Reviewing the different types of sentences may be helpful before you begin revising them. In this lesson, you will focus on four different sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. For further review, check out Strengthen Sentence Variety/Sentence Combining: Practice 2 and Use a Variety of Correctly Structured Sentences — Compound, Compound-Complex in the Related Resources.

The four types of sentences you will review in this lesson appear below. For each sentence type, read the examples, and then click to read the explanations.

A photograph of a male lion roaring

Source: Roaring Lion Travis Jervey, Tambako the Jaguar, Wikimedia

Simple sentence: A sentence with one clause

First, you need to know that a clause differs from a phrase because a clause must have a subject and a verb; however, the subject or the verb may be compound. Each of the examples below shows a simple sentence consisting of one independent clause.

The lion roared.

Explanation:

This sentence has one subject (lion) and one verb (roared).


Chimpanzees and orangutans chattered in the jungle.

Explanation:

This sentence has a compound subject (chimpanzees, orangutans) and one verb (chattered).


Elephants trumpeted and ran into the forest.

Explanation:

This sentence has one subject (elephants) but a compound verb (trumpeted, ran).

Compound sentence: A sentence composed of at least two independent clauses linked with a conjunction or a semicolon

A photograph of a Black Rhinoceros in a zoo

Source: Black rhino, Matthew Field, Wikimedia


I watched carefully, but the rhinoceros did not appear.

Explanation:

The two independent clauses (I watched carefully and the rhinoceros did not appear) are joined together by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. (Coordinating conjunctions consist of for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.)



We walked back to camp without flashlights; the moon beamed down upon us.

Explanation:

The two independent clauses (We walked back to camp without flashlights and the moon beamed down upon us) are joined by a semicolon.

Complex sentence: A sentence with one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses

A photograph of a moonrise over hilly plains

Source: Moon and red blue haze, Firooo2, Wikimedia


As the moon rose, we could see shadows of animals in the distance.

Explanation:

“As the moon rose” is a dependent clause because it cannot stand by itself as a sentence. This clause is joined to the independent clause “we could see shadows of animals in the distance.”



When night had ended, I rose hurriedly because I was so excited about the safari.

Explanation:

This sentence has two dependent clauses (when night had ended; because I was so excited about the safari). The independent clause (I rose hurriedly) is in the middle of the two dependent clauses.

Compound-complex sentence: A compound sentence with at least one dependent clause

A photograph of a safari vehicle on a road. The vehicle is stopped as a herd of Wildebeests pass by

Source: Kenya safari, DEMOSH, Wikimedia


I dreamed of going on a safari, but I did not think I would have the chance because I had not saved enough money.

Explanation:

The two independent clauses (I dreamed of going on a safari and I did not think I would have the chance) are joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction (but). The dependent clause (because I had not saved enough money) is joined to the two independent clauses. Note that the dependent clause cannot stand by itself. It depends on the rest of the sentence.



When I finally landed in Africa, I was thrilled; it was like a dream come true!

Explanation:

In this sentence, the dependent clause (When I finally landed in Africa) begins the sentence and is followed by two independent clauses (I was thrilled and it was like a dream come true).

A photograph of two female students working on laptops in a school seating area

Source: Students Studying 002, Penn State, Flickr

As you noticed in the paragraph about Texas in the previous section, too many simple sentences can make your writing sound, well, simple. On the other hand, a paragraph that has only compound or compound-complex sentences might sound too dense. What you should strive for in your writing is a combination of the different types of sentences explained above.

For the next activity, you will practice recognizing the four types of sentences. Read each sentence below, and then choose what type of sentence it is from the drop-down menu after each sentence.


icon for an interactive exercise

Learning to recognize the different sentence types will assist you when you revise your writing. Remember, your goal is to strive for a variety of sentence types so your writing is more interesting for your audience.