Sentence Types: Simple, Compound, Complex

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13653

Writing sentences is like building with LEGO bricks. Simple sentences are like a single block. Compound, complex, and compound-complex are different types of blocks that can make richer sentences.


Grammar, Writing

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


There are really only two things required to make a sentence, as long as it expresses a complete thought.

  • What are they?

Keep reading to find out!

To make a sentence, you need a subject and a verb. That's it!

subject verb

As long as it expresses a complete thought, it's a sentence!

This type of sentence is called a simple sentence.

This is the basic building block of writing; however, there are other building blocks that make different types of sentences.

They are compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

What Are Compound Sentences?

Compound sentences are two or more independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction.

An independent clause is a complete thought that has a subject and verb and can stand alone as a sentence.

These two clauses are joined by a conjunction. The coordinating conjunction can be remembered with the mnemonic device FANBOYS:








If you made an equation to demonstrate how to construct a compound sentence, it would look like this:

independent clause + coordinating conjunction + independent clause = compound sentence

You may have heard of the song Conjunction Junction before. It's from a fun animated series called Schoolhouse Rock!

Watch Schoolhouse Rock: Grammar - Conjunction Junction Music Video, from Disney Educational Productions, to learn more about how this type of conjunction works:

What Are Complex Sentences?

Complex sentences contain at least one subordinate clause.

A subordinate clause is a clause that adds information to a sentence but cannot stand on its own as a complete sentence. It is dependent on the main independent clause.

These clauses are often added to a main clause through the use of subordinating conjunctions.

There are many subordinating conjunctions. Here are some of the most common ones:

  after if only unless
  although in order that until
  as now that when
  as if once whenever
  as long as provided where
  as though rather than whereas
  because since wherever
  before so that whether
  even if that while
  even though though within
  if without besides


The equation for a complex sentence can look like this:

subordinate clause + independent clause = complex sentence


independent clause + subordinate clause = complex sentence

Sometimes, the subordinate clause will appear in the middle of the sentence. Sometimes there will be more than one subordinating clause in a sentence.

They don't call it complex for nothing!

For a bit more in-depth explanation, you can watch Subordinating conjunctions | The parts of speech | Grammar | Khan Academy:

So What Are Compound-Complex Sentences?

  • Do you have a guess?

A compound-complex sentence is one that includes at least two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction and at least one subordinate clause.

The equations for this type of sentence get tricky in a hurry.

independent clause + subordinate clause + independent clause

subordinate clause + independent clause + independent clause

independent clause + independent clause + subordinate clause

There are all sorts of ways to make compound-complex sentences; the examples above are just a few examples. That's the beauty of writing: there is limitless creative potential.

If you need a summary, watch Compound-Complex Sentences | Learning English | Easy Teaching:

  • Easy, right?

frustrated woman

Okay, so it's not exactly super easy. But, with practice, it will be!

Click through to the Got It? section for some helpful practice getting this down.

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.