The 4 English Sentence Types - simple, compound, complex, compound-complex


Hi. Welcome back to I'm Adam. Today's lesson is a writing lesson,

but it's also a spoken English lesson. It's about anything to do with English,

because we're going to

be looking at sentence types. Now, of course, when you speak, you're using all kinds of

sentence types. But, especially in writing, it's important to know the different types

of sentences, because, especially if you're going to be writing tests, they want to see

sentence variety. And even if you're not writing tests, anything you write, if you're using

only one type of sentence, your writing becomes very bland, very boring, very hard to follow,

because it's a little bit monotone. So what you need to do is you need to vary... You

need a variety of sentence structures in your writing to give it a little bit more life.


Luckily, you only need to know four sentence types. We have simple sentences, compound

sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex. Now, this is not exactly easy, but it's not

exactly hard, either. If you figure out what you need to have in each one, in each sentence

type, just make sure it's there. Okay? Let's start.

A simple sentence has one independent clause. A little bit of review: What is an independent

clause? An independent clause has a subject and a verb, and can complete an idea. It can

stand by itself, because the idea in that clause is complete. I don't need to add anything

else to it. Okay.

A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses, joined by a conjunction.

A compound conjunction: "and", "but", "or", "so", "for" (not very common), etc. So, we join two independent

clauses with a compound conjunction. You can have more, but again, you have to be a little

bit careful. Once you get to three, start to look for a way to finish your sentence,

because if you get to the fourth, you already have a crazy sentence that has the... Runs

the risk of being a run-on sentence. Eventually, you're going to make a mistake, you're going

to miss something, and the whole sentence falls apart. I don't recommend three, but

you can put three.

Then we have a complex sentence. A complex sentence has one independent clause, plus

one or more dependent clause. A dependent clause is a clause that has a subject and

a verb, but cannot stand by itself. It is not a complete idea. It has some sort of relationship

to the independent clause. We have three types of dependent clauses. We have noun clauses,

we have adjective clauses, and we have adverb clauses. Okay? That's a whole separate lesson.

You can look at that later. But you have to have one of these, plus one of these, and

you have a complex sentence.

Next we have a compound-complex sentence. Here you have two or more independent clauses,

again, joined by a conjunction, and one or more dependent clause. Okay? So you have basically

all the elements in this sentence.

Then, once you have all this stuff, you can add as many complements, or basically extras,

as you want. So, let's look at an example. We're going to start with the simple sentence:

"Layla studied biology."

Very simple. I have a subject, I have a verb, I have an object.

Okay? This is a simple sentence. It's an independent clause; it can stand by itself as a complete

idea. Now, I can add anything I want to this that is not another clause of any type, and

it'll still be a simple sentence. So I can say:

"My friend Layla studied biology in university."

I'll just say "uni" for short. I have more information, but do I have a different type

of sentence? No. It's still a simple sentence.

Now, let's look at this sentence. First, let me read it to you:

"Even with the weather being that nasty, the couple and their families decided to go ahead with the wedding as planned."

Now you're thinking: "Wow, that's got to be a complex sentence", right? "It's so long.

There's so much information in it." But, if we look at it carefully, it is still a simple

sentence. Why? Because we only have one independent clause. Where is it? Well, find the subject

and verb combination first. So, what is the subject in this sentence? I'll give you a

few seconds, figure it out. Hit the pause key, look at it.

Okay, we're back. Here is the subject:

"the couple and their families".

Now, don't get confused with this "and". This is not joining another clause to another clause.

This is just joining one part of the subject to another part of the subject. So here we have a compound

subject, not a compound sentence. So one subject decided. Subject, verb. Do I have any other

subjects and verbs? Do I have any other verbs? I have this verb, but this is an infinitive

verb, right? A clause only has one tense verb. You can have 10 verbs in a sentence, but only

one will be the tense verb in the independent clause. And what goes with this? Nothing.

Okay. Oh, here's another verb, but it's not really a verb; it's a participle. Okay? So

now, here's my subject, here's my verb, here's my object. This whole thing is the object

to "decided". Decided what? To go ahead with the wedding as planned. Even with the weather

being that nasty. So all of this is what? This is a phrase. It does not contain a subject,

it does not contain a verb. Right? So here I have a simple sentence with lots of additions

to it. Okay? Very simple. The key is to recognize what's involved in the sentence. You can have

a very long sentence. As long as it only has one subject-verb combination, it is a simple

sentence. Okay? Let's look at a few of the other ones now, and see how they work.

Okay, so we're back. Let's look at the next set of examples. Let's look at compound sentences.

Compound sentences, I only gave you one example here, because it's very straightforward. Have

your independent clause, have your compound conjunction, have another independent clause.

"I arrived at the office at 9."

I could put a period here, and that's a complete sentence.

"My assistant came 10 minutes later." This is a complete sentence. Two independent clauses,

all I'm doing is joining them with the conjunction "and". But remember, I said you can have one,

you can have two... Or you can have two, you can have three independent clauses. I can

add another one:

"But she was sick so I told her to go home."

Now: "I arrived at the office at 9, and my assistant came 10 minutes later, but she was sick so I told her to come...

To go home." How many independent clauses do you count, here?

One, two, three, four.

Now, is this a good sentence? No, it's not. Is it grammatically correct? Yes, it is. So

this is okay, but I wouldn't recommend it. I would split this into two sentences. I would

put a period here, I would take out the "but", I would say:

"She was sick, so I told her to go home."

I would just make it a whole two separate ideas, instead of one joined

idea. But again, that's up to you. I don't recommend it, but it's grammatically okay.

So is a... Also a conjunction. It is not an adverb conjunction, it is a compound conjunction.

Next, let's look at complex sentences. And this is where people start getting a little

bit scared, but you don't need to be. Just remember: independent clause, dependent clause.

"John retired."

"John" is the subject, "retired" is the verb, I have a complete idea.

That's all I need to know. He doesn't work anymore. But I want to give you more information.

"John retired when he turned 65."

So this is an adverb clause. Okay? This whole thing is an

adverb clause; it has its own subject and verb, and it tells you something about the

verb "retired". When did he retire? When he was... When he turned 65. "Turned" means had

his birthday. Okay?

Now this is, again, this is a complex sentence. It's much longer than this one, but it works

in the same way. Let me read it to you:

"Whether you agree with me or not makes little difference to our investors,

who, by the way, are the ones most affected by whatever mistakes we make."

Now you're thinking: "Well, that's a crazy sentence. Where do I start?" Start

with the independent clause, always. A little bit trickier here, though. Okay? The easiest

way to find your independent clause is first find your tense verbs. Any verb that has a

past, present, or future tense in any form, find that first. "Agree". Okay, there's a

subject here: "you agree". This is one combination of subject-verb. "Or not", blah, blah, blah,

"makes". Well, that "s" tells you that this is a tense verb. Simple present. Okay, we'll

figure out where the subject for it is. All right. "Little difference to our investors".

Makes what? "Who, by the way, are". So here's another tense verb. And here's your subject

for it. Okay? "The ones most affected by whatever mistakes we make". And here's your last one.

So now, you're thinking: "Okay, well, I have subject-verb, I have subject-verb, I have

subject-verb. Well, where's the verb...? Where's the subject for this verb?" And here it is.

Okay? This is a noun clause. Noun clauses act as subjects or objects. Okay? So this

is your whole subject, this is your verb. "Little difference to our investors." Now,

here, we have an adjective clause describing, telling me something about investors, telling

me a little bit extra information about investors.

"Who are the ones most affected by", by what?

And here we have another noun clause. By what?

"By whatever mistakes we make". "Whatever"

is the object conjunction. So "mistakes we make", these mistakes.

So now, a little bit simpler, I hope, but you still see: I have my independent clause

with a noun clause in it, which already makes it a complex sentence, but then I can add

others. Okay? I can add as many as I need. This is not a bad sentence, but, remember:

If it's getting out of control... If you're writing and it's... Your sentence is just

too long, think about cutting it somewhere. Cut it in two, cut it in three, but make it

very clear. But at least keep one of the independent clauses in there, so that you still have a

complex sentence. Okay?

Now, we're going to look at the complex-compound sentence. Now, these can be very tricky, because

you obviously have many clauses. You have to identify each one. Let's look at an example.

Okay, let's look at our last example. Now, I know you're thinking: "Oh, wait a minute.

That's too short. It can't be that complicated." It's not. All the... All the elements that

should be there are there. First, let's read it:

"Bill voted against the measure because he felt that it wasn't strong enough,

but he also offered to continue discussions, which we will do next week."

Now, what do I have here? I have compound, means I have to have

two independent clauses; and I have complex, means I have to have at least one dependent

clauses. So let's look at... For the first independent clause. Again, look for a verb.

A tense verb. "Voted". There's a subject, "Bill". We have our subject-verb.

"Against the measure", blah, blah, "he felt". So here's a verb, here's another subject, but we know

because of the "because", this is part of the dependent clause. "It wasn't". Okay, there

we have another verb, we have another subject. We have "that" so that's another dependent

clause. Oh, here's our conjunction. Okay? "He", here's our subject, "offered". There's

our... "He offered to continue discussions, which we will do", so there's your... Another...

Next subject-verb.

So, let's break it down again.

"Bill voted against the measure." Period. There's a complete idea.

Bill, "he", so: "Bill also offered to continue discussions."

Period. There's another complete idea.

So: "Bill voted against the measure, but he also offered to continue discussions."

So there you have your compound. Now, we're giving you a reason. So we have here an adverb

clause with reason about why he voted against. "Because he felt". Felt what?

"That it wasn't strong enough". So here we have a noun clause, acting as object to "felt."

"He also offered to continue discussions, which", so the discussions.

"We will continue the discussions next week."

So, here, we have an adjective clause. So look at that, I have all three types of dependent

clause. I have two independent clauses with a contrasting compound conjunction, and I

have a compound-complex conjunction.

So, don't be afraid of complex sentence structures. Don't be afraid to have a variety of sentence

structures in your writing. It will make your writing better, it will make it more interesting,

and if you're doing a test, if you're doing the IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT, whatever,

this will get you the points. Not doing this won't get you the points that you need. Okay?

If you need to ask any questions, go to and ask me in the comment section there.

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