Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar.
Are you ready to learn about sentence structure? Great!
Sentences are nice little packages of words that come together to express complete thoughts. They make it easy to understand ideas and learn information.
We can categorize sentences based on different criteria, and one way to categorize them is based on their structure. When we do this, we find that there are four sentence structures. Let's take a look at each one.
The Four Sentence Structures
1. Simple Sentences
A simple sentence contains only one independent clause. An independent clause is a group of words that has both a subject and a verb, and expresses a complete thought.
Here is a sentence diagram of a simple sentence. Note that there is only one horizontal line.
I kicked the ball.
I kicked the ball is an independent clause. It contains a subject (I) and a verb (kicked), and it expresses a complete thought. Learn more about the simple sentence here.
A compound sentence contains at least two independent clauses. These clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon. (When you join two independent clauses with only a comma, it's a mistake called a comma splice.) A coordinating conjunction is a word that glues words, phrases, or clauses together.
Here's a sentence diagram of a compound sentence. Note that there are now two horizontal lines and one is directly below the other.
I kicked the ball, and it hit Tom.
I kicked the ball is an independent clause. It hit Tom is also an independent clause. And is a coordinating conjunction joining the two independent clauses. I kicked the ball, and it hit Tom is a compound sentence. Learn more about the compound sentence here.
In order to be a complete sentence, a group of words needs to contain a subject and a verb, and it needs to express a complete thought.
If a group of words is missing any of that information, it's probably a sentence fragment, and if you have a group of words containing two or more independent clauses that are not properly punctuated, it's probably a run-on sentence.
4. Compound-Complex Sentences
These are basically a combination of compound sentences and complex sentences. They contain at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinate clause.
Here's a diagram of a compound-complex sentence. Note that it's a hybrid of a compound sentence and a complex sentence! Two of the horizontal lines are directly above and below each other and the third is hanging out there in the middle.
Tom cried because the ball hit him, and I apologized immediately.
Tom cried and I apologized immediately are both independent clauses. They're being joined by the conjunction and.
Because the ball hit him is a dependent adverb clause modifying the verb cried. The whole sentence is a compound-complex sentence. Learn more about the compound-complex sentence here.
Sentence Diagramming Rules!
The great thing about diagramming sentences is that it shows how the parts of a sentence are related. Being able to see a sentence drawn out will help you understand sentence structure. Give it a shot!
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