4 Types of Sentence Structure with Examples (Plus Definition)

There are four main types of sentence structure in English namely simple sentence, compound sentence, complex sentence and compound-complex sentence. This tutorial will explain, for your easy understanding, the various types of sentence structure in English with appropriate examples.

But before we look at the different types and examples of sentence structures, I want us to learn the definition of a sentence structure. When you know the meaning of the term ‘sentence structure’ you will be in a better position to grasp the coming explanation of the various types of sentence structures and their examples

Definition of Sentence Structure

Sentence structure refers to the way words and groups of words are organized to form a grammatically correct sentence in a language. It involves understanding and applying the rules and principles that govern the arrangement of words, phrases, and clauses in ways that effectively convey meaning.

In English, sentence structure also deals with the proper arrangement of various grammatical forms and grammatical functions such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, subjects, objects, and modifiers.

Importance of Sentence Structure

Different sentence structures, such as simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences, present writers and speakers of English with many possibilities for expressing ideas and thoughts within a sentence.

Thus, an effective use of the different types of sentence structure brings variety, clarity and coherence to the expression of thought both in writing and in speaking.

Consider this excerpt from an article on Healthline.com:

Even if you don’t inhale or only smoke occasionally, pipe smoking can still be harmful to your health and increase the risk of a range of serious health conditions.

By the end of this tutorial, you will be able to identify the type of sentence structure the writer has employed and dissect it into its various parts.

We shall now define and explain the four main types of sentence structure with relevant examples.

1. Simple Sentence

Here are the key aspects of the simple sentence that every learner of English needs to know.

Definition of Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is a type of sentence structure that consists of one independent clause. The independent clause that constitutes a simple sentence usually contains a subject and a predicate.

Usually, a simple sentence is used to convey only one main idea.

Simple Sentence Examples

The following are examples of a simple sentence. Note that the entire sentence contains a single independent clause.

What this means is that the clause is able to stand alone and convey complete meaning.

1. The car needs a wash.

2. She sings beautifully.

3. The sun rises in the east.

4. He is my new neighbour.

5. Rain falls from the clouds.

6. The book is on the shelf.

7. Dogs bark.

8. Come to my office now.

9. Most people see nothing wrong with dishonest behaviour.

10. I enjoy reading.

11. He walks to work.

12. The flowers bloom in spring.

13. Time flies.

14. Chika dances.

15. Entrepreneurs are creative people.

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2. Compound Sentence

The compound sentence is another type of sentence structure. Let’s begin with the definition of the term ‘compound sentence’.

Definition of Compound Sentence

A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses, often joined by coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) or punctuation marks (semicolon, colon).

Note that the compound sentence is different from the other types of sentence structures because it contains two or more independent clauses only and the various independent clauses in such a sentence are joined together by words like and, but, or, so.

This is why these words are known as coordinating conjunctions.

Compound Sentence Examples

Study closely the following examples of a compound sentence structure. Try to identify these key parts of each compound sentence:

  • The first independent clause
  • The second independent clause
  • A third, fourth etc independent clause (if any)
  • The coordinating conjunctions(s) (or colons/semi-colons) that connect the independent clauses you have identified.

Here is an example to guide you.

COMPOUND SENTENCE: The girls enjoy playing tennis but their brother prefers painting.

FIRST INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: The girls enjoy playing tennis.

SECOND INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: Their brother prefers painting.

COORDINATING CONJUNCTION: but

Examples

1. Your food tastes good and the music makes me feel at home.

2. The movie was entertaining, and the actors delivered exceptional performances.

3. She wants to travel to Europe, or she might consider exploring Africa.

4. I studied hard for the exam; nonetheless, I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped.

5. The sun was shining brightly, yet the air was surprisingly cool.

6. Tell them you are sorry and apologize to your mother.

7. He decided to take a gap year; he wanted to travel before starting college.

8. You can choose the red dress, or you can opt for the green one.

9. The team practised for weeks, and they were determined to win the championship.

10. The concert was sold out, and the football match was rained off.

11 . She enjoys hiking, and her brother prefers cycling.

12. You can choose to offer me a drink or allow me to watch the football match in peace.

13. The moon disappeared but the stars remained in the night sky.

14. I hurt you badly and I’m deeply sorry.

15. You must buy the car or the bank will take back the loan.

3. Complex Sentence

Among the types of sentence structure whose examples you need to be familiar with is the complex sentence. Here is a simple definition of a complex sentence for you.

Definition of a Complex Sentence

A complex sentence comprises one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

In such a sentence, the dependent clause(s) are joined to the independent clause by words such as while, though, if, even if, unless, when, that, since, after and so on.

These words (which are usually found at the beginning of the dependent clause in a complex sentence) are called subordinating conjunctions.

This explains why the dependent clause in a complex sentence is also known as a subordinate clause.

NOTE: Just look at the two highlighted words closely and you will see that they are referring to the same thing. In another post on this site, I explain, with examples, the difference between dependent and independent clauses.

Always remember that dependent clauses cannot stand alone as complete sentences. They need or depend on an independent clause to convey a complete meaning.

The Parts and Features of a Complex Sentence

Note the following about the structure and the various parts of a complex sentence.

  • An independent clause
  • One or more dependent clauses
  • One or more subordinating conjunctions (or colons/semi-colons)
  • The position of a dependent clause in a complex sentence is not fixed. A dependent clause can be at the initial position or come after the independent clause.

REMINDER: It is dependent clauses that we normally deal with (apart from phrases) in our study of grammatical forms or grammatical names and their functions.

So let your mind go to clauses like adverbial clauses, adjectival clauses or relative clauses (in which relative pronouns such as who, which and that serve as subordinating conjunctions), and noun clauses whenever you hear the mention of dependent or subordinate clauses.

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Complex Sentence Examples

You can now have some examples of complex sentences. Look out for all the parts and features I pointed out to you a moment ago.

1. While I was studying, the phone rang.

2. Although it was raining, the children continued playing in the park.

3. The professor explained the theory, which the students found challenging to grasp.

4. While I was cooking dinner, the phone rang, and I had to answer it.

5. Because the traffic was heavy, we arrived at the party later than expected.

6. After she finished her presentation, the audience applauded enthusiastically.

7. Since it was a holiday, we decided to visit the museum.

8 . The cat, which had been missing for days, finally returned home.

9. Even though the movie received mixed reviews, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

10. While studying for the exam, he realized the importance of time management.

11. The flight was delayed because the storm disrupted work at the airport.

12. Esther wouldn’t have bought those expensive shoes if you hadn’t invited her to the party.

13. Since the company is not willing to hire new staff you have to look for a remote job online.

14. I’m very hungry so I will eat any food you have in this house.

15. Look for a new apartment before Paul makes you change your mind.

4. Compound-Complex Sentence

The definitions, explanations and examples of the previous types of sentence structure we’ve discussed should make it easier for you to understand the concept of the compound-complex sentence structure.

We will start by defining the compound-complex sentence.

Definition of Compound-Complex Sentence

A compound-complex sentence is a combination of two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Note the following about the sentence structure known as compound-complex sentence.

  • Both coordination (compound) and subordination (complex) are present in a compound-complex sentence. This is what gives it its name (compound-complex sentence).
  • Two or more independent clauses
  • The independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction.
  • At least one dependent clause.
  • The dependent clause is subordinated (introduced) by a subordinating conjunction.
  • Therefore, there is at least one subordinating conjunction present.
  • Also, there is at least one coordinating conjunction (or colon/semi-colon) present.

Compound-Complex Sentence Examples

Going by its definition and elements, the compound-complex sentence structure tends to be the most complicated among the four types so the examples you are about to see are typically longer and more involved.

Try to identify the following parts of each compound-complex sentence in the examples below:

  • The independent clauses
  • The dependent clause(s)
  • Subordinating conjunctions
  • Coordinating conjunctions

Here is an example for you to follow:

Although the rain had stopped, the ground remained wet, but we decided to go for a walk.

INDEPENDENT CLAUSES: i. the ground remained wet ii. we decided to go for a walk

DEPENDENT CLAUSE: Although the rain had stopped

SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTION: Although

COORDINATING CONJUNCTION: but

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Examples

1. Although I wanted to go to the beach, my friends preferred hiking, so we compromised and went to a nature reserve.

2. She prepared a delicious meal, but I had already eaten, so I saved it for later.

3. While I was studying for the final exam, my roommate was playing music loudly, which made concentration difficult.

4. The project deadline was approaching, so we worked overtime, but some team members couldn’t contribute as they were attending a conference.

5. Although the weather was perfect for a picnic, we decided to stay indoors because my sister was feeling unwell, and we wanted to keep her company.

6. He wanted to buy a new car, but he wasn’t sure about the model, so he researched various options before making a decision.

7. The team worked hard to meet the client’s expectations, and even though they faced challenges, they successfully completed the project.

8. Since she loved both the mountains and the sea, she planned a vacation to a destination that offered the best of both worlds.

9. When I went to the hospital her nose was broken, her jaw was shattered and held together by wire and she could not even weep because of the pain. (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather)

10. When the judge arrived we rushed to his office and told him everything we knew about the suspect.

11. It is true that Charity was the one who invited us to the seminar but Thomas also did his best to entertain us while, for hours, our host was nowhere to be found.

12. Don’t fret if you can’t find the lost keys; you can still use the next door if you wish.

13. The students had different opinions about the proposed changes, so they held a meeting, and after lengthy discussions, they reached a consensus.

14. Although I initially hesitated to accept the job offer, my friend encouraged me, and I eventually decided to take the opportunity.

15. I may be your boss but don’t forget you’re still my best friend so stop being too hard on yourself.

Key Takeaways

Here are some crucial points you must always remember about the types and examples of sentence structures you’ve been learning.

All the types of sentence structure contain at least one independent clause.

An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence.

A simple sentence has only one independent clause.

The compound sentence comprises at least two independent clauses.

A complex sentence consists of a dependent clause and at least one independent clause.

The dependent clause in a complex sentence may be a noun clause, an adverbial clause or an adjectival clause/relative clause.

Every compound sentence must have at least one coordinating conjunction (or semi-colon/colon that serves the same purpose of coordination).

A complex sentence contains at least one subordinator (subordinating conjunction). This may be present or implied.

In another tutorial, I will give you examples of complex sentences in which the subordinating conjunctions are omitted (not physically present) but only implied.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what it means anytime you hear the term ‘sentence structure’. I urge you to constantly read over this tutorial on the meaning, types and examples of sentence structure in order to gain a proper understanding of this key concept in the learning of English for academic purposes.

Remember to put into practice your knowledge of the types of sentence structure each time you speak or write English. This may be in formal academic settings or in everyday English-speaking situations.

Finally, you might want to go back to the sentence about pipe smoking at the beginning of this tutorial to identify the particular sentence structure the writer used.

Did you find this information helpful? Then share it on your favourite social media platform for the benefit of others you care about. Thank you!

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