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.




Hello Alyson,

Yes, both 1 and 2 are correct. 3 through 17 are also correct, though instead of using an affirmative verb + 'neither' (as in 9, 11 'I want neither an apple ...') we usually use a negative verb + 'either' ('I don't want either').

19-21 are all correct. I can't really say much re: 18 without knowing the context, but perhaps you mean 'Is it in the new year?' For example, I tell you I'm going to see a performance of the Nutcracker. You could ask me 'Is it soon? Or is it in the new year?'

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Hi Kirk thank you so much for you help. Can I use this for neither and nor:

1. Do you want a cake and an ice cream? We want neither a cake nor an ice cream./We want neither./Neither. We want a slice of pie.

I guess I am having problems finding a good question and answer for Neither and nor.

I appreciate your help yet again.

Best wishes

Hi Alyson,

Yes, those are all correct. I'd say the most natural response in an ordinary informal situation would be 'Neither, we want a slice of pie'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk and Peter, my question is in two parts: writing and spoken English. The first is : "what do you need, John?", and the second is: "sit down, Tom!" is it accurate to always have a comma before names in any form of sentence?
2. In the first conditional "if", why is it that will is always used to show that something is likely but not guaranteed? Can you use may instead of will?

Hello Timmosky,

We do not always have commas before names. It depends on the structure of the sentence. When we directly address a person, however, then a comma is used:

Stop talking, you over there!

Come here please, Natalia.


'Will' is only one of the modal verbs which can be used in conditional forms. 'May' is also possible, as is 'might', 'can', 'should' and other modal verbs.

If the bus is late we will be late.

If we hurry we can still catch the bus.

If you have a cold you should see the doctor.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

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?