Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex Sentence Structures

There are four types of sentence structures, which represent different combinations of independent and dependent clauses. 

An Independent Clause has a subject and verb and makes a complete thought.

  • I ate breakfast.
  • I went to school.

A Dependent Clause has a subject and verb, but does not make a complete thought. It does not make sense by itself. It must have more information to form a complete thought.

  • Before I went to school.
  • After I ate breakfast.

Simple Sentence = 1 Independent Clause 

A simple sentence has at least one subject and one verb. It makes one complete thought. It is an independent clause. A simple sentence can have a compound subject or a compound verb or both.

 1. Simple Sentence = Subject + Verb + Complete Thought

  • We eat watermelon in the summer. 
  • My name is Bob.
  • What is your name?
2. Compound Subject = More than one Subject + Verb
  • Norah and Elliott played together happily.
  • My sister and I ride the bus.
  • Do you and your friend want a treat?

    3. Compound Verb = Subject + More than one Verb

    • I washed and dried my hair.
    • We hiked and canoed on vacation. 
    • Did you eat or drink anything?

    Compound Sentence = 2 Independent Clauses

    A compound sentence has two independent clauses joined together. There are two ways to join a compound sentence.

    1. Independent Clause + Comma + Coordinating Conjunction + Independent Clause

    • I like art class, and I like music class.
    • I have a cat, but I don't have a dog.

    Coordinating Conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS)

    2. Independent Clause + Semicolon + Independent Clause 

    • I like art class; I like music class.
    • I have a cat; I don't have a dog.

    Complex Sentence = Independent + Dependent Clause

    A complex sentence has one independent and one dependent clause combined with a subordinate conjunction. There are two ways to form a complex sentence depending on which clause is first.

    1. Independent Clause + Subordinate Conjunction + Dependent Clause

    • She made a call before she visited her friend.
    • Independent Clause: She made a call
    • Dependent Clause: before she visited her friend.

    2. Subordinate Conjunction +  Dependent Clause + Comma + Independent Clause

    • Before she visited her friend, she made a call.
    • Independent Clause: she made a call
    • Dependent Clause: Before she visited her friend.
    Subordinating Conjunctions always introduce dependent clauses: after, as if, before, as long as, as soon as, because, during, even though, if, since, though unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, while,

      Compound-Complex Sentence =Independent Clauses + 1 or more Dependent Clause/s

      A compound-complex sentence has two independent clauses and one or more dependent clause/s. How can one identify a compound-complex sentence? Look for three subject + verb clauses and two conjunctions.

      • Sentence: We go to the lake in summer, but my dog stays at home because he gets carsick when travelling. 
        • Independent Clause: We go to the lake in summer
        • Independent Clause: but my dog stays at home.
        • Dependent Clause: because he gets carsick when travelling.
      • Although he had a lot of work to do, he took a break, and he returned feeling refreshed and ready to work again.
        • Independent Clause: he took a break.
        • Independent Clause: and he returned feeling refreshed and ready to work again.
        • Dependent Clause: Although he had a lot of work to do.

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