The Sentence is the largest grammatical unit in the English Rankscale and it refers to a group of words that begins with a capital letter and ends with any of these three punctuation marks: the period or full stop, the exclamation mark and the question mark. This post, Types of Sentences According to Structure with Examples, takes a close look at the English sentence, its definition and various types with illustrative examples for easy comprehension. Come along with me as we navigate this grammatical journey.
Types of Sentences According to Structure with Examples
The English sentences are generally classified along two lines: classification based on the structural pattern or syntactic classes and classification based on the functions these sentences perform. We shall examine these classifications and discuss the type of sentences under each of these two basic classifications. However, we shall look in-depth at structural classification. I have written on the functional classification of sentences in another post. Do check it out. Let us see types of sentences according to structure with examples. Shall we?
Structural Classification of the English Sentences
There are six (6) types sentences based on structural classification. These are:
- Simple Sentence
- Complex Sentence
- Compound Sentence
- Compound-Complex Sentence
- Multiple Sentence
- Multiple-Complex Sentence.
Let us discuss them one after the other:
A simple sentence is one which has one main or independent clause. We also know this clause by the name alpha clause. It is main, independent or alpha because it can stand on its own, unlike the subordinate clause. See The English Simple Sentence. The structure or the composition of the simple sentence comprises the subject, the predicator, the complement and the adjunct. But the only obligatory element here is the predicator. See a detailed discussion on the syntactic elements of the clause structure. Let us see some examples of the simple sentence:
- This is my food.
- I love you so much.
- He has gone home
- Pat bought a book this morning.
- The hardworking farmer reaped a bumper harvest last year.
It is important to note that we do not determine whether a sentence is simple by how long or short it is. A sentence could be short and not be a simple sentence while another may be very long and still be a simple sentence. See these examples:
- He left and disappeared for good.
This sentence is NOT a simple sentence though it contains only six words. See the next sentence that is very long, yet qualifies as a simple sentence:
- Despite the big plate of rice with chicken and assorted meats, the boys still complained of serious hunger.
- The long-awaited massive Airbus from the United States of America finally landed at the London Heathrow airport amidst pomp and pageantry with the crowds full of joy at yet another landmark and historic event in the history of mankind.
The first sentence has eighteen (18) words while the second sentence has a stunning forty (40) words, yet both of them are simple sentences. The point? Never determine a simple sentence by length, you will certainly be wrong. Let us see the next type of sentence under structural classification… You can check out more examples of Simple Sentences and a post dedicated fully to Simple Sentence: Definition with Examples.
A complex sentence has one main, independent or alpha clause and one or more subordinate, dependent or beta clauses. The absence of a subordinate clause will make the sentence a simple one. The beta clause could be as many as possible, depending on what is grammatically acceptable, but one main clause must be present to make the sentence qualify for a complex sentence. The subordinate clause in a complex sentence is usually introduced by a subordinator or a subordinate conjunction. We usually refer to these subordinators as ‘binders’ because they bind the subordinate clause to the main clause. Let us see some examples:
- The boy failed the test because he did not work hard
- He locked the gate before beating the stubborn goats
- Even though the farmer worked hard the harvest was rather poor.
- Despite reading all night, the girl failed the test.
- If he had not run all the way home, he would have been caught in the rain.
The next type of sentence, based on structural classification, is the compound sentence. A compound sentence is a sentence with two main, alpha or independent clauses with no subordinate clause. That is, two clauses make up a compound sentence and the two of them are main clauses as we have in the following examples:
- The boy won the game but he was not given the prize.
- The food was badly cooked yet the starving boys ate it with relish.
- The farmer worked very hard and reaped a bumper harvest.
- My uncle wished to clear my tuition and my accommodation bill but I politely declined his offer.
- He returned from work and immediately went to bed.
Note that each clause in a compound sentence can stand on its own as a complete sentence because each clause is actually a simple sentence joined by a conjunction. We refer to the items used to link the clauses in a compound sentence as coordinating conjunctions. These are: but, and, or. Some add ‘yet’ to the list but it is a ‘marginal conjunction’. We can also refer to the linking items as ‘linkers’ because they link items of equal grammatical weight or status; word and word, group and group, clause and clause then sentence and sentence. See 100 Examples of Compound Sentences in English. You might also want to see Compound Sentences with Semicolon. Sometimes there are Compound Sentences with Yet; do check them out. You can also see Compound Sentence for Kids to help them learn what a Compound Sentence is. There is a post dedicated wholly to Compound Sentence; check its definition with examples.
A sentence that is compound-complex is a sentence that has two main, alpha or independent clauses and one or more subordinate, beta or dependent clauses. In this type of sentence, one would find both a coordinator (linker) and a subordinator (binder) present. The linker joins the two alpha clauses while the binder(s) joins one of the alpha clauses with a subordinate clause. The following examples depict compound-complex structures:
- Jane gave the class a test and marked the test papers before writing the correction on the board
- The tenants refused to pay the house rent and gave the landlord a beating before the police arrived
- The resident doctors went on strike and refused to treat patients because the government refused to pay their allowances.
- Students prefer to buy phones and acquire other electronic gadgets with their money rather than buy textbooks.
- He washed his clothes and ironed them before he slept.
Read more about Compound-Complex Sentence in English.
A multiple sentence is a sentence which has three (3) or more main, independent or alpha clauses with no subordinate or dependent clause. Each of these clauses can stand on its own as a simple sentence. Consider these sentences:
- He came, he saw and he conquered
- John cleared the garage, washed the dirty cars and later went to the gym to play football.
- She attended the interview, answered all the questions brilliantly yet she did not get the job.
- He also drove out the nations before them, allotted them an inheritance by survey and made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.
- He arrived the country on Friday, went to see his mother on Saturday and returned to Austria on Sunday.
This is the last type of sentences under structural classification of sentences. A multiple-complex sentence has three main, independent or alpha clauses plus at least one subordinate, dependent or beta clause. Examples of this sentence type include:
- When he slew them then, they sought him and they returned and sought earnestly for God.
- I came, I saw, and I conquered because I was determined since no assistance was forthcoming.
- If the lawyers had not moved fast, the innocent man would have been ridiculed, made to refund the money he did not steal and thrown into prison.
- As a philosopher who likes simplicity, he wrote in the condolence register: ‘life is simple and life is fragile.
- I have had opportunity, in recent times, to interact closely with you and I have come to the conclusion painfully that if you can shun yourself to a great extent of personal and political interests and dwell more on the national interest and also draw the line between advice from selfish and self-centered aides and advice from those who in the interest of the nation may not tell you what you will want to hear, it will be
Note that as a good writer or speaker of English, one should be able to vary one’s sentence patterns to avoid monotony and lacklustre expressions. Ability to vary one’s sentence patterns shows an understanding of different sentence patterns and this enriches your writing and makes your speech interesting.
Can you give me the structural classification of the following sentences?
- One, the current situation and consequent possible outcome dictate that I should, before the door closes on reason and promotion of national interest, alert you to the danger that may be lurking in the corner.
- I could sense a semblance between the situation that we are gradually getting into and the situation we fell into as a nation during the Abacha era.
- I have also always told you that God has graciously been kind, generous, merciful and compassionate to me and He has done more than I could have ever hoped
- For five capacities in which you find yourself, you must hold yourself most significantly responsible for what happens or fails to happen in Nigeria and in any case, most others will hold you responsible and God who put you there will surely hold you responsible and accountable.
- I have always retorted that God only put you where you are and those that could be regarded as having played a role were only instruments of God to achieve God’s purpose in your life.
- I want nothing from you personally but that you should run the affairs of Nigeria not only to make Nigeria good but to make Nigeria great and I have always pleaded with you.
Tough right? If you are confused, go over the post again. Endeavour to send me your answers in the comment box.