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.




Thanks Kirk. I've found that very helpful but I need an answer to something. When you have a comma before a question mark in a sentence , is it right? E.g "Since he was elected president, what has been his achievements?" ...another example "Before you went to England, where did you live." Also, can they be rewritten as "what has been his achievements since he became president?"

Hello Timmosky,

Having a comma between clauses in a question has no influence on the question mark.

In your final sentence you need to use a plural verb and inversion: what have his achievements been since...'


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

"This is how it is, learn to cope with it!" another example: "apart from selling drugs, what else do you do?" my questions are
1. Are these sentences correct? If they are, that means we can have a half statement, half question or exclamatory sentence.
2. Are there any rules as regards it usages? I.e half statement and half question sentences and half statement, half exclamatory sentences. Thanks

Hello Timmosky,

Those are all correct in speech and also in informal writing. The first would not be correct in more formal writing -- you'd have to change the comma to a semi-colon or full stop. But since it sounds like a fairly informal situation, it's just fine.

If you're asking about punctuation, the rules vary quite a bit depending on the kind of text. Well, in speaking there is of course no punctuation and sentence fragments are usually not a problem. Writing which is supposed to reflect speech (e.g. in a novel) also has very different rules from writing. I'm afraid it's an awful lot to explain, so I'd encourage you to seek out punctuation resources, for example the Purdue OWL.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Can you please explain why in your last example you refer to the sentence (and) her father was Nigerian as a Adverbial clause? Can an adverbial clause be introduced by and?

Hello LauraJ,

The clause here is one of two adverbial clauses which are introduced by the conjunction because. If there was only one clause then it would look as follows:

[main clause] because [adverbial clause]


The only difference here is that there are two adverbial clauses, but each has the same role in the sentence:

[main clause] because [adverbial clause] and [adverbial clause]

There is no limit to the number of adverbial clauses you could use here, though the style and clarity might suffer if there are too many. The clauses are connected together with the co-ordinating conjunction 'and' but as a whole they are subordinated to the main clause through the subordinating conjunction 'because'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team,

Please tell me how to identify subject(s) and object(s) in compound and complex sentences? I am studying grammar on my own and trying to use the rules outside 'the grammar textbook exercises', and trust me it's tough! So when I try to figure out the subject and object in the opening line (sentence) of 'Hansel and Gretel',and also to put the sentence in one of the categories (simple,compound and complex),I am lost!!! I know you do not encourage learners to cite examples from outside sources here on this website, so I am not typing the sentence. (Also,do you find my writing grammatical or are there any errors?)
Thanks and regards,

Hello mahua_chakravarty,

English is, generally speaking, not a language in which nouns are inflected for case. That means that there is no way to know simply from the noun itself if it is an object, a subject, a genitive form and so on. The only way to work out which word or phrase is the subject, for example, is to look at the whole sentence and use the information there (particularly the logical meaning of the sentence in context, the verb form and the word order) to help you.

As far as clauses go, the same thing applies. You need to identify the clauses and then use your knowledge and understanding of the meaning to work out the relationship between them. Here conjunctions can help as certain conjunctions are used with subordinate clauses and others with coordinate clauses.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I have 2 questions
1. A girl told me :"terrorism is borne out of revolutionary acts and terrorists are unfairly treated". I don't believe this view so when I'm reporting this back to the girl or another person, can I say what she told me exactly and say I don't believe it or am I meant to report it in the indirect speech format because I don't believe it.
2. In the event of trying to report what someone said in the past, I can't really recollect what was said but sometimes I see the need to report in the direct format. Example he said "Gone are the days when people could speak good English" now I'm reporting it to another, can I rephrase and still quote it like he said "Those days when people could speak English are gone" since its the same view. Thanks I really need clarification on these two questions.

Hello Timmosky,

It's really your choice whether to use direct or indirect speech. Which style people use depends a lot on context, but I'd say that in general indirect speech is more typical, because in that way you can include what you think is most relevant and comment directly on it.

You can also certainly use direct speech that is actually your interpretation of what someone said, but, depending on the context, this might be considered unfair. If you're writing a newspaper article or a research paper, for example, I would not recommend using direct speech that you don't actually have a sure source for. But in other contexts it might be more appropriate -- it really depends on the context and how you do it.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team