Sentences: Simple, Compound, and Complex
Experienced writers use a variety of sentences to make their writing interesting and lively. Too many simple sentences, for example, will sound choppy and immature while too many long sentences will be difficult to read and hard to understand.
This page contains definitions of simple, compound, and complex sentences with many simple examples. The purpose of these examples is to help the ESL/EFL learner to identify sentence basics including identification of sentences in the short quizzes that follow. After that, it will be possible to analyze more complex sentence varieties.
A simple sentence, also called an independent clause, contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought. In the following simple sentences, subjects are in yellow, and verbs are in green.
1. Some to study in the mornings.
2. and football every afternoon.
3. to the library and every day.
The three examples above are all simple sentences. Note that sentence 2 contains a compound subject, and sentence 3 contains a compound verb. Simple sentences, therefore, contain a subject and verb and express a complete thought, but they can also contain compound subjects or verbs.
A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. The coordinators are as follows: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. (Helpful hint: The first letter of each of the coordinators spells FANBOYS.) Except for very short sentences, coordinators are always preceded by a comma. In the following compound sentences, subjects are in yellow, verbs are in green, and the coordinators and the commas that precede them are in red.
1. to speak Spanish my to speak English.
2. football shopping.
3. football shopping.
The above three sentences are compound sentences. Each sentence contains two independent clauses, and they are joined by a coordinator with a comma preceding it. Note how the conscious use of coordinators can change the meaningof the sentences. Sentences 2 and 3, for example, are identical except for the coordinators. In sentence 2, which action occurred first? Obviously, "Alejandro played football" first, and as a consequence, "Maria went shopping." In sentence 3, "Maria went shopping" first. In sentence 3, "Alejandro played football" because, possibly, he didn't have anything else to do, for or because "Maria went shopping." How can the use of other coordinators change the relationship between the two clauses? What implications would the use of "yet" or "but" have on the meaning of the sentence?
A complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinator such as because, since, after, although, or when (and many others) or a relative pronoun such as that, who, or which. In the following complex sentences, subjects are in yellow, verbs are in green, and the subordinators and their commas (when required) are in red.
1. in his homework to give the teacher the last page.
2. The the homework the error.
3. The a test tomorrow.
4. and to the movies
5. and to the movies studying.
When a complex sentence begins with a subordinator such as sentences 1 and 4, a comma is required at the end of the dependent clause. When the independent clause begins the sentence with subordinators in the middle as in sentences 2, 3, and 5, no comma is required. If a comma is placed before the subordinators in sentences 2, 3, and 5, it is wrong.
Note that sentences 4 and 5 are the same except sentence 4 begins with the dependent clause which is followed by a comma, and sentence 5 begins with the independent clause which contains no comma. The comma after the dependent clause in sentence 4 is required, and experienced listeners of English will oftenhear a slight pause there. In sentence 5, however, there will be no pause when the independent clause begins the sentence.
Complex Sentences / Adjective Clauses
Finally, sentences containing adjective clauses (or dependent clauses) are also complex because they contain an independent clause and a dependent clause. The subjects, verbs, and subordinators are marked the same as in the previous sentences, and in these sentences, the independent clauses are also underlined.
1. The called my mom cosmetics.
2. The Jonathan read on the shelf.
3. The Abraham Lincoln was born in still standing.
4. The I grew up in the United States.
Adjective Clauses are studied in this site separately, but for now it is important to know that sentences containing adjective clauses are complex.
A declarative sentence "declares" or states a fact, arrangement or opinion. Declarative sentences can be either positive or negative. A declarative sentences ends with a period (.).
I'll meet you at the train station.The sun rises in the East.He doesn't get up early.
The imperative form instructs (or sometimes requests). The imperative takes no subject as 'you' is the implied subject. The imperative form ends with either a period (.) or an exclamation point (!).
The interrogative asks a question. In the interrogative form the auxiliary verb precedes the subject which is then followed by the main verb (i.e., Are you coming ....?). The interrogative form ends with a question mark (?).
The exclamatory form emphasizes a statement (either declarative or imperative) with an exclamation point (!).
Basic Type of Sentence
All of these sentence types further fall into four basic sentence type categories in English.
· Compound - Complex
Simple sentences contain no conjunction (i.e., and, but, or, etc.).
Compound sentences contain two statements that are connected by a conjunction (i.e., and, but, or, etc.). Practice writing compound sentences with this compound sentence writing exercise.
Complex sentences contain a dependent clause and at least one independent clause. The two clauses are connected by a subordinator (i.e, which, who, although, despite, if, since, etc.).
Compound - complex sentences contain at least one dependent clause and more than one independent clause. The clauses are connected by both conjunctions (i.e., but, so, and, etc.) and subordinators (i.e., who, because, although, etc.)
A sentence is a group of words that is used to say something, to ask something, or to tell somebody to do something. It gives enough information for a person to form a complete idea in his mind of the message that is being communicated to him. There are five kinds of sentences as follow:
1) Declarative Sentences: Sentences that make statements.
- That isn’t the way to do it.
- I have two brothers and one sister.
- Canada and the United States are neighbors.
2) Interrogative Sentences: Sentences that ask questions.
- What are you doing?
- Where will you go tomorrow?
- Can I see her?
3) Imperative Sentences: Sentences that give commands or make requests.
- Don’t be lazy!
- Mind your business!
- Come and have a cup of tea.
4) Exclamatory Sentences: Sentences that are in the form of exclamations.
- What a lovely day it is!
- How marvelous!
- How pretty she is!
5) Optative Sentence: Some grammarians recognize a fifth sentence type, the Optative Sentence. Optative sentences express wishes.
- May you live a long and happy life together.
- God save you!
- Peace be upon him.
ü Optative sentences formed with May are found mainly in a very formal way.
ü Optative sentences like God save you! uses a special form of the verb in which there is no –s ending.
God save… (not God saves…)
ü Similarly, we have Peace be upon him rather than Peace is upon him.