Sentences in English can be short and direct, or long and a bit hard to follow. In order to understand the more complicated sentences, like those you might encounter while reading the New York Times, it’s helpful to be able to identify the different types of sentences.
Before reading the examples, you should know the difference between an independent and dependent clause. A clause is a group of words containing a subject and a verb. An independent clause is a complete sentence and conveys a complete idea. A dependent clause needs to be joined with an independent clause in order to form a complete idea. On its own, it doesn’t state the main point of the sentence; it’s like telling a joke without the punchline!
1. Simple sentences
Simple sentences consist of one independent clause.
I walked the dog today.
I eat breakfast everyday.
Let’s go to the park.
2. Compound sentences
Compound sentences consist of two or more simple sentences. The sentences are joined by a coordinating conjunction (e.g. and, but, or, yet…) or a semicolon.
I ate breakfast today and walked the dog.
I ate breakfast today but I’m still hungry.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.
3. Complex sentences
Complex sentences consist of an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses connected with subordinating conjunctions (e.g. because, as, since, due to, since, though, while, when, where…)
I am going to be late today though I left the house early.
She is never late because she always leaves the house early.
There was a time when I was always late.
4. Compound-complex sentences
Compound-complex sentences consist of at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
Because he never listens to constructive criticism, he never moves ahead in his career and he often complains about it.
I was disappointed because I couldn’t go on my holiday due to a work emergency, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to reschedule.