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



Hie! may you please help know. What is the question tag here "He hadn't seen that movie before". Is it "had he?" or "did he?"

Hello Lamastry,

'had he' is the correct question tag here. See our Question tags page for more.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Can we use simple past without mentioning time expression? if so, which of these sentences is correct?
1. I wrote a letter.
2. I've written a letter.

Hello Bamiri,

I already answered this question – please do not post questions more than once.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry Sir, I didn't just find the answer.
Thank you

Hello Madam/Sir,
Can you tell me the structure of the clause? What's a clause?
I have done some exercises about sentence structure. Could you help me to check the answers and tell me the reason why whether I wrong, please?
1. The dog barked and growled loundly. >>> simple sentence

2. You and your friends can see the mountain on your next trip. >>>simple sentence

3. "Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead."(James Thurber)>>>simple sentence

4.Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense, for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost.>>>compound sentence

5. I no belonger wish to meet a good I do not earn, for example, to find a pot of buried gold.>>>compound sentence

6. We denote the primary wisdom as intuition, whilst all later teachings are tuitions.>>>compound sentence

7. Man does not stand in awe of man, nor is his genius admonished to stay at home, but it goes abroad to beg a cup of water of urns of other man.>>>compound sentence

8. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity, yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life.>>>complex sentence

9. I thought that it was a Sunday morning in May, that it was Easter Sunday; and as yet very early in the morning.>>>complex sentence.

10. Whilst the world is thus dual, so is every one of its parts.>>>complex sentence

11. For everything you have missed, you have gained something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something.>>>compound sentence

12. However some may think him wanting in zeal, the most fanatical can find no taint of apostasy in any measure of his.>>>compound sentence

13. In his manner, from a happy yet often pensive child, he grew up to be a mild, quiet, unobstrusive boy and sun-browned with labor in the fields, but with more intelligence than is seen in many lads from the schools.>>>compound sentence

14. John, who briefly vistited last month, won the price, and he took a short vacation.>>>complex sentence

If one of these sentences has grammartical mistake, please let me know. BTW, is there compound-complex sentence structure in English?

Hello joyceduong,

I'm afraid we're not able to provide this kind of help. This is something you need a teacher to do with you as we simply do not have the time to go through users' exercises from elsewhere with them.

You can find a definition of a clause, and examples of different kinds of clauses, on this page.

You asked also if there are such things as compound-complex sentences in English. The answer is 'yes'. These are sentences with (two or more) independent clauses (like all compound sentences) and one (or more) dependent clause (like complex sentences). For example:

Although I don't like coffee,[dependent clause] I drink one every morning [independent clause], and at least one during the afternoon [independent clause].

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry, but i do not unterstand how to us and meaning the conjunction "since" in exercise Conjunction Nr. 6.

Why does it sign here a reason and not a time as conjunction.

Thanks a lot for your Explanation.