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Sentence Structure
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In the focus / 11 August 2020

Sentence Structure

Sentence structure is one of the first points you look at when you start to learn English. As soon as you can put two words together, you have a sentence. That’s all it takes – two words. A subject and a verb:

  • I ran.
  • She laughed.
  • They fell.

While we may applaud children for these types of sentences, us grown-ups can’t really get away with this for long! smiley

Before we delve deeper into different sentence types, it will help to look at the meaning of certain terms first.

 

Sentence Structure Terms

Clause – part of a sentence made up by a SUBJECT and a VERB (as a minimum).

 

It can be an:

INDEPENDENT CLAUSE: makes sense on its own.

  • Mary stayed late.

 

DEPENDENT CLAUSE: does not make sense on its own.

  • Mary stayed late, because she needed to finish her report (‘because she needed to finish her report’ would not make sense on its own)

 

Conjunction – a word used to join clauses of a sentence:

→  CO-ORDINATING CLAUSE:

  • most popular: and – but – or – nor – so – then – yet

 

→  SUBORDINATING CLAUSE:

  • most popular: that – because – while – although – where – if

 

Different Sentence Types

The basic three different types of sentence structure are SIMPLE, COMPOUND and COMPLEX.

 

SENTENCE TYPE CLAUSES EXAMPLE
Simple
  • 1 x independent clause
  • I want to buy a new car.
  • Sheila went to the supermarket.
  • My dad has been to the States.
Compound
  • 2 x independent clauses
  • joined by a coordinating conjunction
  • I’m scared of wasps and my sister is scared of bees.
  • Terry eats salads for lunch, but Emily eats sandwiches.
  • They forecast rain, yet it snowed all day. 
Complex
  • 1 x independent clause
  • 1 or more dependent clauses
  • joined by a subordinating conjunction
  • My flatmate unpacked the shopping while I cooked dinner.
  • Although the class was full, the teacher let her in, because she was a good student. 

 

 

Test Your Knowledge!

Underline the dependent clauses:

 

  1. Hannah found her briefcase where she’d left it.
  2. Larry would have told her where it was, if she had asked him.
  3. She didn’t ask him, because she was annoyed with him.
  4. Although Larry knew Hannah was annoyed with him, he thinks she should have asked him, because she wasted time looking.

 

  1. Hannah found her briefcase where she had left it.
  2. Larry would have told her where it was, if she had asked him.
  3. She didn’t ask him, because she was annoyed with him.
  4. Although Larry knew Hannah was annoyed with him, he thinks she should have asked him, because she wasted time looking.

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