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.
A simple sentence consists of one independent clause. (An independent clause contains a subject and verb and is structurally complete.)
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.
There are seven coordinating conjunctions:
Another way to join two independent clauses in a compound sentence uses a semicolon.
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 is not structurally complete.)
Here are some common subordinating conjunctions:
Here are the five basic relative pronouns:
A compound-complex sentence consists of at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
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).
A comma splice is a type of run-on sentence which imitates the structure of a compound sentence, but lacks the necessary pieces (usually the coordinating conjunction).
This error is a favorite of many students, and you will also see it in loosely-edited professional writing.¹ Because a comma splice is a grammar error and because it leads to a very boring writing style, most careful readers (professors and potential employers) see it as evidence of sloppy writing and poor education.²
This page was adapted from:
"The 4 Types of Sentence Structure" EnglishClub: Learn or Teach English, 2018, https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/sentence/sentence-structure.htm. Accessed 16 May 2018.
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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 5/23/18 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: email@example.com.