English Sentence Structure: 4 Types of English Sentences


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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”

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