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

 

Comments

My question is on colon.
1. From his lecture: I could not understand the theme of it.
2. I do not support his opinion: it is a quite vague idea.
3. I like three traits of an employee: honesty, candid, and punctuality.
Please tell me if I have used colon correctly.

Hello Luck4090,

We generally use the colon in English in quite specific ways. You can see a list of them with examples on this page. The most common use is to introduce some kind of evidence or proof of the statement before the colon.

In your first example the colon is not appropriate. We would probably say 'In relation to his lecture, I could not...' or 'As far as his lecture went, I could not...', with the former being more formal, and the latter less.

You second example would read better with a semicolon, which can be used to join related sentences.

Your third sentence is fine. We can use a colon to introduce a list.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Please rectify colon usage.
1. Wikipedia: a portal with ton of information on every topic.
2. Thankyou for your correction and guidance Peter:an intelligent tutor.
Many thanks,

hi, I really like this website. I wanted to ask you a sentence: As is common in Iraqi tribes, members come from both the main denominations. My question is that I don't know where is the subject of a clause 'As is common in Iraqi tribes. thank you in advance.

Hello Sokhom Kim,

In this phrase 'as' is the subject. It is functioning as a pronoun here (see here for a definition and further examples).

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much. But I still have a question about the sentence abov. Is it a complex sentence or compound sentence. Could you please explain me?

Hello Sokhom Kim,

'As is common' in this sentence is an example of a disjunct, which is an adverbial phrase providing a comment upon the rest of the sentence. Disjuncts tend to tell us what the speaker thinks about what he or she is saying. Disjuncts play a rather different role to other adverbials and form a category of their own.

This kind of in-depth sentence analysis is really a question for linguistics rather than English language learning, which is the focus of our site. If you want to delve into the subject, then you can find more information here and here, for example.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team 

Hello,

I can't get to know which one of these sentences are good. Can you help me?
- How it was?
- How was it?

Are both questions right?(because in internet I found both questions) And in the case I want to ask about how was the event (if it was funny), it has to be "How was it?" ?

Thank you for your help

Nuras

Hi Nuras,

As an independent question, only 'How was it?' is correct. When a question is embedded inside another sentence, however, the word order is different - e.g. 'Could you tell me how it was?' You can see more about this on our Reported questions page.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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