What are Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences?

What Are Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences?

simple sentence uses just one clause, whereas a compound sentence uses two or more independent clauses. A complex sentence features at least a single independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

These can be combined into other sentence types, such as the compound-complex sentence. Find more information about this kind of sentence below.

A group of words with no independent clauses might be an incomplete sentence – often called a sentence fragment.

What Is A Sentence?

A sentence is defined as a group of one or more words. They begin with capital letters and finish with a punctuation mark – a complete stop, question mark, or exclamation mark.

Simple Sentence Examples

A simple sentence includes a subject and just one verb.

‘The boy ran away from the dog.”

“The dog barked.”

Compound Sentence Examples

A compound sentence joins two main clauses and a connective. The clauses are linked by connectives, such as ‘but,’ ‘so,’ and ‘and.’

“I like football, and I like rugby.”

“Paul can be loud, but he is funny sometimes.”

Complex Sentence Examples

A complex sentence is made when the main and subordinate clauses are joined with a connective. Subordinate clauses depend upon the main clause to make sense. A famous complex sentence example from literature is ‘The Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman stood up in a corner and kept quiet all night, although they could not sleep.’ (From The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum).

“I enjoy steamed vegetables, although my mother prefers roasted.”

“You need to practice your guitar if you want to be in a successful band.”

How to write complex sentences (examples provided)

Complex sentences can help present ideas that need layers of information and details. To understand complex sentences, it’s helpful to first look at simple and compound sentences. To know how to write a complex sentence, students will need to learn the different components of a complex sentence, including the main clause, connective and subordinate clause.

  • Main clause: This is the primary message of a sentence; the main clause must make grammatical sense independently.
  • Connectives: Connectives are joining words that children will be taught to use to connect phrases and clauses and improve the flow of their writing.
  • Subordinate clauses: A subordinate clause usually begins with a subordinate conjunction. This part of the sentence follows a connective to add additional information.

Once you understand these components, you can start building your complex sentence examples using this formula:

Complex sentence = main clause + connective + subordinate clause

What is the Difference between Compound and Complex Sentences?

Let’s review their respective definitions to understand the difference between compound and complex sentences fully.

Compound Sentence: a compound sentence contains one independent clause and either one or more dependent clauses.

Complex sentence; a complex sentence contains multiple independent clauses but no dependent clause.

Characteristics of Compound and Complex Sentences

Now that we’re familiar with each of their definitions, let’s have a look at the key characteristics that show the difference between compound and complex sentences:

  • Independent Clauses

On the one hand, a compound sentence always contains more than one independent clause. On the other hand, however, complex sentences only ever have one independent clause.

  • Dependent Clauses

You will not find any dependent clauses in a compound sentence whatsoever. However, contrastingly, a complex sentence will always have at least one dependent clause.

  • Conjunction

A compound sentence joins the two clauses together by a coordinating conjunction. Alternatively, a complex sentence joins the two clauses together by a subordinating conjunction.

Quick vocab check:

Coordinating conjunction: coordinating conjunction is placed between words, phrases, clauses, or sentences of equal rank.

Subordinating conjunction: a subordinating conjunction is placed at the beginning of a subordinate clause. A subordinate clause forms part of and depends on the sentence’s main clause.

  • Beginning of the sentence

You cannot use a coordinating conjunction at the beginning of a compound sentence. However, a subordinating conjunction can e used at the beginning of a complex sentence.

What Is a Compound-Complex Sentence?

We know the difference between compound and complex sentences, but is it possible to combine them? The simple answer is yes! You can technically combine a compound and a complex sentence to make a compound-complex sentence.

A compound-complex sentence is defined as one that contains a minimum of three clauses. These clauses must include the following:

  • two independent clauses
  • one or more dependent clauses

This will result in three subjects and verbs within the compound-complex sentence.

Within a compound sentence, two or more independent clauses are joined together by coordinating conjunctions like ‘for, and, but, or, yet, and so.’ Alternatively, the independent clauses can be combined using a conjunctive adverb like ‘however.’ On the other hand, a complex sentence contains just one independent clause and at least one subordinate clause that will modify the main subject or verb of the sentence.

Compound-complex sentences are joined together using a coordinating conjunction, just like in a regular compound sentence. The comma should be placed straight after the coordinating conjunction.

Examples of Compound-Complex Sentences

  • There were lots of people queueing to get into the park, so I used the secret side entrance and met Jenny for our picnic on time.
  • The beautiful sunflowers were beginning to wilt, but Jeremiah wasn’t worried because he knew they would bloom again next year.
  • Since Aisling is allergic to wheat, she couldn’t have any bread rolls, but she was happy to eat the delicious leek and potato soup.

How to Write a Compound-Complex Sentence

So, you know a compound-complex sentence, but how do you write one? Let’s break it down into a few simple steps.

When it comes to writing a compound-complex sentence, the structure is vital. If you neglect the structure of your compound-complex sentence, you can run into issues like sentence fragments and running sentences.

Here are a few simple steps you can follow to create an effective, well-thought-out, perfectly structured compound-complex sentence:

  • Identify your main clauses

Compound-complex sentences are always split up into two independent clauses. Each of these clauses will contain a subject and a verb phrase, which allows them to stand alone (hence the name ‘independent’). So the first step in creating your compound-complex sentence is choosing what you want your two independent clauses to be.

  • Identify your dependent clause

Attaching a dependent clause to your sentence transforms it from a compound sentence to a compound-complex one, so this step is crucial. Furthermore, your dependent clause has the power to modify the meaning or the tone of your independent clause, meaning it must be selected very carefully.

  • Conjunctions at the ready

As previously mentioned, the clauses in a compound-complex sentence are joined together using a coordinating conjunction. There are many coordinating conjunctions to choose from, so you can browse through them to find the one that best fits your sentence.

  • Last stop, punctuation!

The final step in completing the perfect compound-complex sentence is adding your punctuation. Typically a comma will be placed in front of the coordinating conjunction in your sentence. Moreover, if your sentence begins with a dependent clause, this should be followed immediately by a comma.

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