Types of sentences

Other than Grammar, when learning English, it is important to understand the structure of a sentence and what types of sentences there are. These upcoming tips are going to be useful for the IELTS test.

To begin with, a new sentence must begin with a capital letter. And, when you finish your sentence you should use appropriate punctuation in the end. Depending on the idea you may use a period, an exclamation point, or a question mark. Usually, sentences in English are structured in the following way: 

Subject + Verb + Object. 

Not to mention, a sentence should have its own meaning – a complete idea that stands alone. This is also called an independent clause

 Moving on to the types of sentences. There are three types of sentences in English: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex

Let us further explore these types and understand how each of them is constructed. 

Types of sentences: Simple Sentences

A simple sentence usually consists of a subject and a verb. 

For example: 

She is studying. 

Here, she is the subject and is studying the verb in its present continuous form. 

A simple sentence may also contain objects and modifiers. You should remember that a simple sentence contains only one independent clause

For example: 

She is studying English. 

Here, the sentence also contains an object – English

Simple sentences are often used in every-day life and have a very easy structure to remember. 

Compound sentences

Unlike simple sentences, compound sentences consist of at least two independent clauses. These two independent clauses can be combined with a coordinating conjunction, a semicolon, or a comma. 

For example: 

She had her dinner; then she ate an ice-cream. 

As you can see, there are two independent clauses that can stand alone but are combined into one sentence with a semicolon. 

Complex sentences 

Complex sentences are the most complicated types of sentences. They consist of at least one dependent clause and at least one independent clause. Dependent clauses usually refer to the subject (who, what), the time (when), or the causal elements of the sentence (why, if). 

If a sentence starts with a dependent clause, you should put a comma after it. On the other hand, if a sentence begins with an independent clause, there is no comma between the clauses. 

For example: 

Although it was the end of the day, she did not go home yet. 

She studied English for many years since it was her favorite language. 

Pay attention: In the first sentence, we have a comma separating two clauses because the sentence starts with a dependent clause. However, in the second sentence, the dependent clause is written after the independent one. So, there is no comma. 

Compound-Complex sentences

The name of this type is rather self-explanatory. This final type of sentence is the combination of the former two. It consists of at least one dependent clause and at least two independent clauses. The punctuation of compound-complex sentences depends on the sequence of the clauses and how they work with each other. 

One of the most common problems students come across is determining whether a sentence is complex or compound. To be able to tell the difference, let us go through some more examples of sentences. 

Suppose we have the following sentences, and we have to decide which one is compound and which is complex. 

  1. I washed my hands, and I ate dinner. 
  2. I washed my hands before I ate dinner. 

Before going any further on types of sentences

When learning grammar many students struggle with this issue. However, it is no reason to stop studying. You just need to completely understand the difference. Once you see the pattern, it will get easier and easier for you to determine and construct the right types of sentences. 

First of all, you should know that the two sentences above are very different, even though at first sight they may seem alike. The difference is that one of them is compound and the other one is complex. 

These two sentences actually differ by only one word – and & before, which totally changes the structure of the sentence. 

To be able to tell the difference, you should know that compound sentences are connected with a coordinating conjunction. There are 7 coordinating conjunctions in total – for, and, but, yet, or, nor, so. There is an easy way to remember all 7 if you just change the sequence to for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so – FANBOYS. Whenever you see one of these, you can be sure that the sentence is compound. This means, that the sentences combined into one have equal structural importance. 

Complex  Sentences

Fairly, in complex sentences, the independent and the dependent clauses (the same as a subordinate clause) are separated by subordinating conjunctions. Unlike coordinating conjunctions, there are many subordinate conjunctions. You do not need to remember them all. However, just to have a general idea, here are a few: after, before, if, because, since. 

So, this is an easy way to figure out whether a sentence is compound or complex – just look at the connecting (the same as separating word). 

If the connecting word is coordinate conjunction, then you have a compound sentence. 

If the connecting word is a subordinate conjunction, then you have a complex sentence. 

Many students start looking at the clauses themselves to understand if one describes the other. However, this is the easiest and fastest way to determine the type of sentence. 

I hope that this was helpful. Good luck with your studies!

ALISTAIR BROWN: As a writing and speaking examiner for more than 10 years, I bring a lot of experience. I have seen the frustrations that students have with IELTS from a career where I have actively guided and corrected students’ studies. I am looking for the most effective ways to teach IELTS as I understand students’ needs.