Sentence Structure: Learn the Rules for Every Sentence Type (2023)

Sentence structure is how all the parts of a sentence fit together. If you want to make more advanced and interesting sentences, you first have to understand how sentence structure works.

Below, we explain the rules for all types of sentence structure so that you can communicate clearly, correctly, and confidently. But before we dive into the details, let’s start by reexamining the basics.

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Basic parts of a sentence

Every sentence requires at least a verb and a subject; a verb is an action, and a subject is the noun that does the action.

I am waiting.

In this example, am waiting is the verb. The main verb is wait, but when we conjugate it in the present continuous, we use the –ing form and add the auxiliary verb am. The subject is I, the person who waits.

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The exception to this rule is imperative sentences (commands), which only need a verb. We can assume the subject is the person the speaker is talking to.

Stop!

This single word is a complete sentence. The verb is stop, and no subject is necessary because it’s a command.

Some sentences can add objects, which are nouns that also participate in the action. Let’s say you forgot your calculator and you ask your friend to borrow theirs.

My buddy lends me their calculator.

In this example, lends is the verb and my buddy is the subject because they’re the one lending. The word calculator is what’s called a direct object, the noun that receives the action. In this case, the direct object is the thing being lent—a calculator.

The indirect object is the noun that receives the direct object. In the example above, the indirect object is me, because that’s who receives the calculator. Indirect objects come between the verb and direct object.

Did you notice that the subject uses the pronoun I but the objects use the pronoun me? Subject and object pronouns are different, so make sure you’re using the right one.

Only a certain type of verb called transitive verbs can use direct and indirect objects. However, transitive verbs are quite common, so you’ll be using them a lot.

Let’s look at another example.

Herrera passes Mbappé the ball.

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Can you identify the verb, subject, direct object, and indirect object?

  • The verb is passes because that’s the action in the sentence.
  • The subject is Herrera because Herrera is the person who passes.
  • The direct object is the ball because the ball is the thing being passed.
  • The indirect object is Mbappé because Mbappé receives the ball.

Sentence structure grammar rules

Aside from knowing the parts of a sentence, you also have to follow the grammar rules. In case you forget, here’s a quick list:

  • Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence.
  • End a sentence with a period, question mark, exclamation point, or quotation marks.
  • Most of the time, the subject of the sentence comes first, the verb comes second, and the objects come last. (Subject -> Verb -> Object)
  • If the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. This is known as subject-verb agreement.

Types of clauses

If every sentence were as simple as subject + verb + object, books would be so boring! That’s why English has developed a few different sentence structures to keep things interesting and give us more options for speaking and writing.

Before we get into those different sentence structures, it’s crucial to understand how clauses work. A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. Sometimes a clause is a complete sentence on its own, but other times it needs help before it expresses a complete thought.

A clause that is a complete sentence is called an independent clause. It contains everything you need for a complete sentence: subjects and verbs, with objects optional.

We’ll eat dinner at five.

Faria and Bertuccio assisted the Count of Monte Cristo.

A clause that is not a complete sentence is called a dependent clause, or subordinate clause. These support independent clauses, usually by adding necessary information.

The roads are icy because it rained last night.

This sentence contains two clauses: (1) The roads are icy and (2) because it rained last night. Each sentence has a subject (the roads & it) and a verb (are & rained), but only the first clause is a complete sentence by itself.

Notice that the subordinate clause because it rained last night slightly changes the meaning of the first sentence by adding new and important information. That’s the main purpose of subordinate clauses—to improve an independent clause with essential details.

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Although subordinate clauses have both subjects and verbs, they cannot exist on their own. They contain special words called subordinating conjunctions, which connect them to independent clauses.

Common subordinating conjunctions include because, since, although, unless, and while, as well as relative pronouns like that, which, whatever, whenever, whoever, etc.

If you see a subordinating conjunction, it means that group of words is a subordinate clause. It helps to memorize them so you can easily identify different clauses. You can find a complete list of subordinating conjunctions here.

4 types of sentence structure

Depending on how you combine clauses, you can create four different types of sentence structure:

  • Simple: 1 independent clause
  • Compound: 2 or more independent clauses
  • Complex:1 independent clause + 1 or more subordinate clauses
  • Compound-Complex: 2 or more independent clauses + 1 or more subordinate clauses

Note: Sentences are also categorized by their function, i.e., declarative, interrogative, exclamation, and imperative. These are separate from the types of sentence structure (complex, compound, etc.), and the two categories can be mixed and matched. To read more about each, check out our guide on the types of sentences.

Let’s take a deeper look at each type of sentence structure and how to form it.

Simple sentences

Simple sentences are pretty simple: just a single independent clause, no more, no less. This includes subject and verbs, but can also include objects.

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale.”—Hans Christian Anderson

“Real glory springs from the silent conquest of ourselves.”—Joseph P. Thompson

Compound sentences

A compound sentence joins together two or more independent clauses into a single sentence. You can connect the independent clauses in two ways:

  • Using a comma and a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, known as FANBOYS) between the clauses.
  • Using a semicolon between the clauses.

“It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first.”—Miyamoto Musashi

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“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”—Oscar Wilde

“We know they are lying, they know they are lying, they know we know they are lying, we know they know we know they are lying, but they are still lying.”—Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn

Complex sentences

A complex sentence uses one main independent clause with any number of subordinate clauses. While compound sentences use coordinating conjunctions to join the clauses together, complex sentences use subordinating conjunctions, explained earlier.

If the subordinating clause comes first, use a comma before the independent clause. If the independent clause comes first, you don’t need a comma at all.

“Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”—African proverb

“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.”—Viktor Frankl

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”—Aristotle

Compound-complex sentences

As the name suggests, compound-complex sentences combine compound sentences with complex sentences. They require at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinating clause. To combine them, follow the specific grammar rules for each; be sure you’re using your coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions in the right places.

“If you’re going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it, or else you’re going to be locked up.”—Hunter S. Thompson

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”—David Frost

Need help with sentence structure?

Sentence structure can get pretty complicated, especially at first when learning the differences between clauses and conjunctions. To help you out, Grammarly gives you suggestions on how to transform whole sentences for clarity.

(Video) ENGLISH SENTENCE STRUCTURE RULES: 5 Types of Sentences in English

While you write, Grammarly recommends edits and revisions to improve your sentence structure—not just to correct grammar mistakes, but also to communicate in more effective and engaging ways. Write with Grammarly to make sure your sentence structure is strong.

FAQs

How do you learn the structure of a sentence? ›

Sentence structure grammar rules

Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence. End a sentence with a period, question mark, exclamation point, or quotation marks. Most of the time, the subject of the sentence comes first, the verb comes second, and the objects come last. (Subject -> Verb -> Object)

What are the 4 types of sentence structure? ›

There are four types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each sentence is defined by the use of independent and dependent clauses, conjunctions, and subordinators.

What are the 3 ways to structure sentences? ›

The four types of sentence structures are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. The quantity and arrangement of clauses determines the makeup of each type of sentence structure.

What is the structure of a sentence? ›

A sentence follows Subject + Verb + Object word order. He (subject) obtained (verb) his degree (object).

What is simple sentence structure? ›

Simple. A simple sentence consists of one main (or independent) clause. To be complete, a simple sentence must have at least one subject and one verb. Example: The man (subject) went (verb) to the store.

What are the 5 basic structures of a sentence? ›

The five-sentence elements are subject, verb, object, complement, and adjunct (SVOCA). The subject is the performer of an action or the agent of the verb. It is usually at the beginning of a sentence, and it is generated by a noun or any of its equivalents, such as a pronoun, a noun phrase, or a noun clause.

What are the 4 types of sentences according to use and meaning? ›

The Four Types of Sentences

Declarative Sentences: Used to make statements or relay information. Imperative Sentences: Used to make a command or a direct instruction. Interrogative Sentences: Used to ask a question. Exclamatory Sentences: Used to express a strong emotion.

What are the 8 basic parts of a sentence? ›

There are eight parts of speech in the English language: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. The part of speech indicates how the word functions in meaning as well as grammatically within the sentence.

What are the 9 parts of a sentence? ›

Every sentence you write or speak in English includes words that fall into some of the nine parts of speech. These include nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles/determiners, and interjections.

What are the 3 main types of sentences? ›

Three essential types of sentence are declarative sentences (which are statements), interrogative sentences (which are questions), and imperative sentences (which are orders). Join us as we give examples of each!

What are the 3 parts of the structure? ›

The three-part essay structure is a basic structure that consists of introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction and the conclusion should be shorter than the body of the text. For shorter essays, one or two paragraphs for each of these sections can be appropriate.

Is a rule of 3 structure? ›

Three-part structure.

Use a three-part structure to organize your writing. In the beginning, set things up. Then build anticipation, and finish with the punchline, resolution, or plot twist. The easiest way to do this is by having three characters experience the same situation in slightly different ways.

What are the structure words? ›

Structure-class words, sometimes called function words, are words that signal how the form- class words (sometimes referred to as “content words”) relate to each other in a sentence.

What is an example of a complex sentence structure? ›

A complex sentence combines a dependent clause with an independent clause. When the dependent clause is placed before the independent clause, the two clauses are divided by a comma; otherwise, no punctuation is necessary. Example: Because the soup was too cold, I warmed it in the microwave.

Why is sentence structure important? ›

The most important quality of a sentence is that it clearly communicate the writer's meaning to the reader. Using appropriate style and grammar is important because it contributes to clarity. Clarity is also affected by various elements of sentence structure such as sentence complexity, punctuation and verb tense.

Why is basic sentence structure important? ›

Sentence Structure is important because it provide us with the framework for the clear written expression of our ideas. The aim in writing is always to write in complete sentences which are correctly punctuated. Sentences always begin with a capital letter and end in either a full stop, exclamation or question mark.

What are 5 examples of structures? ›

Buildings, aircraft, skeletons, anthills, beaver dams, bridges and salt domes are all examples of load-bearing structures. The results of construction are divided into buildings and non-building structures, and make up the infrastructure of a human society.

What is a sentence answer? ›

A sentence is a grammatically complete idea. All sentences have a noun or pronoun component called the subject, and a verb part called the predicate.

Why are the 4 types of sentences important? ›

Each sentence type serves a different purpose. Understanding the different sentence types and how to use them will help improve your writing skills.

What are the 4 kinds of sentences worksheet? ›

Sentences are of four main types – assertive/declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory.

What are 4 types of sentence structure PDF? ›

Sentences are divided into four categories: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

What are the 8 types of sentences with examples? ›

Answer: There are 8-types of sentences on the basis of function and structure are Declarative Sentence, Interrogative Sentence, Exclamatory Sentence, Imperative Sentence, Simple sentence, Compound Sentence, Complex sentence, and Compound -Complex sentence.

What are 12 types of parts of speech? ›

Commonly listed English parts of speech are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction, interjection, numeral, article, and determiner.

What are the parts of sentences explain briefly with example? ›

Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject. In the following sentences, the predicate is enclosed in braces ({}), while the subject is highlighted. Judy {runs}.

What are 5 examples of part of speech? ›

Parts of speech include nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.

What are the five 5 parts of grammatical units *? ›

The main parts of the grammar we are concerned with in this module are the parts or constituents of the sentence: clauses, phrases, groups, words and morphemes.

What is a sentence made up of? ›

Sentences are made up of clauses and phrases. A clause is a group of words that contain at least a subject and a verb (NB: a clause can be a sentence). There are four sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. A simple sentence is made up of one independent clause.

What are the 3 core parts of a simple sentence? ›

Remember: Within a sentence, there are three main parts that make up a sentence: the subject, the verb, and the complement.

What is the 3 structure of the text? ›

Text structure. Common formats for text structure include compare/contrast, cause and effect, and sequencing.

What are basics of structure? ›

There are mainly 5 essential steps to be followed for the design of any structure. (1) modelling, (2) load analysis, (3) structural analysis, (4) structural design and (5) detailing.

What is the basic phrase structure rule? ›

The first rule reads: A S (sentence) consists of a NP (noun phrase) followed by a VP (verb phrase). The second rule reads: A noun phrase consists of an optional Det (determiner) followed by a N (noun).

What are 3 grammar rules? ›

Some basic rules of grammar include ensuring all sentences have a subject and a verb; placing adjectives directly before the noun they describe, or after it if separated by a verb; and using a comma to connect two ideas.

What is the rule of 3 called? ›

In comedy, the rule of three is also called a comic triple and is one of the many comedic devices regularly used by humorists, writers, and comedians. The third element of the triple is often used to create an effect of surprise with the audience, and is frequently the punch line of the joke itself.

What makes a good sentence structure? ›

A good sentence is a complete sentence.

A complete sentence requires a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought—also known as an independent clause. This element of sentence structure can stand on its own, expressing an idea without the need for additional information.

Why is it important to know proper sentence structure? ›

Good sentence structure is essential to good writing; it adds both clarity and interest. Poor sentence structure can befuddle or weary the audience, making the task of reading more unpleasant than informative. One important way to enliven a piece of writing is to vary the length and structure of your sentences.

How can I improve my sentence study? ›

Some Tips to Improve The Proficiency One Should Keep in Mind: Analyze the tone of the given statement or sentence. It can be positive, negative, sarcastic, critical or analytical. Keeping in mind the purview of the whole scenario, one can easily spot the incorrect part of the sentence after a deep analysis.

How can you improve awkward or confusing sentence structure? ›

A more methodical approach to fix an awkward sentence is to identify the main noun (subject) and verb (action), then cut the sentence down accordingly. Ask yourself, “What is this sentence about—what is the core subject?” (Choose a noun.) Then ask, “What is this subject doing?” (Choose a verb.)

How do you teach sentence structure to first graders? ›

Write a few sentences as a class reinforcing the use of a capital letter and end punctuation. Talk about how each sentence is made up of two phrases. You can even write whole sentences and ask your students to break up the sentence into its two main parts. They might notice the natural pauses that occur in sentences.

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