What Variety Of Sentence Is That?
November 21, 2013

What Variety Of Sentence Is That?

So often, we forget the different varieties of sentences, which often hinder our abilities to write well. We take for granted what we learned in elementary school about simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. We even forget what declarative, exclamatory, interrogative, and imperative sentences are. For the next couple of installments, I will write about these different sentence varieties and kinds of sentences. Let’s start with the former.

First, let me explain that a complete sentence is referred to as an independent clause, which means it can stand alone and still be correct grammar and well written. It is independent. A dependent clause is one that requires an independent clause in order to make it a full and correct sentence. It depends on something else.

A simple sentence consists of one subject, one predicate (also known as the verb), and usually has just one object. It is an independent clause on its own.

Example 1: I ate the apple.

Example 2: She picked it.

Example 3: He wanted the fruit.

These are the building blocks of all sentence varieties. Compound, complex, and compound-complex would not exist without the simple sentences. Furthermore, at times a writer needs brevity. The simple sentence provides that.

To move on, a compound sentence has two simple sentences (two independent clauses) combined with a coordinating conjunction (i.e. for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). When this is done, one must use a comma before the conjunction (click here for my blog explaining this).

Example 1: I ate the apple, but she picked it.

Example 2: She picked it, yet he wanted the fruit.

Example 3: He wanted the fruit, for I ate the apple.

Remove the comma and coordinating conjunction, and these are still two simple sentences, two independent clauses.

Beyond the simple and compound sentence varieties comes the complex sentence. This consists of a simple sentence (the independent clause) and a dependent clause that begins with a subordinate conjunction (e.g. since, when, after, etc. Here’s a link to a good list.).

Example 1: After she picked it, I ate the apple.

Example 2: He wanted the fruit before she picked it.

Example 3: Since I ate the apple, he wanted it.

Note that the comma only occurs when the dependent clause begins a sentence such as in examples 1 and 3. Click here for the article on why that is.

Finally, we have the combination of compound-complex sentence. As you can probably guess from the title, this sentence variety has a little bit of the compound sentence (two independent clauses conjoined with a coordinating conjunction) and a bit of the complex (one dependent clause).

Example 1: After she picked it, I ate the apple, yet he wanted the fruit.

Example 2: He wanted the fruit before she picked it, for I ate the apple.

Example 3. Since I ate the apple, he wanted it, but she picked it.

As you can read, these are quite complex in their nature because they have a little bit of each of the other sentence varieties. Frankly, these are not my best efforts, but I wanted to show how to combine what I already used as examples into compound-complex sentences. The only example above that I approve of is Example 1. Writing good compound-complex sentences takes skill, which only comes from practice and patience. Furthermore, a writer must know when to use them and how to be effective with them.

These four are necessary when considering the flow of what we write. Sometimes we need the brevity and near panic of several simple sentences or the depth and commitment of several compound or complex sentences; however, it is important to consider the rhythm of what we write, and sentence variety directly affects that while also developing the content. The best policy is to use a variety of sentences, mixing and melding them to create the easiest flow and read.

Check back soon for the different kinds of sentences in the next installment.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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