By: Julia Manning
Learning about sentence structures can sound boring. However, it’s important for authors to understand them so they can develop strong writing skills. Despite what you may have heard, they’re easy to learn and can be fun to create!
This type of sentence structure only consists of one independent clause, contains one subject and one predicate. The subject can also be called the noun phrase and the predicate is also called the verb phrase. The entire sentence is one complete thought. For example,
The cat jumped.
The subject is cat and the predicate is jumped. Isn’t that simple?
Simple sentences only consist of one independent clause, but can a sentence have more than one? Yes they can! Having at least two independent clauses is called a compound sentence. Each independent clause must have a subject and a predicate. There are many ways to join independent clauses, but the two most common are coordinating conjunctions and semi-colons. Do not put a comma between independent clauses—it will turn the sentence into a comma splice. Let’s look at an example of a compound sentence.
The dog swims and the bird flies.
Notice how I used the coordinating conjunction, and. In addition, each independent clause has a subject (dog and cat) and predicate (swims and flies).
Now it’s time to get complexicated. When a sentence has a dependent clause and an independent clause, it’s called a complex sentence. A dependent clause cannot stand on its own. It is dependent on the independent clause. In addition, it modifies the independent clause’s verb. It can have a subject and a predicate, but does not express a full thought.
Because the light was red, I stopped.
This is an example of a complex sentence. I stopped is the independent clause. The first portion of the sentence, Because the light was red, cannot stand on its own, which makes it a dependent clause. This is not a complete thought due to the word because. However, notice if the word was deleted the phrase would be an independent clause.
This sentence structure has it all. It consists of a dependent clause along with two or more independent clauses. An example would be:
Although I like to go camping, I haven’t had the time to go lately, and I haven’t found anyone to go with.
The first independent clause is I haven’t had the time to go lately and the dependent clause is Although I like to go camping. However, the last portion of the sentence, followed by the coordinating conjunction, and, is I haven’t found anyone to go with. I is the subject and found anyone to go with is the predicate of the second independent clause.
The word fragment brings a lot of negative connotation. I know most of you are probably having flashbacks to your grade school teachers waving red flags and screaming, “Fragments are not grammatically correct!” Well, they are right. Fragments are not grammatically correct. The most common sentence fragment is having a dependent clause stand on its own. However, not all fragments are errors. In creative writing, fragments are an important tool to use if a writer wants to create rhythm or emphasis. An example would be,
She went to investigate. Without telling anyone.
Obviously, “without telling anyone” isn’t a complete thought, and while we could have combined these two sentences into one, there’s an increased rhythm, emphasis, and drama when it’s written this way.