The following article defines the four types of sentence constructions in English—simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences—and includes examples to illustrate the sentence structures.
The first sentence structure in English is the simple sentence. Simple sentences consist of one verb clause. A verb clause is an independent clause that is formed by a subject and a predicate. Verb clauses are also referred to as main clauses or matrix clauses. For example, the following sentences are simple sentences:
- Subject | Predicate
- The dancer | sat on the pie.
- The flower and the pumpkin | have blown away.
- That Max likes cucumbers | surprises his mother.
- Dancing | is my favorite exercise.
The second sentence structure in English is the compound sentence. Compound sentences consist of two or more verb clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction or a correlating and coordinating conjunction pair. For example, the following sentences are compound sentences:
- Correlating Conjunction | Verb Clause | Coordinating Conjunction | Verb Clause
- Ø | Jack Sprat did not eat fat, | and | his wife would not eat lean.
- Ø | The storm destroyed our squash, | so we ate eggplant instead.
- Both | the shed fell down | and | the garage blew up.
- Either | you need to study harder | or | you need to drop the class.
The third sentence structure in English is the complex sentence. Complex sentences consist of one verb clause and one or more adverb clauses. An adverb clause is a dependent clause that is formed by a subordinating conjunction followed by a clause. The adverb clauses may either precede or follow the verb clause. For example, the following sentences are complex sentences:
- Adverb Clause | Verb Clause
- Because of the rain, | the museum cancelled the picnic.
- Although she studied all weekend, | she still failed the test.
- Verb Clause | Adverb Clause
- I will join you for lunch | after I wash my hands.
- Linus will be sad | if he misses the Great Pumpkin again.
- Adverb Clause | Verb Clause | Adverb Clause
- Even though he enjoyed the movie, | he will not buy the DVD | because he only watches films once.
- After she left work, | the woman stopped at the store | before she went home.
The fourth sentence structure in English is the compound-complex sentence. Compound-complex sentences consist of two or more verb clauses and one or more adverb clauses. In other words, compound-complex sentences are combinations of one or more compound sentences and one or more complex sentences. For example, the following sentences are compound-complex sentences:
- Verb Clause | Adverb Clause | Conjunction | Verb Clause
- He went to the market | because he needed more milk, | and | then he made pudding.
- Adverb Clause | Verb Clause | Conjunction | Verb Clause
- Unless the coffee is hot, | I will not drink it, | so | please put on a fresh pot.
- Verb Clause | Adverb Clause | Conjunction | Verb Clause | Adverb Clause
- I went to the bathroom | before I sat down, | but | my husband visited the facilities | after he watched the movie.