Sentence structure is the logical progression of a sentence from beginning to end. When someone asks you what is sentence structure, they can be asking you one of three things.
First, they might be wondering what the building blocks are that make up the sentence structure.
Second, they might be asking you how sentences are formed and put together.
Third, they might be wondering how sentences help support the main idea.
What Is sentence structure?
How sentences are structured is crucial for reading and writing them properly.
When you are writing a sentence, there are rules that you must follow in order to make the sentence understandable.
The structure of a sentence can be broken down into two different parts. The first part is the subject and the second part is the predicate.
The subject of a sentence is the noun that tells what or who the sentence is about.
For example, if you said “the girl ran,” then “girl” would be the subject of your sentence. In this case, “ran” would be considered the predicate because it tells what she did.
Another example would be “The dog ate my homework.” In this case, “dog” would be the subject and “ate” would be the predicate.
Knowing how these components of a sentence work together not only helps you understand sentences better but also makes it easier for you to write your own sentences correctly as well.
What Is Sentence Structure?
Sentences have two main elements: subject and predicate. The subject is who or what the sentence is about, and the predicate is what is said about the subject.
This is an important distinction to make because when people talk about sentence structure, they may not always use those exact words and instead say something like “subject-verb agreement.”
The subject can also include pronouns, as we will discuss later on in this article.
The predicate can also contain one or more clauses that provide more information about the subject matter in the sentence.
For example, in the sentence “I am going to read a book tonight,” “I” is the subject and “am going to read a book tonight” is the predicate that provides details about “I.”
If these terms seem confusing or overwhelming to you at first, don’t worry! It gets easier with practice.
4 Types Of Sentence Structure
There are 4 main types of sentence structure. They are simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences and compound-complex sentences.
A simple sentence is a single independent clause with no dependent clauses. It expresses a complete thought.
For example: “How to Make a Pudding” is a simple sentence because it is a short phrase that expresses a complete thought.
A compound sentence consists of at least two independent clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction like “and,” “but,” or “or.” The second clause could be a subordinate clause that presents an additional idea but doesn’t express an entire thought on its own.
For example: “The dog ate his homework, and I had to explain to my teacher why he would not be turning it in today.” This would be fine written as one long sentence, but the use of the comma lets you break it up into shorter, easier-to-read sentences.
A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause that contains its own subject and verb. A complex sentence looks just like any other simple sentence until you get to the dependent clause.
There are two kinds of complex sentences: those with an independent clause plus a subordinate clause and those with two subordinate clauses linked together.
Why Sentence Structure?
We add an extra layer of meaning by using punctuation to separate our sentences. Using the wrong punctuation can change the message completely.
Telling someone “I will be there in a minute” doesn’t have quite the same meaning as “I’ll be there in a minute.”
Using commas and periods helps to make your sentence clear, concise and compliant with proper grammar rules. The trick is to know when and where to place them.
There are some very easy guidelines to remember.
The main goal of punctuation is to make your writing understandable. Punctuate correctly, and you are more likely to be understood. If you punctuate incorrectly, you risk confusion. Here are some tools that you can use to create correct sentences:
Subject – A subject “names” or identifies who or what we’re talking about. In a compound sentence (two or more sentences joined by a conjunction), the subject of the first sentence becomes the last part of the compound sentence.
For example: The dog ran into the house followed by its tail. In this example, The dog is our subject because “it” was what ran into the house, and its tail followed it. These are two separate sentences that have been put together.
Though I have often preached the merits of robust and complicated sentences, I must admit that simple sentences are good for your health.
Before you start rolling your eyes and muttering about mind-numbing prose, let me ask you to consider the following:
You’re not alone
There are lots of people who can’t handle nice long sentences. There’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t like them.
Maybe it’s because they had bad teachers in school who beat them over the head with grammar rules or maybe it’s just a preference.
Either way, if there are readers out there who want simple sentences then it’s our job as writers to give them what they want.
Simple sentences feel good
I know this will sound silly, but I think this is true. If you’ve ever read a book that was mostly one very long sentence, you know that it feels like torture to read it (and likely to write it). It’s hard on your brain and on your eyes, too.
I know that when I’m reading a book with really long convoluted sentences, by the time I reach the end of it I’m so exhausted that I am no longer capable of reading another word from that author–even if it was a great story.
Compound sentences are exactly what they sound like: a combination of two or more simple sentences into one. They can be used to add emphasis or to make a point more clearly.
In writing, a compound sentence is two complete thoughts connected by a coordinating conjunction. This means that the compound sentence doesn’t contain a main idea and supporting detail; it has two main ideas that are equally important.
It’s important to include a conjunction to let the reader know that both parts of the sentence are equal and need to be understood together. Compound sentences are usually longer than simple sentences, because they contain two complete thoughts.
I will go shopping when I get home. (simple)
I will go shopping, but I need to take my dog for a walk first. (compound)
This is an example of what not to do when using compound sentences in your writing:
I will go shopping when I get home but I need to take my dog for a walk first. (incorrect)
When you want to use compound sentences in your writing, make sure that both parts of the sentence have equal importance and strength and that they both reflect your main idea.
A complex sentence contains at least one main clause and one subordinate clause. Both types of clauses are part of the sentence.
In other words, both the main clause and subordinate clause are essential to the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
The subordinate clause can be introduced by one of three types of subordinating conjunctions:
After two years of malpractice , he was forced to leave his job at the hospital.
Even though they were hungry , they decided not to eat lunch.
Although they were tired , they finished their work on time.
The subordinator most commonly used in complex sentences is “although.” The other two subordinators, “after” and “even though,” are less frequently used in everyday speech and writing.
Other words that can be used as subordinators include “as,” “because,” “before,” “however,” and “until.”
One way to tell if a sentence contains a subordinate clause is to replace it with a pronoun or noun phrase, for example:
The longest sentence in the English language is over 2,500 words. It was written by Thomas James Underwood Dudley and can be found at The Sentence Club.
The longest sentence in this essay is the very first one: “This is the longest sentence in this essay.” This sentence has 111 words.
That’s an average of only 3.7 words per word! Perhaps you counted the words in that last sentence, but most people would have just read it.
The average person speaks at a rate of 150-200 words per minute, but the average reader reads only 250-300 words per minute. That means that you read this entire essay at approximately 2 times faster than you can speak!
There are two types of compound-complex sentences: those with two main clauses (or independent clauses) and those with three or more clauses.
There are no hard and fast rules for distinguishing between these two sentence types, but there are some general guidelines that have been proposed by grammarians.
These include using phrases or clauses to express contrast (as in the first example above) as well as using phrases or clauses to give more information about a particular subject (as in the second example above).
Sentence Structure Examples
Whether you are writing an article, letter or even a short story, the art of sentence structure will help you create a powerful and effective piece. When you structure your sentences correctly, it gives your writing structure and allows you to control the flow of your content.
Here are some examples of powerful sentence structures in action:
Oxford Comma: This type of sentence is used when listing three or more adjectives that describe one noun. For example: “The red, white and blue flag” or “The old, grey house”.
Three Dimensional Sentence: This type of sentence lists the three points of a topic that the author is discussing. For example: “He wore torn jeans, black boots and a leather jacket.”
Complex Sentence: This type of sentence uses subordinate clauses within its main clause to create a longer, multi-layered sentence. A subordinate clause is any group of words that could be replaced with a subject and verb without changing the meaning of the main clause.
For example: “While we were eating, John arrived.”
Compound Sentence: This type of sentence is made up of two independent clauses joined by a conjunction such as “and”, “but” or “so”.
Simple Sentence Structure
Simple sentence structure is a great way to create a blog that is simple to read and easy to digest, which will ultimately help your blog posts get read.
Here are some simple tips for creating more simple sentence structure:
Use short sentences.
A short sentence will make your writing sound less boring and more appealing. Not only that, but you can also use this to emphasize what you’re trying say, which helps create a “hook” that will keep the reader interested in reading your next few sentences.
Break up long sentences.
Long, complex sentences are difficult to read and even harder to understand, so avoid using them. It’s fine if you want to break up long sentences into multiple shorter ones, but don’t make them too long or else it’ll just be plain difficult for the reader to follow along with what you’re saying.
Use strong verbs in your sentences.
By using strong verbs instead of weak verbs, you’ll be able to make your writing much more interesting and engaging and will also help improve your sentence structure at the same time. For example, instead of writing “I went to the store yesterday”, write “Yesterday I went to the store”.
Compound Sentence Structure
Compound sentences are two or more sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction.
There are seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and so. Coordinating conjunctions are used to join two words or phrases of equal importance in a sentence.
When to Use a Compound Sentence
Compound sentences can be used in a variety of ways. Some writers use compound sentences to start a paragraph.
Others use them at the end. There is no one correct way to use compound sentences. However, they usually do not work as the first sentence in a paragraph because the result is too long and wordy.
In the following example, the compound sentence follows the introductory sentence:
It’s important to have clear goals, but you also need flexible strategies for achieving those goals.
The following example uses a compound sentence as both an introductory and concluding sentence:
It’s difficult to balance your professional responsibilities with your personal commitments. It’s even harder when you’re forced to make decisions quickly without all the information you need.
However, some writers prefer using only one type of compound sentence in any given piece of writing – either main idea or supporting detail – because it creates unity within the piece.
Complex Sentence Structure
Complex sentence structure is the use of subordinate clauses, relative clauses and other complex or compound structures. Complex sentences are often confused with run-on sentences, which are sentences that simply have too many ideas.
Tone is a major factor in how our speech and writing is interpreted. Tone is the attitude that we convey toward our audience.
In everyday life, tone can be conveyed through body language and facial expressions, but in written communication, tone is usually left up to the writer’s word selection.
Colloquial language is informal speech. It naturally uses contractions such as “don’t” for “do not,” and truncations such as “gonna” for “going to.” Colloquial language also tends to emphasize certain words
(for example, saying “I am going to the store” rather than “I am going to go the store”). Although this is normal speech, it should not be used in formal writing unless you are specifically trying to create a casual tone.
Informal language is informal writing that would typically be used among friends or family members. Many people choose to write emails or social media posts in an informal style because they feel that it makes them appear more friendly and relatable.
Compound-Complex Sentence Structure
Compound-complex sentences have multiple clauses in them. The clauses are joined together by coordinating conjunctions, and that means they’re not dependent on each other.
In compound sentences, the clauses are dependent on each other.
The result is a more complex sentence that takes readers to different places before coming back together again.
For example, look at the difference between these two sentences:
“The little boy was hurt when he fell from the tree branch.”
“When he fell from the tree branch, the little boy was hurt.”
In both cases, there’s one independent clause (the main part of the sentence) and one dependent clause (the clause whose meaning changes based on the independent clause). But in first sentence, the clauses are separate from each other.
They both convey information but don’t work together. In second sentence, the two clauses are joined together by a comma and “when,” so readers experience them as a single unit.
Compound-complex sentences can be tricky to write because you have to take your time with them. You can’t just throw a bunch of ideas together and expect them to make sense; your reader needs time to process each idea before moving on to the next one.
Basic Parts Of A Sentence
A sentence is the basic unit of structure in a paragraph and should usually contain a subject and a verb. A sentence always communicates something or expresses an idea.
There are four basic parts of a sentence:
The subject is the person or thing that acts, or that the action is being done to; it tells us who or what an action is happening to or being done by. In the following sentence, James sings: The subject is James, who is what this sentence is about.
The verb is the action word that describes what James does in this case—it tells us that he sings. In this example, “sings” is the verb. It could also have been “dances”.
An object is any word or group of words used to describe what someone received from another person or thing as a result of an action.
For example: George gave Mary a dozen roses. In this sentence, “roses” are the object because they are being given to Mary as a result of George’s action: giving them to her.
The object answers the question “What?” or “Whom?” after the verb.
Sentence Structure Grammar Rules
The basic sentence structure rules are covered in elementary school, but even the most well-educated adult can find them useful for understanding how grammar works.
This is because sentence structure is much more than just a bunch of rules; it’s also a guide to finding the right words when you’re trying to express an idea.
The basic rule: In English, every sentence needs a subject and a verb, and the subject should come before the verb.
Some sentences might contain other elements, such as a conjunction or an adjective phrase; but these elements either come between the subject and verb or follow the verb. For example:
She hit the ball hard. (subject – verb)
She and her brother love to play tennis. (conjunction – subject – verb)
The tennis ball bounced across the table. (prepositional phrase – verb)
This is an effective way of making sure your sentences are clear and complete. If you can remove one of these elements from a sentence and it still makes sense, then that element is not part of the sentence’s core structure—it’s simply fluff around it.
You’ll also notice that in some cases, we use compound subjects or compound verbs to make our sentences clearer. For example: Tennis players.
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