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 Sir
Please let me the following two sentences which are present perfect continuous mean:
e.g. 1. Recently I have been working as a receptionist at local hotel in the evenings.
This means I am working at the moment. 2. I have been working as a receptionist in a local hotel in the evenings until recently. This means I am not working at the moment. I am I correct?
Thank you.

Hello Lal,

Yes, that is correct. The first sentence tells us you still do this work. The second sentence tells us that you have recently finished doing the job. I would say that the past continuous (was working) is more likely in the second sentence, though the present perfect continuous is not incorrect.



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sirs,
Based on the above instructions, complex sentences can only contain main clauses and adverbial clauses. Could the other two clauses, noun, and adjectival be used in complex sentences? If yes, please provide me with some examples.

Hi qayum2s,

I can see how you might draw that conclusion, but yes, noun and adjectival clauses can be part of a main or adverbial clause. For example, in 'She had a difficult childhood', 'difficult' is an adjective in the noun phrase 'a difficult childhood', and we could be more specific about 'She', e.g. 'My elderly neighbour'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thank you very much.
I didn't have any doubt. My Chinese students had fiery discussion about the complex and compound sentences without comma, and I didn't have any clue how to clarify (I used examples from your website to explain sentence structure.).
If you please send my details how to punctuate compound and complex sentences based on examples given on your website, it would be a big favor.

Thanks again,

Hi isafdar,

I'm not aware of any rules regarding punctuation which are based on whether the sentence is a compound or a complex sentence. The punctuation depends upon the particular sentence. There are some structures which tend to be followed by commas (conditonal sentences tend to have commas between the condition clause and the result clause, for example, and sentences beginning with although often have commas between the subordinate and main clause. However, I think this is best learned through exposure to the language - a lot of extensive reading, for example - rather than through the conscious memorisation of punctuation rules. If your students read widely then they will assimilate punctuation rules unconsciously.



The LearnEnglish Team

In the sentence, "I gave her the award" "her" is the indirect object and "award" is the direct object, but in situation where the sentence is re-written as "I gave the award to her" where her is part of a prepositional phrase, is "the award" the indirect object or direct object of the verb "gave" and is "her" a direct object

Hello Timmosky,

'the award' is a direct object in both versions of the sentence. 'her' (in the first) is an indirect object and 'to her' is a prepositional phrase that acts as an indirect object. Whether it is an indirect object or not is semantics (in other words, it depends on how you define 'indirect object').

I hope that helps you make sense of it.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Is there any other kind of sentences like a combination of both complex and compound like compound complex sentences? If so, please explain.
Thank you in advance.

Hello chandini,

Yes, there is a structure called a compound-complex sentence. These sentences are created by adding a dependent clause (making it complex) to a sentence containing two or more compound sentences (a compound sentence).

You can read more about these sentences on this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team