In this sentence:

When pigs fly, I will be surprised.

This is a complex sentence because it uses one dependent and one independent clause.

However, in this sentence:

After this, I will take a shower.

This is a simple sentence because "this" is not a complete sentence.

Is my reasoning correct?

  • If not, how can I find the difference between these kind of 'tricky' sentences? I remember seeing one in English class like this, but I don't remember the sentence. Please help! I have a test tomorrow!!
    – Stardust
    Jan 15, 2016 at 4:44
  • 1
    A complex sentence has at least one dependent clause. Do you know how to spot and classify clauses?
    – deadrat
    Jan 15, 2016 at 4:54
  • @deadrat: Teach him. I might learn something too.
    – Ricky
    Jan 15, 2016 at 5:00
  • @deadrat Yes, a dependent clause cannot stand completely on its own (when pigs fly), unlike an independent clause (I will be surprised). My question is that in the clause "when pigs fly", even though "pigs fly" is a complete sentence, "when pigs fly" is not -- but "this" is not a complete sentence, so is it still not a complex sentence when put together within "After this, I will take a shower"?
    – Stardust
    Jan 15, 2016 at 5:01
  • But what? "When pigs fly" is a dependent clause; "I will be surprised" is an independent clause. So the sentence is complex. "After this" is a prepositional phrase; it has no predicate, so it's not a clause. So the sentence is simple. But you already knew all this.
    – deadrat
    Jan 15, 2016 at 5:05

1 Answer 1


The difference between a simple sentence and a complex sentence is the number of clauses they contain. A simple sentence has only one clause, but a complex sentence has more than one clause.

A clause is a portion of a sentence that contains both its own subject and its own verb. Simply having a verb isn't enough. Both subject and verb must be present for it to be a clause.

Let's look at your sentences.

When pigs fly, I will be surprised.

This has two clauses, so it is a complex sentence. In the main clause, there is the subject "I" and the verb "will be surprised." In the subordinate clause, there is the subject "pigs" and the verb "fly."

After this, I will take a shower.

This only has one clause, which means there is only one subject and one verb. The subject is "I," and the verb is "will take." There are no other subjects or verbs. The modifying phrase "after this," contains no verbs.

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