Core Grammar #4: Compound Sentences
Two independent clauses in one sentence
We saw in The 4 Types of Sentence Structure that a compound sentence is two (or more) independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction or semicolon. So a compound sentence is like two or more simple sentences added together. A compound sentence does not contain any dependent clauses.
- I like coffee. Mary likes tea. → I like coffee, and Mary likes tea.
- Mary went to work. John went to the party. I went home. → Mary went to work, but John went to the party, and I went home.
- Our car broke down. We came last. → Our car broke down; we came last.
Joining Compound Sentences with Coordinating Conjunctions
Usually, we join independent clauses with one of the seven coordinating conjunctions.
The term coordinating conjunction sounds complicated, but in fact there are only seven of them and they are all short, one-syllable words: For—And—Nor—But—Or—Yet—So. Remember them with the mnemonic FANBOYS.
The most common of these coordinating conjunctions are and, but and or, in that order. Note that a comma (,) must come before the coordinating conjunction except when the clauses are short (in which case the comma is optional).
When you use a coordinating conjunction plus comma to join two independent clauses, the comma ALWAYS comes before the conjunction.
Do not write like this:
- My father hunts deer but, I like to fish.
- I bought a gun so, I could hunt with him.
Write like this:
- My father hunts deer, but I like to fish.
- I bought a gun, so I could hunt with him.
The coordinating conjunctions in action
The and conjunction is the most common conjunction. It has several uses.
- We use and to join two clauses that have equal value, for example: London is in England, and Rome is in Italy.
- We use and to join two clauses when the second clause happens after the first clause, for example: There was a big bang and the lights went out.
- We use and to join two clauses when the second clause is a result of the first clause, for example: He went to bed early, and the next day he felt better.
We use the but conjunction to introduce a clause that contrasts with the preceding clause, for example: Mary ran fast, but she couldn't catch John.
We use the or conjunction to join two alternative clauses, for example: Will Mary go, or will John go?
We use the nor conjunction to join two alternative clauses when the first clause uses a negative such as neither or never. In this case both clauses are untrue or do not happen, for example: Mary never wrote the letter, nor did she call him. (Note the inversion of subject and auxiliary: did she.)
We use the for conjunction (meaning something like because) to join two clauses when the second clause is the reason for the first clause, for example: He felt cold, for it was snowing.
The yet conjunction is similar to but. It means something like but at the same time; but nevertheless; but in spite of this. As with but, there is a contrast between the clauses, for example: I have known him for a long time, yet I have never understood him.
The so conjunction means something like therefore; and for this reason. We use so to join two clauses when the first clause is the reason for the second clause, for example: He was feeling sick, so he went to the doctor.
- Note that when using a coordinating conjunction, you can (if you wish) remove any subject word and modal auxiliary from the second clause. (This is not possible with subordinating conjunctions.)
- He's already had three beers, and now he wants another one.
- He's already had three beers and now wants another one.
- You can take a train, or you can take a bus.
- You can take a train or take a bus.
- Another use for nor is in the neither ... nor construction. (Note: When you use neither, you are saying that two items are following.)
- He has neither the speed nor the strength to play in the NFL.
- A page filled with nothing but balanced compound sentences is as boring as a page filled with nothing but simple sentences, and for much the same reason. Everything weighs the same, so the reader cannot figure out what you want to emphasize. You also need to master complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.
Joining Compound Sentences with Semicolons
Occasionally, we join independent clauses with a semicolon (;).
- He studied very little; he failed his exams.
- The sky is cloudy; it's going to rain.
- Ram cut the grass; Ati trimmed the hedge; Tara watched.
Joining Compound Sentences with Conjunctive Adverbs
We can also join independent clause with words and phrases like moreover, however, at least (conjunctive adverbs). In this case, the conjunctive adverb must be preceded by a semicolon (;) and followed by a comma (,).
Look at these examples:
- John loves Mary; however, Mary doesn't love John.
- Salad is not expensive; moreover, it's very healthy.
- What he did was incredible; in fact, I can hardly believe it.
|How to join independent clauses
| comma + coordinating conjunction
|semicolon + conjunctive adverb + comma
; at least,
Do not try to join independent clauses with a comma alone—that's impossible!
- John drank coffee. Mary drank tea.
John drank coffee, Mary drank tea.
- John drank coffee, and Mary drank tea.
- John drank coffee, but Mary drank tea.
- John drank coffee; Mary drank tea.
Compound Sentence Examples
Now look at some more examples showing compound sentences and coordinating conjunctions or semicolons in context.
Compound Sentences with Coordinating Conjunctions
- The cinema was sold out, so we watched a movie on TV.
- I'll have a week in Rome, or I'll go to Paris for three days.
- I really need a holiday, but I don't have the money, and I don't have the time.
- He's crazy! He doesn't like the car, yet he bought it anyway.
- It's gone 10pm, and he still hasn't arrived.
- Our car broke down, so we took a taxi.
- Our plane left Bangkok on schedule, and we arrived in London early.
- I cannot criticize him, for he is my brother.
- There are no eggs in the fridge, nor is there any bread in the cupboard.
- I would have passed the exam, but I didn't study enough.
- Should they take the test now, or should they wait until next month?
- I have never visited Moscow, nor have I been to St Petersburg.
- The pain was really bad, yet he refused to see a doctor.
Compound Sentences with Semicolons
- The Angel Falls waterfall in Venezuela plunges 907 meters; it looks spectacular.
- The entire town was flooded; people used boats.
- We always shop at the supermarket; it's got everything in one place.
- Call us next week; it should be in then.
- You can pay online; we accept all major credit cards.
- I only write non-fiction; I've never tried fiction.
Compound Sentences with Conjunctive Adverbs
- Frantic is my favorite film; however, I've only seen it once.
- He turned himself in to the police; otherwise, they would have arrested him.
- He's got a really good job; at least, that's what he says.
- He claimed he was working last night; however, nobody saw him at the office.
Compound Sentences in Famous Quotations
Here are some examples of compound sentences in quotes from famous people and sources.
Compound Sentences in Sayings
These compound sentence examples come from everyday sayings and proverbs in the English language.
This page was adapted from:
"Compound Sentences" EnglishClub: Learn or Teach English, 2018, https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/sentence/compound-sentence.htm. Accessed 29 May 2018.
The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 5/29/18 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.