Do you want your English writing to be more sophisticated and native-like?

Varying your sentence types is one effective way to improve your writing. Let’s look at the four types of English sentences and how to use them in a paragraph.

Simple sentences

A simple sentence has one clause, or one subject-verb relationship. Every sentence in this paragraph is a simple sentence.

IEI is in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is the capital of Tennessee. It is the state’s largest city. Nashville was once an important shipping port. It is on the Cumberland River. Many people call Nashville “Music City”. Several major and independent music labels have offices here. It is an important center of music recording and production. Healthcare and the automobile industry are also major parts of Nashville’s economy. Another nickname for Nashville is “the Athens of the South”. The city is home to many colleges and universities. These include Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Tennessee State. Nashville is growing quickly. The American economy is growing slowly overall. Nashville has the third fastest-growing economy in the United States. More apartment and condominium buildings are being constructed in Nashville these days. There is room for more workers to live here.

Simple sentences are correct and commonly used in English writing. However, using only simple sentences can make your writing seem unsophisticated. The reader might think that your ideas are simple if you only use simple sentences. Other types of sentences can express complex relationships between your ideas. They also make your writing more interesting to read.

Compound sentences

A compound sentence combines two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions include:

  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

(We can remember these conjunctions because their first letters spell “FANBOYS”.)

Here is our paragraph about Nashville with some simple sentences combined to make compound sentences. Notice the underlined conjunctions.

IEI is in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, and it is the state’s largest city. Nashville was once an important shipping port. It is on the Cumberland River. Many people call Nashville “Music City”. Several major and independent music labels have offices here. It is an important center of music recording and production, but healthcare and the automobile industry are also major parts of Nashville’s economy. Another nickname for Nashville is “the Athens of the South”. The city is home to many colleges and universities. These include Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Tennessee State. Nashville is growing quickly. The American economy is growing slowly overall. Nashville has the third fastest-growing economy in the United States. More apartment and condominium buildings are being constructed in Nashville these days. There is room for more workers to live here.

Complex sentences

A complex sentence also contains two clauses, but one clause is a dependent clause. We cannot write a dependent clause alone; it must be connected to an independent clause. We can use many subordinating conjunctions to make complex sentences. Some of these are:

  • Because
  • Since
  • As
  • So that
  • Though
  • Although
  • Even though

Let’s combine some simple sentences to create complex sentences. Again, look for the underlined conjunctions that we added.

IEI is in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, and it is the state’s largest city. Nashville was once an important shipping port because it is on the Cumberland River. Many people call Nashville “Music City” since several major and independent music labels have offices here. It is an important center of music recording and production, but healthcare and the automobile industry are also major parts of Nashville’s economy. Another nickname for Nashville is “the Athens of the South”. The city is home to many colleges and universities. These include Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Tennessee State. Nashville is growing quickly. Although the American economy is growing slowly overall, Nashville has the third fastest-growing economy in the United States. More apartment and condominium buildings are being constructed in Nashville these days so that there is room for more workers to live here.

Notice how these complex sentences express relationships between ideas. These relationships include cause and effect, purpose, and unexpected result.

Compound-complex sentences

You can also combine three (or more) simple sentences into one sentence, a compound-complex sentence. This combines two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. Look at the example below.

IEI is in Nashville, Tennessee. Nashville is the capital of Tennessee, and it is the state’s largest city. Nashville was once an important shipping port because it is on the Cumberland River. Many people call Nashville “Music City” since several major and independent music labels have offices here. It is an important center of music recording and production, but healthcare and the automobile industry are also major parts of Nashville’s economy. Another nickname for Nashville is “the Athens of the South” as the city is home to many colleges and universities, and these include Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Tennessee State. Nashville is growing quickly. Although the American economy is growing slowly overall, Nashville has the third fastest-growing economy in the United States. More apartment and condominium buildings are being constructed in Nashville these days so that there is room for more workers to live here.

The bold sentence relates three ideas to one another. It shows the reader a cause-effect relationship and an additional, connected idea.

Notice that we left a couple of simple sentences in the paragraph. (“IEI is in Nashville, Tennessee” and “Nashville is growing quickly.”) Remember, simple sentences are not bad sentences. They can be very effective to draw the reader’s attention to one important idea. However, by using a variety of sentence types, you can better express yourself like an educated native speaker.

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