Here's the sentence in question:

We had been on the train for eight hours, but it felt like eighty due to the cramped conditions.

I felt this was a compound sentence. A colleague, however, said that if the second clause were to be isolated, it would not make any sense because the word "hours" has been elided. In order for it to be a genuine compound sentence, she insists it should read:

We had been on the train for eight hours, but it felt like eighty hours due to the cramped conditions.

Can anyone clarify this for me, please? Incidentally, if it does fail the compound sentence test, is it a complex sentence by default?

  • 2
    In isolation, 'It felt like eighty hours due to the cramped conditions.' doesn't make a lot of sense. Both this and the hour-less version rely heavily on prior context for sensible interpretation. And note that 'it' is perhaps better considered to refer ultimately to 'the length of our ordeal' rather than 'eight hours'. Is an insistence on classification into sentence types intended for less (I want to use complex here) situations profitable? Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 9:18
  • 1
    It is a compound sentence. "Eighty" is of course understood as "eighty hours". "Eighty" is analysed as a "fused determiner head", i.e. the determiner "eighty" and the head "hours" are fused together into the single word "eighty" instead of being expressed separately. The second clause thus qualifies as a main (independent) one.
    – BillJ
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 9:19
  • Thank you both for replying. I didn't feel that "it" referred to "eight hours". I'm sorry, but I don't understand the question in Edwin's comment. The original query just relates to a test. I feel that Bill has given me the evidence to justify what I felt to be the case.
    – Matt PBW
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 9:55
  • Not sure if this omission is called elision. Maybe elipsis. Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 20:32
  • 2
    The second part stands on its own perfectly well, grammatically speaking: "It felt like eighty due to the cramped conditions." If not preceded by the first part, the person reading it might misunderstand the intended meaning, since it lacks context. "Eighty" might easily be interpreted in some locales to mean "eighty (Fahrenheit) degrees", which would make it a sentence about temperature, not time. But that does not make it not a sentence.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 21, 2017 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


In a sentence, be it complex or compound, coordinate clause(s) / subordinate clause(s) may seem incorrect missing essencial sentence elements but it is an accepted grammatical reality for conciseness and flow of the text which supports their togetherness of related ideas. Otherwise how comes it that they be joined! This is equally true of both independent or dependant clauses. Here are few examples including one of yours.

  • We had been on the train for eight hours, but it felt like eighty due to the cramped condition.

  • I'll go to the party if you will.

  • I think I'll buy the red car, or I will lease the one I have.

  • I am counting my calories, yet I really want desserts.

It may be seen that unnecessarily repeated words are dropped, no matter the sentence a complex or compound one. Coordination or subordination is the criteria to judge a sentence type. Any type of ellipsis may occur in both .

  • She will sell sea shells, and he'll too.

It is a compound sentence; none can rob it of its compound nature. When torn out of its context such reduced sentences should not be filled with necessary contextual details. They remain complex and compound as usual.

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