You are on page 1of 5

Notes on Grammar/Sentence Types

Your analysis and presentation of ideas will be more effective if you learn to incorporate
different kinds of sentences into your writing. By using a variety of sentence types, you can
make your writing more thoughtful and control the readers reaction. For instance, the author of
a horror story might use long, complex sentences to establish a mood and then a short, simple
sentence to frighten the reader.
As Susan walked sprightly down the rain-soaked street, the happy sounds of crickets and
frogs seemed to chirp in tune to her steps. Suddenly, the sounds of the night stopped.
The first of these two sentences is a complex sentence that creates the mood of happiness, a
genuine sense of safety. However, the second sentence is a short simple sentence that breaks the
mood, inferring that something potentially frightening has happened or will happen.

The Four Sentence Types

The simple sentence has one independent clause. The following sentence contains a subject and
verb and a complete thought; it is a simple sentence.
Example: The man drove around the city.
The simple sentence can have more than one subject and more than one verb, but it has only
one independent clause.
Example: The man and his wife drove around the city and listened to music.
This is also a simple sentence even though it contains two subjects and two verbs. Simple sentences
do not have to be short; a thirty-five-word sentence might still be a simple sentence if it contains only
one independent clause. Simple sentences also contain phrases such as prepositional, verbal,
absolute, and appositive. The addition of any type or number of phrases in a sentence does not
change its structure. A simple sentence may have as many phrases as the writer desires. Phrases are
used to help decorate the sentence by adding details. (See Attachment For Common Types of

The compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses joined by a semi-colon or a
coordinating conjunction with a comma. A compound sentence is an example of coordination,
that is, two independent clauses are linked together. Proper coordination requires linking two
ideas that are related or that represent a sequence in which one idea is a logical extension of the

first idea. The compound sentence is always balanced; both ideas are equally important and
related to one another. A semi-colon is used to join two independent clauses that are related in
Example: The basketball team lost their opening game; they will play again tomorrow.
Each of the above independent clauses could have stood alone as a simple sentence, but because
the ideas are closely relatedlosing their opening game, but playing again tomorrow--the
independent clauses are connected by using the semi-colon.

Using a coordinating conjunction with a comma could also join the two independent clauses.
There are seven coordinating conjunctions which you might need to memorize: and, but, for, so,
yet, or, nor. The seven coordinating conjunctions are easy to remember with the word







In the following example, the two independent clauses are underlined; they are joined by a comma
and a conjunction, which is in bold letters.
Example: The art gallery has closed for the day, but it will open tomorrow morning.
Although using coordination will create variety in your writing, be careful not to use too many
compound sentences. An overuse of compound sentences can make your writing monotonous. In
any paragraph, some ideas should stand alone (simple sentence) and some ideas should be
presented as less important than others (complex sentence).

A complex sentence consists of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. The
main idea is always in the independent clause, while additional or supporting information is in
the dependent clause. Because the dependent clause presents information that is not as
important as the main idea, the dependent clause is called a subordinate clause. Thus a
complex sentence uses subordination to express its idea(s).
Example: Although the basketball team lost today, they will play again tomorrow.
Here is a list of commonly used subordinating conjunctions used to signal dependent clauses:

as if
as long as
as much as

in order that
now that

till ( or 'til)

as soon as
as though
even if
even though

provided (that)
so that


Complex sentences allow you to link a series of ideas; however, if complex sentences are
overused, the reader may lose track of the meaning.

A compound-complex sentence is a compound sentence with one or more dependent clauses.
Example: When the store closed for the day, the clerk turned the lights off, and
she locked the doors.
The compound-complex sentence combines the rules for compound and complex sentence to
form a more advanced sentence. It will have two or more independent clauses joined together
using a coordinating conjunction coupled with one or more dependent clauses.

Phrases: Prepositional, Verbal, Absolute, and Appositive

There are 4 basic types of phrases:

1. Prepositional Phrases, which are

phrases that
begin with a preposition followed by a noun or
pronoun, along with any words that modify that
Ex: a) Jim went to school without his books.
b) Behind the cushions John found more bits of
food and other debris then he imagined

2. Absolute phrases, which are phrases

that stand
grammatically independent from the sentence.
Usually they have both a noun and a gerund that
acts as a verb substitute. Be careful with
these it s easy to confuse this with a dangling
modifier (discussed above).
Ex: The lecture having finished ten minutes
early, we headed over to the coffee shop.

3. Appositive phrases, which are words or

groups of words placed beside another word
whose meaning it expands. The word or phrase
must be the same part of speech and fulfill the
same grammatical function as the word it
Ex: a) My father, an important business man in
the city of Dallas, spent much of his free time on
the golf course.
b) He spoke in a loud, or rather, commanding,


4. Verbal phrases, whose key element is a

verbal. Verbals are not verbs, but are words
derived from verbs, but which function as a
noun, adjective, or adverb. There are 3 basic
types of verbals: infinitives, gerunds,


A. Infinitive phrases include as their

basic element an infinitive verb, which
is usually the verb with a to in front of
it. These phrases may function as
adjectives, adverbs, or nouns.
Ex: a) The lecturer used as jokes to fit
his topic in order to keep his class
awake. (This phrase functions as an
adjective because it modifies the noun
jokes .)
b)The professor spoke at length to
instruct his class about the evils of
capitalism. (This phrase functions as an
adverb because it modifies the verb
spoke .
c)To work at nights was just impossible
for him, since he grew tired by 10 PM.
(This phrase functions as a noun and is
the subject of the sentence.)
B. Gerund phrases include a gerund,
which are verbs ending in -ing. These
phrases always function as nouns.
Ex: Working at nights was just
impossible for him, since he grew tired
by 10 PM. (Again, this phrase functions
as noun and is the subject of the
C. Present participial phrases also
include a gerund (-ing words), but the
phrase acts as an adjective instead.
Ex: Running home, Jane tripped over
the curb.
D. Past participial phrases include the
past participial of the verb and always
function as adjectives.
Ex: Doubled over in pain, the man
screamed for help.
a) In both present and past participial
phrases you need to watch for dangling
modifiers, which are adjectives that
don t describe the appropriate noun in
the sentence. An example of an
INCORRECT dangling modifier is
Having stopped by the store for tea, the
owner ran out of the store and told them

that the store had been just robbed.