Simple sentences:

A simple sentence has only one clause:

The children were laughing.
John wanted a new bicycle.
All the girls are learning English.

Compound sentences:

A compound sentence has two or more clauses:

(We stayed behind) and (finished the job)
(We stayed behind) and (finished the job), then (we went home)

The clauses in a compound sentence are joined by co-ordinating conjunctions:

John shouted and everybody waved.
We looked everywhere but we couldn’t find him.
They are coming by car so they should be here soon.

The common coordinating conjunctions are:

and – but – or – nor – so – then – yet

Complex sentences:

A complex sentence has a main clause and one or more adverbial clauses. Adverbial clauses usually come after the main clause:

Her father died when she was very young
>>>
Her father died (main clause)
when (subordinating conjunction)
she was very young (adverbial clause)

She had a difficult childhood because her father died when she was very young.
>>>
She had a difficult childhood (main clause)
because (subordinating conjunction)
her father died (adverbial clause)
when (subordinating conjunction)
she was very young (adverbial clause).

Some subordinate clauses can come in front of the main clause:

Although a few snakes are dangerous most of them are quite harmless
>>>
Although (subordinating conjunction)
some snakes are dangerous (adverbial clause)
most of them are harmless (main clause).

A sentence can contain both subordinate and coordinate clauses:

Although she has always lived in France, she speaks fluent English because her mother was American and her father was Nigerian
>>>
Although (subordinating conjunction)
she has always lived in France (adverbial clause),
she speaks fluent English (main clause)
because (subordinating conjunction)
her mother was American (adverbial clause)
and (coordinating conjunction)
her father was Nigerian (adverbial clause).

There are seven types of adverbial clauses:

 

  Common conjunctions
Contrast clauses  although; though; even though; while;
Reason clauses because; since; as
Place clauses where; wherever; everywhere
Purpose clauses so that; so; because + want
Result clauses so that; so … that; such … that
Time clauses when; before; after; since; while; as; as soon as; by the time; until
Conditional clauses  if; unless; provided (that); as long as
   

Complete the sentences with conjunctions.

Match conjunctions to functions.

 

Section: 

Comments

Hi,

What's the difference between an adverbial clause and adverbial phrase?

Thanks,
Frank

Hello Frank,

'Adverbial' simply tells us that the structure functions as an adverb. You can read about adverbials on this page.

A phrase is a group of words which forms on conceptual unit. For example, 'house' is a noun. 'The house' is a phrase, as is 'the big house', 'the big red house' 'the big red house with the blue door' and so on.

Clauses are generally larger units (though phrases can be quite long, as above) and are made up of phrases. Traditionally all clauses have at least a subject (a noun phrase) and a predicate (containing a verb), but most contain more than this and have one or more adverbial phrases.

 

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Can anyone tell me whether this complex sentence is correct:

Currently we are not sure whether having 20 students per class will reduce individual attention, having teachers with doctorates will surely give better results, the students' innate capabilities to learn are comparable, the data in other years regarding the number of students entering Ivy League colleges from each school is similar to last year, etc.

or I should use the following version:
Currently we are not sure whether having 20 students per class will reduce individual attention, whether having teachers with doctorates will surely give better results, whether the students' innate capabilities to learn are comparable, whether the data in other years regarding the number of students entering Ivy League colleges from each school is similar to last year, etc.

If both the above sentences are wrong, please advise me how should I write it.

Hello muthuraja,

The second version is much easier to understand than the first -- the repetition of 'whether' makes it clear that each phrase is a separate issue.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

I've always thouhgt that 'wether' is used when you decide between two options. The more you know...

Hi Kirk, thank you for everything. Have a great rest of the week.

Best wishes
Alyson

Hi,
What kind of sentence is one with one subject, many finite verbs, but no conjunctions? For example, 'The man walked to the shop, got his groceries, then went home'. As the subject only occurs once, I guess this sentence only has one clause, in which case it's a simple sentence?

Hello bretfrag,

This is an example of a compound sentence in which the same subject is used in several clauses. It is common (but not required) to omit the subject in such cases. Where there is a different subject we must use either a co-ordinating conjunction or (in a more literary context) a semicolon:

The man walked to the shop and his friend paid for his groceries.

The man walked to the shop; his friend paid for his groceries.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your reply, Peter.

I guess I'm still slightly confused, because every definition of an independent clause I've found states that they can only be linked with coordinating conjunction or semicolons, while in my example above commas are used. Does this mean my sentence is non-standard? I also thought a clause has to have a subject, although I guess in my example the subject would be considered ellipted?

Hello bretfrag,

When the sentence has multiple clauses it is standard to use a conjunction before only the final one. This is a common pattern in English whenever we are dealing with a list.

The subjects are omitted to avoid repetition, so this is ellipsis as you say. If we include all of the conjunctions and subjects then we end up with a horrible sentence, stylistically speaking:

 

The man walked to the shop and the man got his groceries and then the man went home.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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