Of the four sentence structures that clauses can be combined to make, the simple sentence is the most basic. Simple sentences have just a single independent clause, with no dependent (also known as subordinate) clauses. However, even while adhering to that straightforward formula, they can vary in length and intricacy. Read on to discover how to identify simple sentences and use them in your writing.
What is a simple sentence?
A simple sentence consists of just one independent clause—a group of words that contains at least one subject and at least one verb and can stand alone as a complete sentence—with no dependent clauses. Here are some examples of simple sentences, with the simple subjects and verbs in bold:
- My partner loves to hike.
- The news report included various accounts from bystanders.
- Veterinary technicians work alongside veterinarians.
Although these examples include direct objects and prepositional phrases, they are simple in structure because they each have just one independent clause.
What is the function of a simple sentence?
The simple sentence is the most basic building block of the English language, and it is useful in many ways. When you want to be particularly clear and informative, a simple sentence is often the way to go:
The exits are at the front and rear of the plane.
Simple sentences also come in handy when you want to be forceful and definitive in your writing:
This will not stand.
You may already naturally use simple sentences in these circumstances. However, learning to identify sentences by their structure can allow you to be intentional about choosing the structure that’s best for what you want to communicate. And varying the structures of your sentences will keep your writing fresh and interesting.
How to compose a simple sentence
Like all sentences, a simple sentence is built with, at minimum, a subject and a verb. It may also include a direct and/or an indirect object, along with any modifiers. What defines a simple sentence is the fact that it consists of a single independent clause, with no dependent clauses attached to it. Any of the individual elements within a simple sentence can be compound without changing its status as a simple sentence. For example, a simple sentence can have a compound subject, a compound predicate, multipart objects, compound modifiers, or any or all of those things. Here’s an example of a simple sentence with a compound subject:
Bijal and Obsetee have been working for the same company for many years.
Here’s one with a compound predicate:
We ate outside and swam in the lake all week.
The following sentence has both a compound indirect object (me and my family) and a compound direct object (airline miles and hotel points):
My friend Jason gave me and my family airline miles and hotel points for our trip.
Finally, here’s an example of a longer, more involved sentence that is nevertheless simple, as it consists of a single independent clause.
Before that day, neither the dog nor its owner had ever walked through the town or even been to its outskirts.
Simple sentences vs. other sentence structures
Let’s go over what sets the simple sentence apart from the three other basic sentence structures.
Simple sentences vs. compound sentences
Whereas a simple sentence consists of one independent clause, a compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses without any dependent clauses. The first example below shows two simple sentences. The second example combines them into a single compound sentence using the coordinating conjunction and:
- We went to the concert. Afterward, we went to dinner.
- We went to the concert, and afterward we went to dinner.
Simple sentences vs. complex sentences
A complex sentence consists of a single main independent clause with one or more dependent clauses connected to it using a subordinating conjunction. Below, the first example is a simple sentence, while the second example shows how the same independent clause can become a complex sentence with the addition of a dependent clause and the subordinating conjunction because:
- Xan couldn’t make it to the party.
- Because they were feeling ill, Xan couldn’t make it to the party.
Simple sentences vs. compound-complex sentences
As the name suggests, compound-complex sentences are a combination of compound sentences and complex sentences. They consist of at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinating clause. Below is an example of a simple sentence, followed by the same independent clause built out into a compound-complex sentence using both coordinating and subordinating conjunctions:
- Tomorrow is Monday.
- Whether you feel ready for it or not, tomorrow is Monday, and we have to go to work and school.
More examples of simple sentences
- She browsed online forums about tutoring.
- The voice of the orator rose and fell.
- The freshly laundered shirt smells so good.
- They posted flyers with a picture of the lost dog all over the neighborhood.
- My classmate grew up in Lagos, Nigeria.
- Melly recognized Vigo in the crowd right away.
Simple sentence FAQs
What is a simple sentence?
A simple sentence is a sentence consisting of a single independent clause with no dependent clauses.
What is an independent clause?
An independent clause is a group of words that contains at least one subject and at least one verb and can stand alone as a complete sentence.
What elements can a simple sentence contain?
A simple sentence must contain a subject and a verb. It can also contain an indirect object, a direct object, and modifying words and phrases.
Can any of the elements of a simple sentence be compound?
Yes, a simple sentence can have a compound subject, a compound predicate, multipart objects, compound modifiers, or any or all of those things. As long as it consists of just one independent clause, it remains a simple sentence.
How many sentence structure types are there?
There are four basic sentence structures. Besides simple sentences, they also include compound sentences, which consist of two or more independent clauses without any dependent clauses; complex sentences, which consist of a single main independent clause with one or more dependent clauses connected to it using a subordinating conjunction; and compound-complex sentences, which consist of at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinating clause.