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GENERAL EDUCATION

The Different Types of Sentence Construction

English has four basic sentence constructions: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each construction uses the same basic elements of sentence structure—parts of speech, phrases, and clauses.

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English has four basic sentence constructions: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each construction uses the same basic elements of sentence structure—parts of speech, phrases, and clauses.

Simple Sentence

The simple sentence is an independent clause with no subordinate clauses. It begins with a capital letter and closes with an end mark. Simple sentences can vary considerably in length.

    • I bought four apples at the farmers’ market.
    • I bought four apples, a basket of tomatoes, a bag of green beans, and three squashes at the farmers’ market.
    • The farmers’ market is a classic example of producers selling directly to consumers and avoiding the attempts of agents to control the supply or to manipulate the price.

Compound Sentence

The compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses but no subordinate clauses. The two independent clauses usually are joined by a comma followed by a conjunction (and, but, nor, yet). They may also be joined by a semicolon, a semicolon followed by a linking adverb (therefore, however, because, since), or a colon.

Complex Sentence

The complex sentence is made up of an independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses. When a subordinate clause introduces the sentence, it is usually followed by a comma unless it is very short. In the following examples, the subordinate clauses are printed in bold type.

    • The library closes early in summer when the students are out of school.
    • After the clear days of Indian summer, the autumn skies grow heavy and dark.
    • Linda told us on the phone that they had had a flat tire last night and that the car wouldn’t start this morning.
    • When you come in the front door, make sure you push it shut, because the lock doesn’t always catch.

Compound-Complex Sentence

The compound-complex sentence is composed of two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses. In the examples, the subordinate clauses are printed in bold type.

    • John Lennon wrote many ballads, and he recorded them while he was in England.
    • The letter carrier, who is always punctual, didn’t come today; I wonder if she is ill.
    • He should call you as soon as he arrives; but if you don’t hear from him, let me know.

Modifiers in Sentences

A modifier is any word or group of words that limits or qualifies the meaning of other parts of the sentence. Be sure that your modifiers are clearly joined to the word or words they qualify. Descriptive phrases or clauses joined to the wrong words are known as dangling modifiers.

You can correct dangling modifiers by making the doer of the action the subject of the sentence, by adding omitted words, or by changing the phrase to a subordinate clause.

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