From "Literary Devices" (literarydevices.net)

A simple sentence in grammar has only one main or independent clause and no dependent or subordinate clauses. Comprising a subject and a predicate, this short and independent syntactic entity intends to convey a complete idea or meanings of an idea.

Example #2: The Awakening (by Kate Chopin)

“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”

This is another excellent example of a simple sentence without the use of commas. It is just a single sentence without dependent clauses.

The question: Does the above example sentence not include a dependent clause?

If no, what is "which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world" in the sentence?

  • How do you define a dependent clause? Have you looked up "main clause" and "dependent clause" in a good grammar source?
    – Kris
    Jan 11, 2019 at 8:49
  • @Kris. As far as my little knowledge is concerned, a main clause is independent with a complete thought (here, "She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self".) A subordinate/dependent (when begun with a subordinate conjunction) or a relative clause (a sort of dependent clause, begun with a relative pronoun) is a clause - having its own subject and predicate - that lacks a complete thought, so that it cannot stand alone without the support of an independent clause. In the above example, I think, "which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world". Jan 11, 2019 at 9:21
  • If I'm wrong, please help me with a clarification. Jan 11, 2019 at 9:22
  • 1
    @mahmudkoya You’re absolutely right: the sentence quoted in that excerpt is not a simple sentence. The writer of that page is completely clueless as to what constitutes a single sentence. Of their six examples of ‘simple sentences’, three (#2, #3 and #4) are actually complex sentences with dependent clauses in them. I would stay well away from that site if I were you. Jan 11, 2019 at 9:49
  • 1
    Certainly, this sentence would be classified as complex and not simple in both ESL and native-English pedagogical materials. For example, Holts Middle School Handbook, used in English classes, states (p206): A complex sentence has one independent and at least one subordinate clause. E.g. Some of the sailors who took part in the mutiny...settled Pitcairn Island in the South Pacific.
    – Shoe
    Jan 11, 2019 at 9:52

1 Answer 1


I have already made a comment about the definition of “simple sentence in this context.

The Oxford Grammar uses “simple sentence” to contrast with “compound sentence”. At 5.19 Greenbaum starts by distinguishing finite from non-finite verb phrases.

A verb is finite, if it displays tense, that is, the distinction between present and past.

He goes on to explain

A finite verb phrase can function as the verb phrase of a simple sentence, the verb of a main clause within a compound sentence, or the verb of a subordinate clause.

His example of a simple sentence makes it clear that he is using that terminology to indicate the absence of subordination.

Tonight I’m going to my first cocktail party at the Commission, my dearest.

His examples of compound sentences all involve subordinate clauses. But he goes on to say

A non-finite verb phrase cannot function as the verb of a simple sentence or as the verb of a main clause within a compound sentence. It can, however, function as the verb of a non-finite subordinate clause.

“[19] I don’t recall actually giving the name.

He goes on to explain

In [19] giving is the verb of an -ing participle clause. It is a transitive verb, and its direct object is the name.

It is interesting that he calls a participle clausewhat I have always thought of as a participle phrase. But I have argued in a comment that in OP’s question the participles are in effect functioning as verbs (which Greenbaum calls non-finite).

So I stick to my guns and say that the sentence quoted in the question is a compound sentence with subordinate clauses of which the verbs are non-finite.

  • A good answer, right up until the last sentence – the sentence quoted in the question is actually a compound sentence with two subordinate clauses: one non-finite (with which to appear) and one finite (which we assume). I’m not sure all grammars would call the infinitival one a subordinate clause, but there is definitely no grammar who would not consider the perfectly straightforward, finite relative clause which we assume to be a subordinate clause. Jan 11, 2019 at 23:31

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