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 Sir,
He uses the craziest methods of warning and sending Lou messages - like putting a note in his coffee.

May I ask, the adverbial for above sentence is "the craziest methods of warning and sending"?

The Direct object is "messages" and Indirect object is "Lou"?

Thank you!


Hi pat,

'the craziest methods of warning and sending Lou messages' is the object noun phrase of the verb 'uses'. 'Lou' is the direct object of the gerund 'warning'. As for the gerund 'sending', its indirect object is also 'Lou' and 'messages' is its direct object. 

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thank you so much for the clarifications.

Would like to find out how can I analyse following sentence.

We are currently upgrading our system in order to provide much more robust and better services to our customers.

This is a simple, complex or compound sentence? I personally find that this is a complex sentence due to the "in order to" but some said that this is a simple sentence. Appreciate your help. Thank you!


Hi Pat,

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, 'in order to' is a subordinating conjunction, so I also would say that it is a complex sentence.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir ,

I don't underestand the mean of : (make) in the sentence below :
While they may look cute, they don't make very good pets.
Also the mean of the main clause : they don't make very good pets.

Hello medmomo,

The phrase 'they don't make very good pets' means 'they are not suited to being pets'.

You can use the phrase in different contexts. For example:

Older people make very good babysitters because they are more patient.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Regarding sentences using relative pronouns, some we use a comma and some not and we call the first non define and other define. I am I correct? For e.g. My uncle, who went abroad, has come back. / My brother, who went abroad, is a doctor. Here two commas is a must. and this phrase within commas is called extra information. (non define).
The man who helped me to carry my bag to the station is very poor and I gave him some money. (define) Can we call this compound complex and the first complex and the clauses 'dependent and independent' Please let me know.
Thank you.

Hello Lal,

The relative clauses are defining or non-defining but in general your understanding is correct.

I'm not sure which sentences and which clauses you are referring to with regard to your questions about complex, compound and so on. I would say that complex, compound and so on are grammatical labels which are a form of metalanguage. They do not help you to use the language better and I would not worry overly about being able to correctly label the particular type of structure in any given example.

Understanding the difference in how we use defining and non-defining relative clauses to express our ideas is the important thing here, and it seems you understand that well.



The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
The sentence given below is from the British Council website; the main topic is 'sentence structure.'
By the time I get to New York, he'll be gone.
Could I write the same using future perfect? For e.g. By the time I get to New York, he will have gone. Is this sentence gramatically correct? Does it give the same meaning like the first?
Thank you.

Hi Lal,

Yes, that is correct and it means the same thing. The only real difference is in formality -- the future perfect isn't used much in informal speaking.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team