All sentences consist of one or more clauses. A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. Some clauses are independent, and others are dependent. For a sentence to be complete, it must contain at least one independent clause.
An independent clause expresses a complete thought and can stand alone as a sentence.
A dependent clause is not a complete sentence. It must be connected to an independent clause.
There are different types of dependent clauses. For more information, please refer to the Writing Centre's Dependent Clauses page.
There are four sentence patterns: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. The different patterns are categorized according to various combinations of independent and dependent clauses.
The simple sentence is composed of one independent clause.
A simple sentence may have one subject and one verb.
A simple sentence may contain two or more subject and/or two or more verbs.
A simple sentence may also contain phrases and other modifiers such as articles, adjectives, and adverbs.
The compound sentence is composed of two or more independent clauses but no dependent clauses.
There are three ways to join the independent clauses in a compound sentence:
1. Two independent clauses may be joined by a semicolon when they have an implied logical relationship.
2. Two independent clauses may be joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction. The seven coordinating conjunctions are easily remembered with the mnemonic device FANBOYS.
3. Two independent clauses may be joined by a semicolon, a transitional word or phrase, and a comma.
Here are some examples of commonly used transitional words and phrases:
The complex sentence is composed of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.
The dependent clauses may be located in any of the following positions within a complex sentence: before the independent clause, after the independent clause, before and after the independent clause, or interrupting the independent clause.
The compound-complex sentence is composed of two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
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