Sentence Structure

Sentences are little sets of words that are combined to express complete thoughts. These ‘packages’ make understanding and learning information easier.

Sentences are made up of clauses and phrases. A clause is a group of words that contain at least a subject and a verb (NB: a clause can be a sentence).

There are four sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

  1. Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is made up of one independent clause. An independent clause is a group of words, consisting of at least a verb and a noun that can stand alone as a sentence and is a complete idea.

I saw the psychologist is an independent clause. It contains a subject (I) and a verb (saw), and expresses a complete thought.


  1. Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a sentence made up of two or more independent clauses joined together. You can join clauses in two different ways.

Professional athletes train at a higher intensity than normal people, so they are fitter than them. (conjunction)

Professional athletes train at a higher intensity than normal people; they are fitter than them. (semi-colon)

Note the punctuation used to separate these clauses. Also, if you join two independent clauses together with ONLY a comma, it’s incorrect and called a comma splice. If you don’t use any punctuation or connecting words between the independent clauses it is called a run-on sentence.


  1. Complex Sentences

A complex sentence consists of one independent clause and one or more dependent (subordinate) clauses. A dependent clause does not express a complete idea. In a complex sentence there is normally one idea that is more important than the other.

Health care professionals are people who are experts in health and are always willing to help others.


  1. Compound-Complex Sentences

A Compound-complex sentence contains at least three clauses. Two of these clauses MUST be independent clauses. You can have any combination of clauses just as long as 2 or more are independent and one or more is dependent.

I could not decide where I should work or what I should do, so at first I did nothing.

I wanted to travel after I graduated from ACAP; however, I had to work and save first.