Do Complex Sentences Need Commas?

When dealing with multiple clauses in a complex sentence, you might ask yourself. Do complex sentences need commas?

Supposedly, you’re familiar with the concept of independent clauses connected by a conjunction in a single sentence. You call this a complex sentence. From the word itself, it’s “complicated”, meaning, it has many words.

Writing complicated sentences can sometimes be confusing when you can’t differentiate it with a compound sentence. However, you just have to look for an independent clause, connected to an independent clause, and connected to a dependent clause; and so on. It doesn’t end.

There’s an important rule you should keep in mind when trying to connect two independent clauses and more. It’s knowing whether you should add a comma or not. Since there are coordinating conjunctions, should you do so, or not?

By reading this article, you will discover the answer to your question: do complex sentences need commas.

What are Complex Sentences?

First, let’s talk about what this kind of sentence is. Two clauses are incorporated into complex sentences. A sentence like this can have two independent clauses (each with a subject and a predicate). Also, it can have an independent clause and dependent clause (without a subject or predicate).

An independent clause has the ability to stand alone as a sentence.

Dependent clauses are clauses that cannot stand as sentences in their own. Such as the clause: “before I left the parking lot”.

What are Compound Sentences?

Meanwhile, compound sentences are sentences with two or more independent clauses connected by a comma and coordinating conjunction.

As well as using a comma, a compound sentence also utilizes conjunction. It uses the FANBOYS conjunctions, or namely: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

In a compound sentence, a writer joins two complete thoughts.

Do Complex Sentences Need Commas?

Now for the ultimate question. Do complex sentences need to contain a comma?

Well, it depends on the structure of your complex sentence.

If the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, you might need the help of a comma.


Because I felt bad about my work, I told myself to keep striving to do better next time.

Notice that the example has a comma after the dependent clause. The comma serves as the bridge between the dependent clause and independent clause. You may also notice that “because” served as a subordinate, although it didn’t directly connect the independent and dependent clauses.

By the use of a conjunction, you can either get rid of or write the comma in your complicated sentence. As long as the subject and the verb can still serve its purpose.

One rule you can keep in mind is that, a comma can be placed in a sentence like this. Only if the dependent clause precedes the independent one. Both clauses will still join one another whether by the use of a coordinate conjunction which may contain a comma.

If you separate this example, you will get a phrase and a sentence. Notice how the subject and verb remained the same.

DEPENDENT: Because I felt bad about my work.

INDEPENDENT: I told my self to strive to do better next time.

You Can Do it The Other Way Around

To begin with, you’ll notice that if you do it the other way around, you will receive this result:

I told myself to keep striving to do better next time because I felt bad about my work.

You might recognize that the punctuation mark has disappeared. In English grammar, it isn’t really essential to add a comma or semicolon to a complicated sentence. You just have to let the coordinating conjunction do its job.

However, it’s still acceptable to write a comma if the structure tells.

Bonus Tip: Compound Sentences Require Commas

On the other hand, compound sentences actually need a comma and conjunction.


I went to the zoo, while Zoe met her friend at the National Museum, during my field trip.

You might notice that whichever way you write this sentence, you will still need a comma.

Unlike in a complicated sentence, you have the option to not input a comma. However, in a compound sentence, it’s essential.

To Wrap Up

Now that you’ve learned the answer to the question tackled in this article, it might get easier for you now. Remember that a complicated sentence doesn’t require a comma, although it’s still acceptable to put one. On the other hand, it’s imperative to put one or more in a compound sentence.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

The Semicolon: Basic Guide to Effective Usage

The semicolon (;) is a punctuation mark. In English, a semicolon typically indicates that two related independent clauses follow without…

May 31, 2022

Placement of Periods: Before or After Quotations

Punctuation rules used with quotations are sometimes difficult to remember as there are only slight differences. Whether to place punctuation…

May 31, 2022

Quotation Marks: a Unique Guide of Its Use in Writing

When writing, you have to be watchful of the punctuation marks you used to convey a clear message. One type…

May 30, 2022

How to List Questions in a Sentence: A Short Guide

You might have encountered writing a sentence filled with a series of questions, but you don’t know to enumerate them.…

May 30, 2022

English Symbols: A List of Punctuation Marks and Uses

English requires you to have enough knowledge in using basic English Symbols. Alongside an effective conveyance of your main idea,…

May 30, 2022

Do You Capitalize After an Ellipsis?

The use of ellipsis isn’t common thing regular writers do. You may sometimes ask yourself, do you capitalize after an…

May 30, 2022