Types of Sentences: Simple, Compound & Complex

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  • 0:01 Sentence Types
  • 1:10 The Simple Sentence
  • 2:02 The Compound Sentence
  • 3:08 The Complex Sentence
  • 3:40 Implications For AP Literature
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Sentences can be categorized as simple, compound, and complex. In this lesson, you'll learn about all three, break down example sentences, and test yourself at the end with a short quiz.

Sentence Types

When people think of ice cream, there are three basic flavors that come to mind - vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Like ice cream, sentences also have three basic flavors - simple, compound, and complex. If you're planning to take the AP Literature test, here's something to keep in mind: no one likes to eat only one flavor of ice cream all the time.

Basically, it's important to be able to recognize the different types of sentences, and it's also important to know how to incorporate them in your own writing so you don't sound overly simplistic or convoluted. Sentence variety is the spice of life! At least that's what my English teacher used to tell me.

Before we dive into sentence types, we need to quickly review clauses. A clause is a group of related words with a subject and a verb. There are two broad categories of clauses, independent clauses and dependent clauses. Independent clauses form a complete thought and can function on their own. Dependent clauses have a subject and verb but do not function as a complete thought. You need to know about clauses because they form the building blocks of all sentence types. Now on to our three types of sentences.

The Simple Sentence

The first one is the simple sentence. Simple sentences contain a single independent clause. That's how simple they are!

Here's an example, 'Sage howled'. That's as simple as it gets. It has a subject; it has a verb. It forms a complete thought.

Don't worry if there's more than one element in the subject; the sentence can still be simple. Sage and Marsha begged for festival tickets. In this sentence, there are two nouns in the subject slot, Sage and Marsha, but the sentence is still simple because it's still one subject, made of two parts, and one verb.

Now I'm going to make the verb have two parts. Sage and Marsha rode rides and ate cotton candy. This is still a simple sentence; it just has two parts to the subject and two parts to the verb.

The Compound Sentence

The next type is the compound sentence. Compound sentences have two or more independent clauses and no dependent clauses. In other words, to make a compound sentence you join up at least two simple sentences.

If we have the sentences, 'Marsha ran from the clown' and 'Sage froze in place,' we can make them a single compound sentence by writing, 'Marsha ran from the clown, but Sage froze in place.' If you add another independent clause to that sentence, you still have a compound sentence.

Albert Einstein once said, 'Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.' This is a great quote and a great example of a compound sentence. In it, he joins 'Peace cannot be kept by force' (an independent clause) with 'it can only be achieved by understanding' (another independent clause). Einstein chose to connect them with a semicolon, a perfectly acceptable way to form a compound sentence.

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