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There is a lot of discussion about simple, compound and complex sentences. However, I find this difficult to apply to verbs that project e.g. mental verbs "think, believe, understand" etc and verbal verbs "say, claim, state" etc.

"He said ok" - this is simple because it only has one clause (one main verb).

"He said that he was ok" - although this has two verbs and may be called a complex sentence, the clause "that he was ok" functions as the object of the verb. It answers the question "what did he say" - "he said X" where x = "that he was ok". From the perspective of meaning, can it be argued that this is a simple clause with an embedded clause functioning as object? Therefore, from a functional perspective, there is only one simple clause. Opinions?

  • Sentences are classified as simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex based on their grammar: count the number of clause types in the sentence and that will tell you which type it is. Semantics (i.e, meaning) doesn't enter into it. – deadrat Mar 7 '16 at 11:44
  • @deadrat I don't understand how the two can be separated but then I come from a functional linguistic background which says that grammar creates meaning. – Daniel O'Sullivan Mar 7 '16 at 11:55
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    Yes, grammar creates meaning. If you switch the subject and object of a sentence, the structure and the semantics will change, but sentence classification doesn't have anything to do with the meaning of the sentence so classified. It's a set of syntactic definitions. You can tell because you can classify a sentence that has no meaning for you. For instance, take the sentence The gooberness is freejellish. Do you know what it means? Can you still tell that it's simple anyway? – deadrat Mar 7 '16 at 11:59
  • What do you mean by a verb "projecting"? – curiousdannii Mar 7 '16 at 12:14
  • @deadrat True - point taken. I guess that's why I struggle with the simple, compound and complex and definitions. I prefer this type of explanation alvinleong.info/sfg/sfgcomplex.html "A sentence is a constituent of writing, while the relationship between clauses is a constituent of grammar" – Daniel O'Sullivan Mar 7 '16 at 12:14
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Yes, every complex clause is simply a nesting of simple clauses.

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