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Sentence Structure 101
July 19, 2016

July 19, 2016


I started Grammar Revolution eight years ago, and I'm always looking for ways to make it better.

I spent much of this past year improving and updating our main course: the Get Smart Grammar Program. We've been receiving a lot of great feedback on the changes, so if you already own the Get Smart program, be sure to log in and view all of the updated videos. I think you'll love them!

In today's grammar lesson, you'll learn how easy it can be to understand sentence structure. English Grammar Revolution

Happy Learning,

Elizabeth O'Brien

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Sentence Structure

One way that we categorize sentences is by their structure. When we do that, we have four different types of sentences.

Before we tackle the topic of sentence structure, we need to make sure that you know about clauses.

A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. There are two main types of clauses.

  • Independent clauses express complete thoughts. (I love cookies.)

  • Dependent clauses don't express complete thoughts. They must be connected to independent clauses in order to make sense. (If I love cookies)

There are only four sentence structures, and all four of them are formed from combinations of those two kinds of clauses. Wow! That's crazy.

Here They Are

1. Simple sentences contain just one independent clause.

I kicked the ball.

sentence diagram

Here is a sentence diagram of a simple sentence. Notice that there is just one horizontal line.

2. Compound sentences contain two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction.

I kicked the ball, and it hit Tom.

sentence diagram

Here is a sentence diagram of a compound sentence. Notice that there are now two horizontal lines and the bottom one is directly under the top one.

Bonus Tip: In order to be a compound sentence, a group of words must contain two or more independent clauses. For example, the following sentence is not a compound sentence.

Kristin and Kate walked to the park.

That sentence does contain a compound subject (Kristin, Kate), but since it only has one clause, it's not considered a compound sentence. It's a simple sentence!

3. Complex sentences have an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

Tom cried because the ball hit him.

sentence diagram

In this diagram, there are two horizontal lines again, but notice that one of them is below the other and to the right. Do you see how this looks different from the compound sentence diagram?

4. Compound-complex sentences have two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Tom cried because the ball hit him, and I immediately apologized.

sentence diagram

In this diagram, we have three horizontal lines! Do you see how this diagram is a combination of the last two diagrams?

If you really want to understand sentence structure (and have some fun), I highly recommend learning how to diagram sentences. When you diagram sentences, you make the relationships between words visual.

Would you like to learn more,? You'll find these pages helpful.

Are you an educator? Feel free to use this information with your students.

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About Elizabeth

English Grammar Revolution

Elizabeth O'Brien is founder of, a company devoted to helping people learn and love grammar.

Through her website, books, and programs, Elizabeth shows people how to teach and learn grammar the easy way. She's on a mission to inspire and motivate people by making grammar fun and friendly.

If you liked today's issue, you'll love Elizabeth's grammar and sentence diagramming programs, which will help you learn or teach grammar through simple, step-by-step instructions and sentence diagrams.

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