Types of Sentences According to Structure with Examples

Types of Sentences According to Structure with Examples

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:

  1. Simple Sentence
  2. Complex Sentence
  3. Compound Sentence
  4. Compound-Complex Sentence
  5. Multiple Sentence
  6. Multiple-Complex Sentence.

Let us discuss them one after the other:

Simple Sentence

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.

Complex Sentence

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.

I have dedicated a post to Complex Sentence in English; do check it out. You can also see Complex Sentence for Kids with Examples.

 Compound Sentence

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 asked if he should pay for my tuition or clear my accommodation bill.
  • 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.

 Compound-Complex Sentence

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.

 Multiple Sentence

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.

 Multiple-Complex Sentence

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.



  1. When did multiple and multiple-complex sentence start to exist? I only knew of simple, compound, complex and compound-complex? what is ur reference?

    1. They are part of the classifications of sentences structurally. If you agree that a compound sentence consists of two main clauses with no dependent clause, then how do you classify sentences with more than two main clauses without a subordinate clause structurally? How would you also classify structurally sentences with multiple independent clauses and, at least, one subordinate clause? This is what gave rise to multiple sentence and multiple-complex sentence respectively.

  2. “HE is brave and clever” should be compound sentence right? as if you were saying (He is brave + He is clever = two alphas)

  3. YOU MEAN for reported speeches with several verbs within, should also be categorized? For example: “I wan to go home, eat, watch tv and then sleep ” he said.
    I f i were to categorize this, this is a SIMPLE SENTENCE. But your categories would say this is MULTIPLE SENTENCE.
    Pleas enlighten me. (:

  4. in your example:

    As a philosopher who likes simplicity, he wrote in the condolence register: ‘life is simple and life is fragile.

    How come this is a MULTIPLE-COMPLEX sentence?

    There is only one subject “HE” then “life is simple and life is fragile” is OBJECT.
    Is this not a COMLEX sentence: As philospher who likes simplicity” being beta and then “he wrote in the condolence register: ‘life is simple and life is fragile’ being alpha.

    1. I feel you need to take time and read the post very well; you seemed not to have understood the categorisation of sentences according to structure…
      However, to answer your question, the sentence is Multiple-complex comprising three main clauses and a subordinate clause as broken down below:
      ‘As a philosopher who likes simplicity,’ – beta clause
      ‘he wrote in the condolence register:’ – alpha clause
      ‘life is simple’ – alpha clause
      ‘life is fragile’ – alpha clause

  5. I am confused with your example for COMPUND-COMPLEX:
    “Students prefer to buy phones and other electronic gadgets with their money rather than buy textbooks.”
    “Students prefer to buy phones and other electronic gadgets with their money –ALPHA
    “..rather than buy textbooks—BETA
    IS THIS NOT A COMPLEX SENTENCE… can we also categorize this as a SIMPLE SENTENCE?

    1. PLEASE help me identifying the structure of this sentence:
      1. “About two years ago, my pet died.”
      2. “My pet died about two years ago.”
      3. “My pet died about two years ago”, he said.
      4. “About two years ago after the program was launched, it earned full support from the government.”
      5. “This time, the crisis is over!”
      6. The presidential spokesperson Harry Bareto put it, “If the people continue selling drugs, they would be hunted down by the policemen who are so eager to work even at night .”
      7. This morning, when I woke up, I found a dead man, who is at his 40’s, lying in our backyard.
      _____PLESE HELP ME____ thank you. (:

      1. 1. “About two years ago, my pet died.” – Simple sentence
        2. “My pet died about two years ago.” – Simple sentence
        3. “My pet died about two years ago”, he said. – Compound sentence (2 main clauses)
        4. “About two years ago after the program was launched, it earned full support from the government.” – Complex sentence
        5. “This time, the crisis is over!” – Simple sentence
        6. The presidential spokesperson Harry Bareto put it, “If the people continue selling drugs, they would be hunted down by the policemen who are so eager to work even at night .” – Compound-complex
        7. This morning, when I woke up, I found a dead man, who is at his 40’s, lying in our backyard. – Complex sentence

    2. There is a non- finite subordinate clause their which is “to buy”
      It’s functioning as a direct object.
      I think you need to go and read more on finite and non- finite verb phrases, then you will find this article engaging and informative

  6. NLC to develop a plan to address the foul order that may cause health hazard to personnel in the building of Caballo where the ammunition are stored.

    what is the structural classification of this sentence ? please help

    1. The basic information is contained in one clause but with other clausal qualifications. This is a complex sentence with this structure – S/P/C/C. Let me break it down structurally…
      ‘NLC’ – subject
      ‘to develop’ can also read ‘will develop’ – verb
      ‘a plan’ – complement
      ‘to address the foul order’ – another complement
      The second complement is qualified by a relative clause, ‘that may cause health hazard to personnel in the building of Caballo where the ammunition are stored.’
      In the relative clause is also embedded another adverbial clause of place ‘where the ammunition are stored’. (Watch out for the post on English clauses)
      So, in essence, we have a main clause, (NLC to develop a plan to address the foul order) and a relative clause (that may cause health hazard to personnel in the building of Caballo) with an embedded adverbial clause (where the ammunition are stored).

    1. The classifications are grammatical ways of describing sentences based on their outlook (Structure) and what they do (function). Our classification is based on the Systemic Functional Grammar (SFG) pioneered by Neo-Firthians grammarians; a major figure in that movement is M. A. K. Halliday.

    1. Thanks for your question Zoya.
      ‘He is brave and clever’ is a simple sentence. For a sentence to qualify as a compound sentence, it must have two independent clauses. You cannot have a clause without a finite verb. (See Types of Verbs). Your sentence has only one clause. Don’t let the conjunction ‘and’ confuse you. It joins grammatical items of equal weight together; clause and clause, phrase and phrase, word and word. ‘Brave’ and ‘clever’ are complements. To make your sentence a compound one, we can have an example like this:
      He is brave but pretends to be clever.
      He is intelligent and likes to show it.
      I hope this helps.

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