound sentence has more than one independent clause.
A complex sentence has one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses.
A compound-complex sentence has more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

share|improve this question
The second sentence is only "unlikely" because in most contexts you'd either discard the first you prefer in the interests of brevity, or go the whole hog and repeat the word whatever. Other than that, they're just normal English. I don't see any structural similarity between the two sentences. The first is a simple "A is B" statement, the second is a two-choice offer - "You can have A or B". What exactly is it you want to know about them? – FumbleFingers Apr 2 '13 at 4:58
@FumbleFingers If they are simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex. – qw3n Apr 2 '13 at 14:04
@qw3n If you an expect any answer to your question, you must first rigorously define your terms, which I note that you have not done. Each of the four things you demand answers about must get its own rigorous and unambiguous definitions. What is a simple sentence? What is a compound sentence? What is a complex sentence? What is a compound-complex sentence? Explain all that, and in detail, and clearly, and without overlap, or we cannot answer you. – tchrist Apr 2 '13 at 14:08
@tchrist I have defined my terms. However, I felt that those terms were pretty standard as far as grammar goes. Do I also need to define clause? – qw3n Apr 2 '13 at 14:27
Thanks very much. Yes, in syntactic analysis, those 4 terms are commonly used, but most people here probably don’t know them, so it is good to spell them out exactly. And no, don’t worry about clauses, since people understand a clause has a subject and verb. – tchrist Apr 2 '13 at 14:35
up vote 4 down vote accepted

These are simple sentences. They have a single subject and a single predicate.

In the first sentence the noun clause [ Whatever pizza Lucy orders ] is the subject: and [ is a meal in itself ] is the predicate, in this case a complement.

In the second sentence [ You ] is the subject and [ can choose whatever crust you prefer and size you prefer ] is the predicate, containing the verb and the object noun clause [ whatever crust you prefer and size you prefer ].

share|improve this answer

In the simple sentence, only one subject and one verb In the compound sentence, two complete clauses and co-ordinate conjugation uses. In the complex sentence, the one complete clause and subordinate conjugation uses

share|improve this answer
Are those three 'complete sentences'? – Kris Dec 6 '13 at 13:48

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.