Simple, Compound and Complex Sentences

If you have been following my columns you should already be working on improving your skills to ensure your verbs and nouns agree. Now we will put that new knowledge to work as we take on the challenge of using those new skills when writing the four types of sentences, which are; simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.

Simple sentences contain an independent clause, and can be as short as two words or can be as long as twenty words or more. A simple sentence can have compound subjects or compound verbs. Some examples of simple sentences are:

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  • John ran.
  • John and Judy ran and walked, respectively.

Compound sentences consist of two or more simple sentences joined by; a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, yet, or so) or a semicolon, or a comma, but only when the sentences are being treated as items in a series. Some examples of compound sentences are:

  • John ran but Judy walked.
  • John ran; Judy walked.
  • John ran, Judy walked, John Jr. skipped, and baby Jane crawled.

Complex sentences consist of a combination of an independent clause and a dependent or a relative clause. Some examples of complex sentences with the dependent or relative clause underlined are: (Note that the relative or dependent clause can be removed from the complex sentence and the remaining clause remains a complete sentence.)

  • The baby that was being held cried loudly. (Relative)
  • A teenager who is hungry will never pass up a pizza. (Relative)
  • Baby Jane cried loudly, although she was being held.
  • Because baby Jane cried so loudly, her big brother John Jr. could not sleep.
  • Baby Jane, although she was being held, cried loudly.

Compound-Complex sentences consist of a combination of a compound sentence and a complex sentence, an example is:

  • Baby Jane, in spite of being held by John Jr., cried loudly, while John ate a pizza and Judy ate a fish sandwich.

For your writing, to maintain the readers interest, it needs to have a variety of the four different types of sentences, however one should not become so enamored with complex and compound sentences that your writing is not clear and concise, also please avoid run on sentences. For more information and some exercises see:

Words to improve your vocabulary:

Sobre o Autor: Bill Slayman tem 66 anos é americano e mora em Pensacola, Florida, USA. Ele atuou no exército americano e hoje está aposentado. Suas paixões são: andar de Harley Davidson, motocicletas, fotografia e qualquer coisa brasileira. Bill é um dos maiores colaboradores do EE.

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11 comentários

  • 22/03/11  
    Frederico diz: 1

    Bill Slayman,

    I do like that topic. Who wants to improve writing it is necessary to domain coordination and subordination. You presented interesting tips.

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:


      I hope you find all of my columns useful, and enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy the positive comments.


  • 23/03/11  
    Jefferson Alves diz: 2

    I swear I was afraid when I read the title, haha, but when I read the article it was all okay. Well, we use this kind of sentences all the time, but we are not kin with their names.

    Just loved the article, and I agree with you when you say about writing, keeping the readers interested by using these four type of sentences.

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:


      I hope that my titles do not scare anyone away, as they are intended to generate interest. Thank you for reading and enjoying them.


  • 24/03/11  
    João B. L. Ghizoni diz: 3

    I think this is the very first time I’ve seen the four types of sentences under this umbrella. Both the explanations and the examples were great!

    As I was a Portuguese teacher for some years, I was able to relate those four types of sentences in English to the four types of “períodos” in our language. Knowing our mother tongue well makes it easier to learn a foreign one.

    Great article, Bill. Congrats, and thanks!

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:


      You are too kind, and coming from a true teacher your words carry extra weight, thank you.


  • 24/03/11  
    Rafaela Fernandes diz: 4

    I love this it.

  • 28/03/11  
    liics diz: 5

    Love it! Thanks guys (:

    • 31/03/11  
      Bill Slayman diz:


      Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more columns.


  • 31/03/11  
    Bill Slayman diz: 6


    I am happy that you enjoyed this column, more are coming.


  • 07/04/11  
    Dicas de Inglês - Paragraphs and Essays diz: 7

    […] to this point I have discussed; the ellipsis, agreement of nouns and verbs, types of sentences, and now the paragraph and essays. If you put all these together you will begin to communicate with […]