Online Writing Lab

Sentence Types

There are four different types of sentences: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and complex-compound sentences.

Simple sentence: 

A simple sentence contains one independent clause and no dependent clauses.  Here are some examples of simple sentences:

  • He ran. (Notice that this is an example of the shortest sentence that can ever be written: a one word subject and a one word predicate that is also a complete thought.)
  • He ran fast.
  • I was late to work.
  • The ten-page research paper addresses the problem of binge drinking on college campuses. 

More on independent clauses

Complex sentence:

 A complex sentence has one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.  Here are some examples of complex sentences:

  • While most essays require a substantial time commitment, the argument essay, which generally requires finding and utilizing different types of research, is usually the most time consuming to create.  (This sentence has two dependent clauses:  While most essays require a substantial time commitment… and …which generally requires finding and utilizing different types of research…)
  • Because my alarm did not go off this morning, I was late to work.

Notice that this last sentence begins with a dependent clause (Because my alarm did not go off this morning,) followed by an independent clause (I was late to work.)  The sentence can also be rewritten to begin with the independent clause, followed by the dependent clause: I was late to work this morning because my alarm did not go off this morning.

More on dependent clauses

Compound sentence: 

A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses but does not contain any dependent clauses.  Here are some examples of compound sentences:

  • My teacher gave me some good advice for making my essay better, and the tutor also looked it over and provided many suggestions. 
  • I had trouble finding sources for my essay, so I went to the writing center for help.
  • Our class started later than it was supposed to, but the teacher made it interactive. 

Complex–compound sentence: 

A complex–compound sentence has two or more independent clauses and also contains one or more dependent clauses.  Here are some examples of complex–compound sentences.

  • We went to the movie theatre last night and saw the new comedy, which just came out last Friday, and then we went to dinner at the local steakhouse. 
  • Because I have never written an argument essay for a college class before, I am worried about my use of outside sources in this paper, so I hope that I cited everything correctly.

In the end, it is important to understand all of the different types of sentences that can be constructed and to utilize them when appropriate.  Good writing incorporates a variety of sentences, particularly sentences of different lengths.  Remember that as the writer you are in control of the length of your sentences and can intentionally create shorter or longer sentences as needed in any essay.