sentence structure


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



The preposition after verbs in special questions
1:Where does he live?
2:Where do you come from?
I am confused when I should add a preposition after a verb. “Where” is a adv, so in sentence one, there is not a preposition after “live”. However, there is “from” after “come”. Could you explain the reason?

I also have another pair of sentences:
1:When can you come?
2:What time will you be coming?
I can understand that in sentence one, “when” is an adv, so there is not a preposition after “come”. How about sentence two? Is “what time” served as an adv?

Thank you very much!

I have a job for school and I have to identify the main clause and all the subordinate clauses of a very long sentence.
'This is reassuring when you consider a recent Good University Guide study revealed that 61% of employers said that the most important factor when considering graduates for a job is their degree.'
this is the sentence, I do not know very well what the main clause is of the sentence... Can you help me?

best wishes


There are some great resources here but can you recommend any courses (on line or in the Edinburgh area) for 'home' English speakers who could do with improving their written English?
It seems to me that nearly all language courses are aimed at second language students.

Thanks in anticipation!


Hi James,

I'm not familiar with what's available near Edinburgh, but you might want to ask in the English department of a university or secondary school - perhaps someone there would be able to give you some information about what's available locally.

Another idea is to do an internet search for "English writing classes for native speakers" (use the inverted commas in your search) - there were a few results that came up when I did so that might be of interest to you. If you're interested in improving your writing in a specific area (e.g. creative writing), you could search for "English creative writing classes for native speakers".

Good luck!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there, could you please help me. What kind of sentence is this " Chris was a hero, everyone said so." I know it has a indefinite pronoun in it, but which is the main clause? I'm very confused :( Thanks in advance

Hello monkey1985,

Strictly speaking, this sentence is incorrect, and is considered a run-on sentence or comma splice. Although people speak with run-on sentences all the time, and you can find them in novels, text messages, etc., it is not generally considered correct in more formal writing. This is because the two clauses are not joined in any way - there is no coordinating conjunction or appropriate punctuation (such as a semi-colon).

"Everyone said that Chris was a hero" or "Chris was a hero; everyone said so" are both similar sentences that are correct.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there
I've just read this grammar page (sentence structure) and I really like it. I have a couple grammar books but they do not explain in this way. could you please tell me your resource ?

Hello mehdi.AA,

In the "Grammar and Words" box at the top of our Grammar & Vocabulary section's main page, you can see that it was written by Dave Willis.

I'm sorry it took us several days to reply, but please know that we respond to comments as quickly as we can. Sometimes our responses come on the same day, sometimes they can take longer than a week. We are a small team responding to comments from millions of users around the world, and we do it for free!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team