Sentence Types

Sentence Types

First, the bad news. . .

There are billions of sentences out there that we might have to understand.

Next, the good news. . .

All sentences fall into just four categories. They are:

Simple Sentence

Compound Sentence

Complex Sentence

Compound-Complex sentence

Let’s take them one at a time.

Definition

A simple sentence is a sentence with one independent clause.

Note what the definition does not say. It doesn’t say that a simple sentence is short or easy to understand. It doesn’t say anything about phrases. A simple sentence can have forty-seven phrases, but only one independent clause.

Let’s look at an example:

I love simple sentences.

(That’s easy enough. It is obviously one independent clause.)

But look at this:

Being an English teacher with a penchant for syntactical complexity, I love simple sentences.

(It’s longer, more challenging and contains bigger words, but it’s still a simple sentence. Being an English teacher with a penchant for syntactical complexity” is a participial phrase. “With a penchant” and “for syntactical complexity” are prepositional phrases.)

Look at this:

Being an English teacher with a penchant for syntactical complexity, I love to read simple sentences upon getting up and before going to bed.

(Amazingly, it’s still a simple sentence. I am piling on phrase after phrase, but the sentence still contains only one independent clause.)

Definition

A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses.

Example:

I love conjunctive adverbs, but my students love each other.

(The independent clauses are in blue. This sentence contains no dependent clauses)

Sometimes a compound sentence contains more than two independent clauses.

Example:

I love conjunctive adverbs; my students love each other, and we all love holidays.

Sometimes longer linking words can be used.

Example:

I can name several conjunctive adverbs; consequently, my friends are impressed.

Definition

A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

Example:

Because life is complex, we need complex sentences.

(The independent clause is in blue. The dependent clause is italicized.)

Example:

Because people know that I am an English teacher,they make allowances for how I dress and what I say.

(This sentence contains four dependent clauses. The independent clause is in blue. Note that two of the dependent clauses are inside of and part of the independent clause. Don’t be alarmed. That happens all the time.)

Definition

A compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

Example:

Because I am an English teacher, some people expect me to speak perfectly, and other people expect me to write perfectly.

(The dependent clause is underlined, and the independent clauses are in blue.)

Example:

Some people tell me that my grading is too tough, and others tell me that my assignments are boring.

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