English - Sentence

About

At the very least, sentences must have:

  • one subject: the actor in a sentence,
  • one verb: the action taking place in the other associated parts of the sentence,

Basic sentence contain at least a subject and a verb. And this two words create a meaningful, complete thought.

Simple sentences can contain:

  • one or multiple verbs
  • and one or multiple verbs.

Clause and Phrase

Even though they are distinctly different, both clauses and phrases will improve your sentences by adding detail or further information.

At a minimum, a clause contains a subject and verb, whereas a phrase can be even only one word.

What you need to think about and learn is how each functions in your sentences. Knowing the distinction between the two will help you to decide how to use these powerful tools for building sentences.

In short, here is the difference between clauses and phrases:

  • Clause: A group of related words containing a subject and verb.
  • Phrase: A word or group of related words lacking a subject and verb.

Type

Declarative

declarative sentences state facts and opinions.

Declarative sentences stating facts:

Brasília, Brazil, was founded 21 April 1960.
Computers are now used worldwide.

Declarative sentences stating opinions:

The Empire State Building is the most beautiful Art Deco building in New York City.
Practicing Tai Chi is the best way to remain healthy.

Imperative

Imperative sentences give commands and directions

Don’t forget your rain slicker.
Turn left at the next corner.

Types

There are four number of sentence types and they are categorized according to what type and how many independent and dependent clauses you will find in each.

The four sentence types are:

Simple

Simple Sentences contain only one independent clause. These will be basic, but complete, sentences like these:

  • The roses grew quickly in the wet, fertile soil.
  • The balloons floated away.

Notice that each of these sentences contain some concrete detail, yet they do not have any dependent clauses. Simple sentences can have phrases in them, though. These are still simple sentences even though we have added phrases to them:

  • The roses, red and glistening, grew quickly in the wet, fertile soil.
  • Spinning wildly, the balloons floated away.

Many beginning writers are told that their writing style is “choppy.” This simply means that a writer is relying too heavily on simple sentences. To fix this and improve writing style, you need to learn how to write using a variety of sentence types.

Many writers will begin to use the compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence types and never look back. This is a wonderful step, but at times, a simple sentence is just what a piece of writing needs to communicate a point to the readers. Therefore, never underestimate a well-placed simple sentence for emphasis, and simple sentences can easily be enriched by utilizing the noun or verb phrases.

Compound

Coordinating conjunctions

When you join two (or more) independent clauses, you will create a compound sentence. The most common way to construct a compound sentence is by using coordinating conjunctions (FANBOYS).

Here are some examples:

  • We are looking for sticks, for these are the best materials to use.
  • The girls are building a trap, and they hope to catch a lizard.
  • They have not found any insects, nor have they seen any lizards today.
  • Lizards are fast, but the girls are determined to catch one.
  • We could go to the beach, or we could go up to the mountains.
  • I have been meaning to tell you, yet I just have not had a chance.
  • The chocolate was left in the sun, so you should probably not eat it right now.

Compound sentences are usually the first type of sentences that writers will begin using after simple sentences because the construction and punctuation of compound sentences are relatively simple.

Semicolon

You can also use the semicolon (;) to form a compound sentence. You will use a semicolon to create a compound sentence when two sentences are closely related. Look at this example:

  • The old car sputtered to the top of the hill; we were all relieved.

In this case, all you need is a semicolon. Note that the first letter of the first word in the second clause is not capitalized.

Adverbial conjunction

A more common way to use a semicolon when creating a compound sentence is to use an adverbial conjunction.

Compound sentences that use a semicolon and adverbial conjunction will commonly look like the sentences below:

  • The old car sputtered to the top of the hill; therefore, we were all relieved.
  • The construction was proceeding as planned; however, the looming storm threatened to delay the project.

Ultimately, it is your choice whether or not to use a semicolon or a period when you join sentences with an adverbial conjunction. Just remember that if you use a semicolon, you have created a compound sentence.

Complex

When you compose a sentence by joining at least:

you create a complex sentence.

Learning to write complex sentences is the best way to improve your writing style. Subordination, deciding which clause is less important, is perhaps the most important step you will make at this stage of your development as a writer. When you decide which clause will begin with a subordinate conjunction, you have chosen the clause that you feel is less important.

Most of the time, you will use a subordinating conjunction from this list to create a subordinate clause that precedes the main, independent clause.

Look at these sentences:

  • Although your ribs are sore from laughing too much, you really need to compete this weekend.
  • Because the stinger is lodged under your skin, you will experience pain for about an hour.
  • Since the corpse was found in a shallow pond, the forensic anthropologist will lead the investigation.

Notice how each of these begins with a dependent clause that adds information to the main clause. The main clause is complete, but the writer has added clarifying detail in the dependent clause. Remember that the dependent clause can also appear at the end of a sentence. In that case, you generally would not use a comma between the main clause and the subordinate clause.

Compound-Complex

The final sentence type is the compound-complex sentence. A compound-complex sentence consists of:

In many cases, you are adding:

Look at how the compound sentences you already studied can become compound-complex:

  • Compound: We could go to the beach, or we could go up to the mountains.
  • Compound-Complex: We could go to the beach, or we could go up to the mountains since it might rain on the coast.
  • Compound: I have been meaning to tell you, yet I just have not had a chance.
  • Compound-Complex: Even though you might not believe it, I have been meaning to tell you, yet I just have not had a chance.

Likewise, you may simply add another independent clause to a complex sentence as in these examples:

  • Complex: Although your ribs are sore from laughing too much, you really need to compete this weekend.
  • Compound-Complex: Although your ribs are sore from laughing too much, you really need to compete this weekend, but you can still have fun.
  • Complex: Because the stinger is lodged under your skin, you will experience pain for about an hour.
  • Compound-Complex: Because the stinger is lodged under your skin, you will experience pain for about an hour, yet the pain will subside gradually.

In all of these examples, you are simply adding more detail and specific information to the sentences. Also, you will notice that as the sentences become richer, the possibilities for original combinations increase.

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