Simple to Complex

Date Published: Jan. 1, 2017, 11:20 p.m.

To Begin With

A sentence is the basic unit of communication in writing.  It is made with clauses.  While there are several types of clause, there are two general categories:  dependent clauses and independent/ main clauses. 
 
A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb.  Nothing else is necessary.  In some cases, even the subject is not necessary because it is implied:
 
               Stop!
               This is an imperative sentence.  The subject is always you.  Imperative sentences command actions or make requests.
 
A dependant clause cannot stand on its own:  It must be joined to a main clause.  Adverb clauses, adjective clauses, and noun clauses are dependant clauses, which means that they must be joined to a main clause.  They each perform a different role in a sentence, but the trick is in how to join them to the main clause.
 
An independent clause can stand on its own.  It has a subject and a verb and it expresses a complete thought. 
 
There are four main types of sentences:  simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.  The way to write them correctly is to pay attention to punctuation and connections.
 

Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is an independent clause.  It has one subject and one verb.  It stands on its own.  It may be very short or quite long:
 
               Go!        (The subject you is implied)
               I want to go to the concert on the 25th of May to see my favorite band.
 
Simple sentences are very common, but don’t write an entire composition with simple sentences.  Without some transition words like first, also, next, because, when, but, which, however, etc. your writing will be a mere collection of clauses, and it will be boring.  On the other hand, when you get to an important point in your written communication and you want to make sure it stands out to the reader, use a simple sentence. 
 

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses.  These are joined in four ways:
 
  With a coordinating conjunction (and but or for nor yet so).  A comma is optional.  When one of the clauses contains various  
    parenthetical words or phrases, especially if it’s the first clause, the comma is preferred.  If the two independent clauses are quite 
    short and simple, no comma is necessary. 
 
    However, a very common and very noticeable writing mistake is to join two independent clauses with a comma while omitting the
    conjunction.  This error is a comma-splice.  Get past this tendency as soon as possible:
 
               Sally called the travel agent to book a flight, Frankie packed the suitcases.
 
     There are different ways to fix this sentence.  One way is to use a coordinating conjunction:
 
               Sally called the travel agent to book a flight, and Frankie packed the suitcases.
 
   With a semi colon acting as a coordinating conjunction:
 
               Sally called the travel agent to book a flight; Frankie packed the suitcases.
 
  • With a colon when the second clause elaborates on, restates, or gives a specific example of the information in the first clause:
 
               I am happy when it’s snowing:  the pure white flakes falling all around make me smile.
 
  With a conjunctive adverb such as however, moreover, therefore, on the other hand, etc.  When a conjunctive adverb joins two 
    clauses, it is preceded by a semi-colon and followed by a comma:
 
               I enjoy winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and skating; however, I do not like the cold.
 
Compound sentences are very common.  Use them when you want to express ideas that are of equal importance.  Avoid stringing together a long series of independent clauses, however; otherwise, your writing will be difficult to follow:
 
               I woke up and I went into Ariana’s room and she was still sleeping and I gave her a teddy bear but she didn’t wake up and 
               I went downstairs and I wanted breakfast but mommy was upstairs so I went upstairs…
 
With or without the commas, this sentence is brutal, unless it is uttered by a child, in which case it’s cute.  There’s nothing like watching your child acquire language.  By the way, adult learners of a second or third language don’t learn the way children learn their first language.  Don’t be fooled by marketers telling you otherwise.
 

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence contains an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.  The dependent clause is often introduced with a subordinating conjunction of time, contrast, condition or cause and effect.  This is an adverb clause and it is very common.  If the adverb clause comes first, it is followed by a comma.  When it comes after the main clause, usually no comma is necessary:
 
               If she calls me, I will be happy.
               I watched TV while she was cooking.
               Although it was raining outside, we decided to go for a swim in the river.
               I ate 4 cheeseburgers because I was so hungry.
 
The dependant clause may modify a noun or an entire clause, in which case it is a relative/ adjective clause.  The connecting word will be a relative pronoun such as who, whom, whose, that or which, or a relative adverb such as when, where or why.  These act as conjunctions:
 
               The girl who lives next door is amazing!
               The city where I grew up is exciting!
 
The relative clause will not be set off with commas if it tells us who or which nonspecific noun we are talking about:
 
               The girl is amazing!  
               Who are you talking about?
               The girl who lives next door.  The girl who lives next door is amazing.
 
The relative clause is set off with commas if it does not identify which noun we are talking about:
 
               Sally is amazing!
               Who are you talking about?
               Sally.  Sally, who lives next door, is amazing!
 
The dependant clause may play the part of a noun, in which case it is a noun clause:  it may be the subject of a sentence or the object of a verb or preposition:
 
               I don’t know what she said.
               I don’t care about what she said.
               What she said is unimportant to me.
 
Notice there are no commas separating the noun clause from the verb or preposition.  Treat a noun clause as a noun. 
 

Compound-complex sentence

A compound-complex sentence contains at least two main clauses and one or more dependent clauses.  The inclusion of a dependent clause makes it complex and two independent clauses makes it compound.  In fact, David Megginson, writing online at the uottawa.ca Writing Centre, refers to a compound-complex sentence as a “special type of compound sentence.” 

 

               Sally wants to surprise Frankie; however, she can’t lie to him if he becomes suspicious.
               (independent)                                                          (independent)                (dependent - adverb clause of condition)
 
               Because it was raining outside, Frankie decided to read a book, and Sally worked on her painting.
                   (dependent - adverb clause of                (independent)                                                 (independent)
                    cause and effect)          
          
 
               When I heard (that) I had won the lottery, I screamed and jumped for joy, but I did not quit my job.
                    (dependent -       (dependent - noun clause)            (independent                                             (independent)
                    adverb clause
                    of time)
 
 

Conclusion

Correct sentence construction is at the heart of competent writing.  Putting clauses together with various connectors, conjunctions, and punctuation allows for variation. It allows you to arrange your thoughts and emphasize important points.  At all times, your writing should be clear and concise:  don't make your reader guess what you mean, and don't say more than what you mean.

Attached File: construct sentences - write a story

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Comments:

Feb. 19, 2017, 3:39 p.m. | mauriepov

Interesting break down.

Feb. 19, 2017, 3:40 p.m. | mauriepov

Real interesting.

March 30, 2017, 9:45 p.m. | mauriepov

Good program. Should do well

April 2, 2017, 12:13 p.m. | mauriepov

Cant wait for the rest of the program to be live. Looks promising

June 20, 2017, 4:06 p.m. | naoko

good info

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