What Are the Different Types of Sentences?

Sentences are divided into four categories: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

Simple Sentences

A simple sentence contains one independent clause.

Examples

Bill rode his bike to school.

Who is your best friend?

She ate her lunch, took a walk, and went back to work.

Compound Sentences

A compound sentence contains two independent clauses. A coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) often links the two independent clauses and is preceded by a comma.

Examples

She wanted to go on vacation, so she saved up her money.

I like apples, but my sister loves bananas.

Tim loves to read, and he also loves to hike.

Complex Sentences

A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence will include at least one subordinating conjunction.

Examples

She went to class even though she was sick.

As John was arriving to work, he realized he forgot his lunch.

While I enjoy classical music, I prefer rock and roll because I play the drums.

Compound-Complex Sentences

A compound-complex sentence combines complex sentence and compound sentence forms. A compound-complex sentence contains one or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

Examples

Although she felt guilty for missing her friend’s birthday, she took her out to dinner the next day, and they had a great time.

I try to eat healthy food, but because fast food is so convenient, I cannot maintain a healthy diet.

If he got the job, he would have to commute 50 miles to work, so he decided the job was not worth it.

Sentence Types and Functions

What Are the Functional Purposes of each Type of Sentence?

Because each type of sentence can serve various functions, we should use the type of sentence that best communicates the purpose of our idea.

Choose the sentence type that will most clearly and accurately convey the logic of your idea.

Consider the amount of information your readers need, and consider the links the readers need to process the information.

Vary sentence structures to pace your readers through your argument.

Functions of Simple Sentences

Use simple sentences when presenting a limited amount of information. Although simple sentences maybe shorter, they are not any less academic than other sentence types.

To declare a direct statement

First, I will give background information about my project.

This conclusion is supported by extensive evidence.

To display a simple list

The researchers created their hypothesis, conducted some tests, and drew their conclusions. 

My evidence comes from journal articles, periodicals, and books.

To give concise directions

Please consider my application for the internship. 

Turn to Table 1 in the appendix.

To ask a question

What is the true meaning of the poem? 

What will this study mean to medical research in a decade?

Functions of Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex Sentences

Compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences can serve similar purposes. The writer can tailor the amount of information he or she provides by adding independent and dependent clauses to simple sentences.

To combine similar ideas

Compound: Recycling is an effective way of helping the environment, and everyone should recycle at home. 

Complex: Sincere cycling is an effective way of helping the environment, everyone should recycle at home.

Compound-Complex: Sincere cycling is an effective way of helping the environment, everyone should recycle at home; we can all work together to protect our planet.

To compare or contrast ideas

Compound: Van Gogh was a talented and successful artist, but he had intense personal issues. 

Complex: Although he was a talented and successful artist, Van Gogh had intense personal issues.

Compound-Complex: Although he was a talented and successful artist, Van Gogh had intense personal issues; indeed, many say his inner turmoil contributed to his beautiful art.

To convey cause and effect or chain of events

Compound: The researchers did not come to the correct conclusion, so they restructured their hypothesis. 

Complex: Since the researchers did not come to the correct conclusion, they restructured their hypothesis. 

Compound-Complex: Since the researchers did not come to the correct conclusion, they restructured their hypothesis, and they will attempt the experiment again.

To elaborate on a claim or extend reasoning

Compound: Cell phones should not be permitted in class, for they distract students and teachers. 

Complex: Since cell phones distract students and teachers, they should not be used in class. 

Compound-Complex: Since cell phones distract students and teachers, they should not be used in class, and I encourage faculty to forbid their use

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