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The Four Types of Sentences in English

written by: Heather Marie Kosur • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 9/6/2013

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.

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    Simple Sentences

    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.
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    Compound Sentences

    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.
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    Complex Sentences

    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.
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    Compound-Complex Sentences

    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.
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    Printable Download

    For a printable reference study sheet of the sentence types in English, please download the supplement to this article English Sentence Structure: The Four Types of Sentences in English.


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