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.



Hi Alyson,

Yes, your passive sentence is grammatically correct, though please note that it would be extremely unusual for someone to actually use this grammar in either speaking or writing.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Are these sentences a correct distinction between past simple and present perfect e.g., "I played the piano when I was nine (past simple)". "I have played the piano since I was nine (present perfect)". Another example "you stepped on my foot 2 minutes ago ( past simple)". "you have stepped on my foot before (present perfect)". And "I read glory and gore last night (past simple). "I have just read glory and gore ( present perfect)"

Hello Timmosky,

The first two sentences are correct and clearly show the time context. In the next pair of sentences, the first is correct, but the past simple would probably be better in the second -- it's not clear when 'before' was. The last two sentences are correct, though the time context in the second one is not clear so I can't really say if the verb form is appropriate.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

The present perfect continuous tense shows that an action started in the past and has continued up until now. E.g., she has been eating that pie for 3 hours. This means she started eating the pie in the past and till the moment that the statement was made it has been 3 hours. She may still continue eating the pie but up until the statement was made it has been 3 hours. Is that the right context of the present perfect continuous?

Hello Tim,

That is a good summary of particular use of the present perfect continuous.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have been teaching English for some time; however, I still want to expand my knowledge of the language especially regarding the differences of American English and British English. Just recently, I saw this sentence listed as an example of a compound sentence: "She opened the gate but did not shut it." Is it acceptable? I tried checking other resources, but I am hoping you can give me a straight answer.

In addition, I noticed that you have listed "then" as a coordinating conjunction. Could you please share the explanation?
Thank you very much.

Hi laine, in my opinion, the sentence, "she opened the gates and did not shut it," is a simple and not a compund sentence because the subject after the coordinating conjuction is missing; however, if the subject appears after the coordinating conjuction, it is a compound sentence just like Peter wrote.

Thank you very much. That is what I know; however, this sentence was taken from a British grammar and writing book. As Peter explained, this is more of a style as the subject is implied. I tried to explain to my students about the ellipsis, but they still had questions as to why was this given as an example in a grammar book if it is used for style rather than grammatical accuracy. We have all decided to stick to what we know about compound sentence which is having 2 independent clauses.

In the text books, the compound sentence should be two independent clauses. However, this sentence can be divided to "She opened the gate" and "did not shut it". The second clause is not an independent clause. Is there an explanation for this? Thanks.

Hello Lainie,

If you take a look at my comment just below this one you'll see that the second clause is formed with ellipsis. Certain words are omitted for stylistic (rather than grammatical) reasons - in this case, to avoid repetition - and a pronoun is used for the same reason. If we write the sentence out in full without these stylistic changes then we can see that we have two full independent clauses:

She opened the gate but she did not shut the gate.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team