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Types of sentence

Here's a brief outline of the different types of sentences (if you want more details, look at Sentences in the Reading Section).

A simple sentence generally has one main verb and communicates one idea. For example:

Rebecca sang.

There can be several words in the verb, so

It was raining.

- has two words in the verb.

Sean has been running.

- has three words in the verb.

However, in each example there is just one main verb and idea. This is the simplest type of sentence and usually it's very easy to understand.

A compound sentence generally joins two simple sentences together. We typically use words like 'and', 'or' and 'but' to join the ideas. For example:

It was cold but we still went to town.

It was raining and we stayed indoors.

This makes the two ideas equal in the sentence - if we take away one part of it, we are left with a simple sentence again. These are very common when we are speaking and they are not difficult to understand.

A complex sentence communicates more than one idea, so it's like a compound sentence in a way. However, the ideas are not equal. This is because one part is like a simple sentence, so it can stand on its own. The other part can't - it needs something else to support it. For instance, look at this sentence:

You can't persuade me to go to town, no matter how hard you try.

We can take away the first part, but then we are left with: No matter how hard you try.

Now this is not a simple sentence and it doesn't stand on its own - it needs something else to make sense.

We use complex sentences a lot when we speak, but it's important to use them in our writing too. In fact, these are the most difficult sentences to get right.


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