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Types of Sentence

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Types of Sentence

There are various types of sentences that we can use in our writing, helping to keep the reader interested and engaged. These different types of sentences vary based on their structures and the type and number of clauses they contain. This article will introduce the four main sentence types in English, explain how we form them, and provide plenty of examples.

Let's go...

Types of Sentences in English

There are four different types of sentences in the English language. They are:

  • Simple sentences

  • Compound sentences

  • Complex sentences

  • Compound-complex sentences

We can identify each sentence type by looking at the clauses. A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb; they are the building blocks of sentences. There are two major clause types in English: independent clauses and dependent clauses.

  • An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence and expresses a complete thought (i.e. doesn't rely on any more explanation). It always contains a subject and a verb.e.g. 'the Blue Whale is the biggest animal in the world.'e.g. 'I don't like peanut butter.'
  • A dependent clause (also called a 'subordinate clause') cannot stand alone in a sentence as it does not express a complete thought. It often gives us additional information about an independent clause. Dependent clauses must still contain a subject and a verb.e.g. 'when Sarah arrives.' e.g. 'the one in France.'

We now know that sentence types vary depending on the clauses, and we know what the two types of clauses are. So, let's look at how we identify each sentence type.

Types of sentence Image of woman writing StudySmarterFig 1. Varying your sentence types can make your writing more engaging

Types of Sentences with Examples

Now that we know the different types of sentences let's look at each one in more detail and provide some examples.

Simple sentences

As the name suggests, this sentence type is the most simplistic of the three. It is made up of just one independent clause. Simple sentences can also contain modifiers and an object, but these aren't necessary for the sentence to make sense.

Examples of simple sentences

Here are some examples of simple sentences:

  • The train leaves at 5 am!
  • I couldn't find Mary at the park.
  • Josh loves skiing.

Remember that independent clauses always have a subject and a verb. We can see this in the previous sentences. For example, in the first sentence, 'train' is the subject, and 'leaves' is the verb.

Simple sentences are often used to communicate things clearly. The sentences do not need added information and make sense on their own.

Compound sentences

Compound sentences combine two or more independent clauses (main clauses), joining them with a comma and coordinating conjunction or a semicolon (;).

  • Coordinating conjunctiona connecting word that joins two words, phrases, clauses, or sentences that hold equal importance. The seven coordinating conjunctions are: and, but, or, nor, yet, so, for.

Compound sentences do not contain dependent clauses (clauses that rely on the rest of the sentence). If the two (or more) independent clauses weren't joined together, they would still work independently as simple sentences. Each independent clause must contain its own subject and verb.

Let's break down a compound sentence, explaining all the aspects that make it a compound sentence.

I need to go to work, but I am too sick to drive.

The first independent clause is 'I need to go to work' - it contains a subject (I ) and two verbs (need and go).

The second independent clause is 'I am too sick to drive' - it contains a subject (I ) and a verb (drive).

The two clauses are joined together with a comma and the coordinating conjunction but. If the two clauses were separated into two sentences, they would still make sense. E.g. I need to go to work. I am too sick to drive.

Comma splices

A common grammar mistake many people make when forming compound sentences is the comma splice. A comma splice is when two independent clauses are joined together with only a comma - this is incorrect and should be avoided! For example, 'Spiders have eight legs, they are arachnids.' is a grammatically incorrect sentence. When joining two independent clauses, we must use a comma alongside a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon. E.g. 'Spiders have eight legs; they are arachnids.'

Examples of compound sentences

Here are some examples of compound sentences:

  • He ran out of money, so he couldn't buy any lunch.
  • The garden is huge; it has two ponds.
  • I need to get up early, yet I cannot fall asleep.

Complex sentences

Complex sentences are slightly different from the other two types of sentences as they include a dependent clause (also known as a subordinate clause) and an independent clause.

The dependent clause adds extra information about the independent clause and cannot stand on its own as a complete thought. However, the dependent clause must still contain a subject and a verb. The two clauses are joined together using subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns.

  • Subordinating conjunctiona connecting word that links a dependent ('subordinate') clause to an independent clause e.g. although, because, rather than, even though, after, until.
  • Relative pronoun a connecting word that introduces a relative clause (i.e. a clause that gives more information about a noun) e.g. which, that, who, whose, whom, whoever.

Examples of compound sentences

Let's look at some examples of complex sentences. In the following sentences, the independent clauses are in blue, the connecting words are in red, and the dependent clauses are in green.

  • I heated my food in the microwave because it had gone cold.
  • Customers shop here often whenever the prices go down.
  • Amy sent back her item after she realised it was damaged.

Let's look at the first sentence in more detail. The dependent clause 'it had gone cold' contains a subject and a verb, but doesn't make sense on its own as we wouldn't know what 'it' was referring to.

Compound-complex sentences

This type of sentence is made up of a combination of a compound sentence and a complex sentence - as the name suggests!

Compound-complex sentences contain two (or more) independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. As they can include a lot of clauses, they are usually the longest sentence type.

The rules for linking the clauses together are the same for both compound and complex sentences:

Examples of complex-compound sentences

Here are some examples of complex-compound sentences. The independent clauses are in blue, the dependent clauses are in green, and the connectives are in red.

  • When I grow up, I want to be a nurse, and I want to help people who are ill.
  • After we went outside, I was feeling cold, and it started raining.
  • I went to the pet shop, even though I didn't have any money, and I bought a cute kitten.

Types of sentence Image of kitten StudySmarterFig 2. Who could blame you for buying this kitten?

Identifying Sentence Types

Now that you've learned the differences between the four sentence types, let's think about how to identify them.

One way of doing this is to look out for the number of independent and dependent clauses:

  • A simple sentence is easy to recognise as it has only one independent clause.

  • A compound sentence contains two independent clauses and no dependent clauses.

  • A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one dependent clause.

  • A compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

We can also look at the types of connectives used in a sentence:

  • Simple sentences don't contain any connectives.

  • Coordinating conjunctions are used in compound sentences.

  • Subordinating conjunctions are used in complex sentences.

  • Both types of conjunctions are used in compound-complex sentences.

Difference Between Sentence Types and Sentence Functions

In this article, we have learned about the four sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. However, we have to be careful not to confuse sentence types with sentence functions (of which there are also four).

The four sentence functions are:

The difference between the types of sentences covered in this article and the functions of sentences is quite simple. 'Sentence type' refers to the layout and structure of the sentence, whereas 'sentence function' is talking about the content (i.e. what the sentence is used for).

Take a look at this sentence.

Will you wash the dishes?

This is a simple sentence (sentence type) and is also an interrogative (sentence function). This is because it only contains one independent clause and is an interrogative because it is asking a question.

Types of Sentence - Key Takeaways

  • There are four types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.
  • Simple sentences contain one independent clause.
  • Compound sentences contain two (or more) independent clauses, joined together by a comma and a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon.
  • Complex sentences contain at least one dependent clause linked to the main clause with a subordinating conjunction.
  • Compound-complex sentences contain at least one dependent clause and at least two independent clauses.
  • Sentence types differ from sentence functions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Types of Sentence

There are four types of sentences; simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

The different types of sentences are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. 

A simple sentence is made up of a single independent clause, for example, 'he went to the park'. 

A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses joined by punctuation marks or coordinating conjunction, for example, 'he went to the park and she went to the gym'. 

A complex sentence includes a dependent clause, for example, 'he went to the park because he wanted to run'. 

A compound-complex sentence includes two independent clauses and one dependent clause, for example, 'he went to the park because he wanted to run, and she went to the gym'.

There are a few identifiers when it comes to sentence types. Having a look at the number of independent and dependent clauses is the key to defining the type of sentence. If there is only one clause you know right away it is a simple sentence. 


If there are multiple clauses that could stand alone as separate sentences, it’s a compound sentence. If some clauses rely on others then it’s a complex sentence. If there are multiple clauses that could become separate, but at least one that relies on others, it’s a compound-complex sentence. 

A question is actually a type of sentence function known as an interrogative. Have a look at our StudySmarter article on Sentence Functions to learn more!

This is a sentence function, more specifically a declarative.

Final Types of Sentence Quiz

Question

What type of sentence is the following: We went to Tesco because we needed milk.

Show answer

Answer

Complex.

Show question

Question

Which type of sentence only contains one clause?


Show answer

Answer

A simple sentence.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a compound sentence?

  1. He went to the zoo because it was raining.

  2. He went to the zoo and it was raining.

  3. He went to the zoo.

Show answer

Answer

B.

Show question

Question

True or false: complex sentences are the longest types of sentences.


Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a complex sentence?

  1. Everyone ate dinner.

  2. Everyone ate dinner after the show.

  3. Everyone ate dinner but I ate my sandwich.

Show answer

Answer

B.

Show question

Question

What is an independent clause?

Show answer

Answer

An independent clause (also known as the main clause) is the main section of a sentence. It makes sense on its own and doesn’t need any additional information.

Show question

Question

What is a dependent clause?

Show answer

Answer

This is the opposite of an independent clause, a dependent clause (also called a subordinate clause) relies on another part of the sentence (the independent clause) to make sense.

Show question

Question

What type of sentence is this? The dog went to the park and its owner wasn’t very nice.


Show answer

Answer

Compound.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a simple sentence?

  1. He made a sandwich and he had a glass of milk.

  2. He made a sandwich.

  3. He made a sandwich because he was hungry.

Show answer

Answer

B.

Show question

Question

How do you identify a compound sentence?

Show answer

Answer

 If there are multiple clauses that could work as simple sentences on their own, then it is a compound sentence.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between types of sentences and sentence functions?

Show answer

Answer

Types of sentences talk about the sentence structure, sentence functions talk about what the content of a sentence is.

Show question

Question

What is a dependent clause also called?

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Answer

A subordinate clause.

Show question

Question

What is an independent clause also called?

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Answer

The main clause.

Show question

Question

What must be included in a simple sentence?

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Answer

A subject and a verb.

Show question

Question

What is included in a complex sentence that isn’t included in a simple or a compound sentence?


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Answer

A dependent clause.

Show question

Question

What are the four types of sentences?

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Answer

Simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

Show question

Question

How many clauses are there in a simple sentence?

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Answer

One independent clause.

Show question

Question

True or false: Independent clauses rely on others.


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Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a simple sentence?

  1. Joey and Samantha went to the gym. 

  2. Joey and Samantha went to the gym but they left early.

Show answer

Answer

a. Joey and Samantha went to the gym. 

Show question

Question

What are the two types of clauses?

Show answer

Answer

Independent and dependent.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is optional in a simple sentence?

  1. Subject

  2. Modifier

  3. Verb

Show answer

Answer

b. Modifier

Show question

Question

What do you call a simple sentence with multiple subjects?


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Answer

Compound subject simple sentence.

Show question

Question

What do you call a simple sentence with multiple verbs?


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Answer

Compound verb simple sentence.

Show question

Question

True or false: Simple sentences are direct and easily understandable.


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Answer

True.

Show question

Question

True or false: Simple sentences describe things in a complicated way.


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Answer

False.

Show question

Question

Are simple sentences a basic sentence type?


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Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

Which word is the subject of this sentence: The cat jumped up.


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Answer

Cat.

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Question

Which word is the verb of this sentence: The boy raced across the finishing line.


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Answer

Raced.

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Question

How many subjects are there in this sentence? Amy, Paul, and Wendy went to the show.


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Answer

​Three.

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Question

Do simple sentences always contain a single clause?

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Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

What is a compound sentence?

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Answer

A sentence that contains multiple independent clauses.

Show question

Question

Which sentence types contain dependent clauses?

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Answer

Complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.

Show question

Question

How can you identify a compound sentence?

Show answer

Answer

If a sentence contains multiple independent clauses and no dependent clauses, it is a compound sentence.

Show question

Question

 Which of the following sentences is a compound sentence?

  1. I ran on the treadmill.

  2. I ran on the treadmill because I wanted to.

  3. I ran on the treadmill and I had some water.

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Answer

c. I ran on the treadmill and I had some water.

Show question

Question

Why do we use compound sentences?

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Answer

To link different ideas together.

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Question

What is the formula for a compound sentence?

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Answer

independent clause + link + independent clause.

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Question

True or false: Compound sentences are one of two types of sentences that contain a dependent clause.


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Answer

False. A compound sentence doesn't include a dependent clause.

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Question

True or false: Compound-complex sentences are a type of compound sentence.


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Answer

False, as they are their own sentence type.

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Question

Is this a compound sentence?: The cow jumped over the moon.


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Answer

No, it is a simple sentence.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a compound sentence?

  1. Connor was rich, but Amanda was richer.

  2. David went to the beach while it was sunny.

  3. Andrew bought a dog, but he didn’t keep it.

Show answer

Answer

b. David went to the beach while it was sunny. This is because it is a complex sentence.

Show question

Question

True or false: Compound sentences could be separated into multiple simple sentences as they are made up of independent clauses.


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Answer

True.

Show question

Question

What do independent clauses have to contain?

Show answer

Answer

A subject and a verb.

Show question

Question

What can an independent clause contain?

Show answer

Answer

An independent clause could contain a modifier and/or an object.

Show question

Question

Is this a compound sentence?: Everybody loves Lucy, but she is quite dull.


Show answer

Answer

Yes.

Show question

Question

True or false: Compound sentences are made from simple sentences, as they contain lots of dependent clauses.


Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

What is a complex sentence?

Show answer

Answer

A sentence that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between a complex sentence and a compound sentence?

Show answer

Answer

A compound sentence contains multiple independent clauses and doesn’t have a dependent clause.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is a complex sentence?

  1. Everyone went to the zoo. 

  2. Everyone went to the zoo while I was working.

  3. Everyone went to the zoo but I stayed at home.

Show answer

Answer

b. Everyone went to the zoo while I was working.

Show question

Question

 Is this a complex sentence?: Andrew fought hard but he still lost.


Show answer

Answer

​No.

Show question

Question

True or false: A complex sentence is the same as a compound-complex sentence.


Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

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