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The 4 Types of Sentence Structure

In What is a Sentence? we saw the minimum requirements for the


formation of a sentence. Now we can look in more detail at the four types
of sentence structure.

Simple Sentence Structure


A simple sentence consists of one independent clause. (An independent
clause contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought.)

 I like coffee.
 Mary likes tea.
 The earth goes round the sun.
 Mary did not go to the party.

Compound Sentence Structure


A compound sentence is two (or more) independent clauses joined by a
conjunction or semi-colon. Each of these clauses could form a sentence
alone.
 I like coffee and Mary likes tea.
 Mary went to work but John went to the party.
 Our car broke down; we came last.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions:

 and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Complex Sentence Structure


A complex sentence consists of an independent clause plus a dependent
clause. (A dependent clause starts with a subordinating conjunction or a
relative pronoun, and contains a subject and verb, but does not express a
complete thought.)

 We missed our plane because we were late.


 Our dog barks when she hears a noise.
 He left in a hurry after he got a phone call.
 Do you know the man who is talking to Mary?

Here are some common subordinating conjunctions:

 after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that,
though, till, until, when, where, whether, while

Here are the five basic relative pronouns:

 that, which, who, whom, whose

Compound-Complex Sentence Structure


A compound-complex sentence consists of at least two independent
clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
 John didn't come because he was ill so Mary was not happy.
 He left in a hurry after he got a phone call but he came back five
minutes later.

A dependent clause is also called a subordinate clause.

The above sentences are basic examples only. In some cases other
arrangements are possible (for example, a dependent clause can come
before an independent clause).

SIMPLE SENTENCE
A simple sentence contains one independent clause.
What’s an “independent clause”? It’s one subject followed by one verb or verb
phrase. It expresses a single idea.
Examples of simple sentences:
 I‘m happy.
 Robert doesn’t eat meat.
 My brother and I went to the mall last night.
 This new laptop computer has already crashed twice.
Notice that a “simple sentence” isn’t necessarily short. The subject can be a single
word like “I” or “Robert,” or it can be a double subject like “my brother and I,” or it can
be multiple words describing a single person/object, like “This new laptop computer.”

COMPOUND SENTENCE
A compound sentence has two independent clauses joined by a linking word (and,
but, or, so, yet, however).
Each independent clause could be a sentence by itself, but we connect them with
a linking word:
 I‘m happy, but my kids are always complaining.
 Robert doesn’t eat meat, so Barbara made a special vegetarian dish for him.
 My brother and I went to the mall last night, but we didn’t buy anything.
 This new laptop computer has already crashed twice, and I have no idea why.
Note that each sentence has TWO subjects and TWO verb phrases.

COMPLEX SENTENCE
A complex sentence has one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.
A dependent clause cannot be a complete sentence by itself.

 I’m happy, even though I don’t make much money.


 Robert, a friend I’ve known since high school, doesn’t eat meat.
 After getting home from work, my brother and I went to the mall last night.
 This new laptop computer, which I bought yesterday, has already crashed twice.
COMPOUND-COMPLEX SENTENCE
A compound-complex sentence contains 3 or more clauses: 2 independent and at
least 1 dependent clause.
 I’m happy, even though I don’t make much money, but my kids are always complaining since
we can’t afford to buy the newest toys.
Independent clauses: “I’m happy” and “my kids are always complaining”
Dependent clauses: “even though I don’t make much money” and “since we can’t afford to
buy the newest toys”
Linking word: “but”
 Robert, a friend I’ve known since high school, doesn’t eat meat – so Barbara made a special
vegetarian dish for him.
Independent clauses: “Robert doesn’t eat meat” and “Barbara made a special vegetarian
dish for him”
Dependent clause: “a friend I’ve known since high school”
Linking word: “so”
 After getting home from work, my brother and I went to the mall last night, while my sister
stayed home and studied.
Independent clauses: “My brother and I went to the mall last night” and “my sister stayed
home and studied”
Dependent clause: “After getting home from work”
Linking word: “while”
 This new laptop computer, which I bought yesterday, has already crashed twice; however, I
have no idea why.
Independent clauses: “This new laptop computer has already crashed twice” and “I have no
idea why”
Dependent clause: “which I bought yesterday”
Linking word: “however”

Sentence Structure Quiz


You can do this quiz online or print it on paper. It covers grammar
explained on our Sentence Structurepage.

1. A simple sentence consists of

one independent thought


one independent clause

2. An independent clause contains

a subject and a verb


a subject and an object

3. A compound sentence consists of

one or more independent clauses


two or more independent clauses
4. Independent clauses can be joined by using

a coordinating conjunction
a subordinating conjunction

5. Which is a compound sentence?

I like walking on the beach with my dog.


I like walking but my dog likes running.

6. A complex sentence consists of an independent clause plus

a subordinating conjunction
a dependent clause

7. A dependent clause can begin with a relative pronoun or a

a subordinating conjunction
a coordinating conjunction

8. "I like him because he’s funny." Which is the dependent clause?

I like him
because he’s funny

9. Which is a complex sentence?

I was late because I missed my train.


We got up late so I missed my train.

10. A compound-complex sentence consists of two or more independent


clauses and

one or more dependent clauses


two or more dependent clauses
1. one independent clause

2. a subject and a verb

3. two or more independent clauses

4. a coordinating conjunction
5. I like walking but my dog likes running.

6. a dependent clause

7. a subordinating conjunction

8. because he’s funny

9. I was late because I missed my train.

10. one or more dependent clauses

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