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




'There is has been a substantial degree of research......' In this sentence i don't know the grammar part they have used.There is has been.What the meaning of it correct? i Know only 'There has been'. Please help me with this.

Thank you.

Hello naaka,

'There is has been' is not a correct form. I don't know the source of this so I can't comment further other than to say that if it comes from spoken language then it could be an example of self-correction: someone starts to say 'There is...' and then stops to correct it to 'has been' as they realise they've made a mistake.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Would you please answer my question. I know you receive so many questions every day, and I appreciate the work you are doing so much!



I learned that we can separate two independent clauses either by using a comma and a coordinating conjunction or just by using a semicolon without a coordinating conjunction. However, I got confused when I cam across the following verse from the Bible " And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." the author used a semicolon and and the coordinating conjunction "and" in the last sentence!!
Thanks in advance for your great help!

Hello Zagrus,

The verse you quote is from the King James Version of the Bible, which was written about 400 years ago. Although it contains a lot of beautiful language, I'm afraid it's not a good guide to modern English.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

I know that this is not the section to ask this, but I don't really know where to put my question; so here I let it hopping you can help me:
When we have to use the verbs: TELL, SAY and TALK?
Sometimes I don't know when I have to use Tell or say or talk.
Can you show me some examples? or help me find the section that can explain this to me?
Thank you very much

Hello Nuras,

Have you tried looking the words up in our online dictionary? It's on the right hand side of the page.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

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!