Sentence Structure Types

Skill/Category: Writing 

Level: Advanced

Target Audience: TOEFL Learners

Using too many sentences of one kind, especially simple sentences, will be tedious for both readers and writers. On the other hand, using various sentence types and structures liberates the text from monotony. Besides, using multiple sentence types in TOEFL results in obtaining a higher score in writing. In English, there are four types of sentence structures that are going be to detailed below.

To use four types of sentences correctly and appropriately, though, you need to master two things first: dependent and independent clauses.

Clause: AClause is a group of words that consists of a subject and a verb.

            Ex: She plays piano in her spare time.

Independent Clause: It can stand alone or be combined with other independent clauses and express a complete thought.

            Ex: They guided him to the beach. (A complete thought)

Dependent Clause: It is not a complete sentence. It should be connected to an independent clause.

            Ex: When we were in Japan, we went to the beach.

                        Dep.  Clause                Ind. Clause

Sentence Types:

There are four types of sentence patterns in English: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. These different types are categorized according to various combinations of dependent and independent clauses.

Simple Sentences:

One independent clause can form a simple sentence. 

  • A simple sentence is consist of a subject and a verb. Ex: My brother shouted.
  • A simple sentence may contain two or more subjects and two or more verbs.

Ex: Mike and Smith studied.                                    

Mike studied and wrote.

Mike and Smith studied and wrote.

  • Sometimes in a simple sentence other words like adjectives, adverbs and article can also be used. 

Last week, both Mike and Smith studied hard for their biology midterm and wrote essays for English.

Adv of time                   Sub             Sub         Verb        Adv         Prepositional phrase                       verb    direct obj (Noun + Prep)

Compound Sentences:

The compound sentences contain two or more independent clauses but no dependent clause.

In compound sentences, two independent clauses can be joined in two ways

  • With a semicolon (;)
    • With a comma and coordinating conjunction FAN BOYS (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)

Ex: John traveled to England last winter; Dan found a job and stayed in his hometown.  

Ex: John traveled to England last winter, but Dan found a job and stayed in his hometown.  

                                    Comma and coordinating conjunction

Two independent clauses can also be joined by a semicolon, a transitional word or phrase, and a comma.

Ex: John traveled to England last winter; however, Dan found a job and stayed in his hometown.  

Some transitions:

            However                     Similarly

            Therefore                     Finally

            Furthermore                For instance

            Moreover                     Nonetheless

Complex Sentences:

The complex sentence is composed of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses

  • A comma is needed if the dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence.

Ex: When I finish university, I plan to get a good job.

            Dependent clause           independent clause

Ex: I plan to get a good job when I finish university.                        (No comma is needed)

            Independent clause       independent clause

Compound- complex sentences:

The compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses

Ex:     We were all happy when my brother came back home, he had been a way for so long.

      Ind. Clause              dept. clause                                       Ind. clause 

Ex: After getting home from school, my wife and I went to the market, while our son stayed home and studied.

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