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Sentence Types

Download version Sentence Types

Overview: Using a variety of sentence types will make your writing more stylistically interesting and complex. There are four main sentence types: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences. Alternating between sentence types will add variety to the rhythm of your writing, making it more engaging to your reader. In addition, becoming familiar with the basic sentence types will help you better comprehend how ideas in sentences relate to each other as you read.


All four sentence types are constructed using independent and dependent clauses, so we’ve defined those terms for you here:

An Independent Clause contains a subject and verb, and it is a complete thought that can stand alone. In the following sentences, the independent clauses are italicized.

Maria loves to read.

Every afternoon 3:00, Li and Tuan go swimming.

A Dependent Clause contains a subject and verb, but it is an incomplete thought that cannot stand alone. A dependent clause always begins with a subordinating conjunction, which makes the thought incomplete. In the following sentences, the dependent clauses are underlined and the subordinating conjunctions are bold.

Although Maria loves to read, she does not enjoy reading murder mysteries.

            Maria does not enjoy reading murder mysteries because they scare her.

 

SIMPLE SENTENCES consist of just one independent clause.

 

Examples of simple sentences:

1) She went to the bookstore.

2) I want to be a teacher.

3) Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

4) Few species of palm tree are native to Southern California.

 


 

COMPOUND SENTENCES are made up of two or more independent clauses and no dependent clauses. Independent clauses must be joined in specific ways to avoid run-on sentences and commas splices.

 

Examples of compound sentences that use a coordinating conjunction and a comma: (Coordinating conjunctions are often called the “FANBOYS”: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.)

1) She finally received her financial aid check, so she went to the bookstore.

2) I want to be a teacher, but I will be in school for another year in order to complete my teaching credential.

Examples of compound sentences that use a conjunctive adverb and a semicolon:

3) Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; nevertheless, teens feel they do not have time for breakfast.

4) Many people associate palm trees with Southern California; however, few species of palm tree are native to this area.

 


 

COMPLEX SENTENCES consist of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. In the sentences below, the independent clauses are italicized and the dependent clauses are underlined.

 

Examples of complex sentences:

1) She went to the bookstore to purchase her textbooks because she had received her financial aid.

2) I love working with childrenwhen they smile and obey me!

3) Although breakfast is the most important meal of the day, teens feel they do not have time for it.

4) Even though few species of palm tree are native to this area, many people associate palm trees with Southern California.

 


 

COMPOUND-COMPLEX SENTENCES consist of at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. In the sentences below, the independent clauses are italicized and the dependent clauses are underlined. The words that join clauses are bold.

Examples of complex-compound sentences:

1) She finally received her financial aid check, so she went to the bookstore to purchase her textbooks even though classes had not yet started.

2) I want to be a teacher; consequently, I will be in school for another year in order to complete my teaching credential unless I decide to teach pre-school instead.

3) Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; nevertheless, many people feel they do not have time for breakfast because they are too busy.

4) Although this fact is not widely known, few species of palm tree are native to Southern California, but many people associate palm trees with this area.

 

Practice: Can you identify these sentence types in your writing? Choose one paragraph and revise the sentences in that paragraph so that you have at least one of each type of sentence. Remember that you should always include a variety of sentence types in your writing; try to avoid using the same one or two types. Varying sentence types helps you produce writing that is interesting to your reader.


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This handout is part of a library of instructional materials used in California State University, Long Beach’s writing center, the Writer’s Resource Lab.  Educators and students are welcome to distribute copies as long as they do so with attribution to all organizations and authors.  Commercial distribution is prohibited.

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