The 4 Types of Sentence Structure

In What is a Sentence? we saw the minimum requirements for the formation of a sentence. Now we can look in more detail at the four types of sentence structure.

The 4 Types of Sentence

Simple Sentence Structure

A simple sentence consists of one independent clause. (An independent clause contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought.)

independent clause

  • I like coffee.
  • Mary likes tea.
  • The earth goes round the sun.
  • Mary did not go to the party.

Compound Sentence Structure

A compound sentence is two (or more) independent clauses joined by a conjunction or semicolon. Each of these clauses could form a sentence alone.

independent clausecoordinating conjunctionindependent clause

  • I like coffee and Mary likes tea.
  • Mary went to work but John went to the party.
  • Our car broke down; we came last.

There are seven coordinating conjunctions:

  • and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Complex Sentence Structure

A complex sentence consists of an independent clause plus a dependent clause. (A dependent clause starts with a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun, and contains a subject and verb, but does not express a complete thought.)

independent clausedependent clause

  • We missed our plane because we were late.
  • Our dog barks when she hears a noise.
  • He left in a hurry after he got a phone call.
  • Do you know the man who is talking to Mary?

Here are some common subordinating conjunctions:

  • after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that, though, till, until, when, where, whether, while

Here are the five basic relative pronouns:

  • that, which, who, whom, whose

Compound-Complex Sentence Structure

A compound-complex sentence consists of at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

independent clausedependent clausecoordinating conjunctionindependent clause

  • John didn't come because he was ill so Mary was not happy.
  • He left in a hurry after he got a phone call but he came back five minutes later.

A dependent clause is also called a subordinate clause.

The above sentences are basic examples only. In some cases other arrangements are possible (for example, a dependent clause can come before an independent clause).

Contributor: Josef Essberger