In Clauses, you learned that there are two types of clauses: independent and dependent. Recall that independent clauses are complete sentences because they have a subject and verb and express a complete thought. Dependent clauses, in contrast, cannot stand alone because they do not express a complete thought—even though they have a subject and a verb. Independent and dependent clauses can be used in a number of ways to form the four basic types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Time to make their acquaintance.
A simple sentence has one independent clause. That means it has one subject and one verb—although either or both can be compound. In addition, a simple sentence can have adjectives and adverbs. What a simple sentence can't have is another independent clause or any subordinate clauses. For example:
A simple sentence has one independent clause.
Don't shun the simple sentence—it's no simpleton. The simple sentence served Ernest Hemingway well; with its help, macho man Ernie snagged a Nobel Prize in Literature. In the following excerpt from The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway uses the simple sentence to convey powerful emotions:
Okay, so it's a real downer. You think they give Nobels for happy talk?
A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses.
A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses. The independent clauses can be joined in one of two ways:
As with a simple sentence, a compound sentence can't have any subordinate clauses. Here are some compound sentences for your reading pleasure.
|Independent Clause||Conjunction or Semicolon||Independent Clause|
|Men are mammals||and||women are femammals.|
|Mushrooms grow in damp places||so||they look like umbrellas.|
|The largest mammals are found in the sea||;||there's nowhere else to put them.|
You might also add a conjunctive adverb to this construction, as in this example: The largest mammals are found in the sea; after all, there's nowhere else to put them.
A complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. The independent clause is called the “main clause.” These sentences use subordinating conjunctions to link ideas. As you check out these examples, see if you can find the subordinating conjunctions.
The subordinating conjunctions are until, while, and even though.
A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. The dependent clause can be part of the independent clause. For instance:
| ||the lakes dry up,|
| ||independent clause|
| ||but I couldn't|
| ||independent clause|
Decisions, decisions: Now that you know you have four different sentence types at your disposal, which ones should you use? Effective communication requires not only that you write complete sentences, but also that you write sentences that say exactly what you mean. Try these six guidelines as you decide which sentence types to use and when:
Don't join the two parts of a compound sentence with a comma—you'll end up with a type of run-on sentence called a comma splice. More on this later in this section.
Before you shift into panic mode, you should know that most writers use a combination of all four sentence types to convey their meaning. Even Ernest Hemingway slipped a compound sentence or two in among all those simple sentences.
Your readers make up your audience.
But now it's time to see what's what, who's who, and where you're at with this sentence stuff. To do so, label each of the following sentences as simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex.
|1. complex||6. compound-complex|
|2. simple||7. complex|
|3. complex||8. simple|
|4. compound||9. compound-complex|
|5. simple||10. compound|
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.