Basic Sentence Types
The Simple Sentence
A simple sentence is one independent clause, meaning it is a clause which can stand on its own. A clause by definition has at least one noun and one verb.
- Our English teacher laughed hysterically at Anne's joke.
Notice the noun "teacher" in red and the verb "laughed" in blue. This is a simple sentence or one independent clause.
The Compound Sentence
A compound sentence is two independent clauses joined by either a comma and a coordinating conjunction or a semi-colon and a conjunctive adverb (also known as a transitional expression). Examples of both follow:
- Our English teacher laughed hysterically at Anne's joke, and Joanna rolled her eyes.
Notice in the opening independent clause, we have the noun "teacher" in red and the verb "laughed" in blue. In the second independent clause, we have the noun "Joanna" in red and the verb "rolled" in blue. Both are joined by the conjunction "and" preceded by a comma. This is a compound sentence.
We could also write the compound sentence this way:
- Our English teacher laughed hysterically at Anne's joke; meanwhile, Joanna rolled her eyes.
In this example, instead of joining the two independent clauses with a comma and a conjunction, we join them with a semi-colon, a transitional word/phrase, and a comma. This, too, is a compound sentence.
The Complex Sentence
A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one dependent clause. The dependent clause is "signaled" by a subordinating conjunction (such as because, since, although, while, even though, and others). A complex sentence may either begin with the dependent clause or independent clause; if you open the sentence with the dependent clause, however, you include a comma. Notice the samples below.
- Because our English teacher laughed hysterically at Anne's joke, Joanna rolled her eyes.
In the above sentence, we begin with the dependent clause, meaning we insert a comma after the dependent clause. If we take the same sentence but place the dependent clause after the independent clause, we leave the comma out. Notice the example of that sentence below:
- Joanna rolled her eyes because our English teacher laughed hysterically at Anne's joke.
Links to other sentence review sites on the web:
- CSUS Online Writing Lab's Sentence Pattern and Combining
- Sentence Punctuation Patterns
- Purdue OWL: Commas