Grammar Help - What is a Simple, Compound and Complex Sentence?

Advice and Tips Type English Free Teaching Resources Subject English Age 7 to 11 Years Old Key Stages Key Stage 2 Maths & English Worksheets

Grammar for Children - Using Different Types of Sentences

A great writer uses different types of sentences to keep the reader interested, change the pace and tone of their writing. Sentences can be spilt into three types - simple, compound and complex.
For example: When you read a story, the writer will have used different types of sentences to keep your interest.  The type of sentence used can affect the pace and mood of the story.

  • Short simple sentences may be used when the writer wants to add excitement to the story.  Short sentences can be used to pick up the pace of the story during an action scene or when the problem in the story is being solved.
  • Complex sentences help to add detail.  They can be used to add extra detail to what a character thinks or feels.  Writers often use complex sentences when they are setting the scene of the story at the beginning, or when introducing characters.  Complex sentences can be used to create atmosphere, such as creating a spooky effect if the characters are entering a forest.  Complex sentences are longer. They use fronted adverbials, embedded clauses, subordinating conjunctions etc, to make the sentences longer and more interesting.

Teaching Children About Different Types of Sentences at Primary School

When children first start writing they will group words together to create a phrase or simple sentence (clause). As children move into Year 1 or Year 2, they will start to write simple and compound sentences.
From Year 2 onwards, they will be encouraged to use simple, compound and complex sentences in their writing.  Children should be encouraged to use the different sentence types in both fiction and non-fiction writing.  

Helping Children Improve Their Writing

Children need to be reminded to use compound and complex sentences regularly, given the choice, most will only use simple sentences.  In order for children to develop their writing, they need to know why, how and when the different sentence types could be used.  One way of doing this is by getting children into the habit of reading through their finished work, encouraging and showing them how they could improve it by adding conjunctions, such as 'however', 'although', 'furthermore', 'until', etc. 

Take a look at our TMKed Grammar Packs which you can purchase from the shop. Created to help children improve their grammar and sentence writing.

Explanation of a phrase, clause, simple sentence, compound sentence and complex sentence?

Here are some definitions and examples explaining each sentence type.

What is a Phrase?

A group of words, e.g a flower.

What is a Clause?

Adds a bit more detail, contains a subject and a verb.  When you read a clause, it makes sense on its own, as well as being part  of a sentence.
E.g. the flower grew

What is a Simple Sentence?

If you use a capital letter and full stop with a clause it becomes a simple sentence.
E.g. The flower grew.

What is a Compound Sentence? 

Joins 2 simple sentences, both sentences make sense when you read them on their own. The sentences can be joined using the word 'and, 'but', 'so', 'for','because'. 
E.g. I went to the park and I played on the slide.
        Maya played on the slide, so Amy went on a swing.

What is a Complex Sentence?

Has a main clause that makes sense on its own and a sub-ordinate clause, that doesn't make sense on its own. The sub-ordinate clause adds more detail (linked) to the main clause and can be at the beginning, middle or end of the sentence.
E.g Having worked all day, Maya went to the park to play on the slide.
       The bookcase, which was made of wood, burnt quickly in the fire.
       I went shopping yesterday, despite it raining heavily.

Complex sentences can:

  • begin with fronted adverbials such as ' Running scared, .....'  
  • be made longer by using subordinating conjunctions such as furthermore, however, even though, nevertheless etc
  • add detail through he use of embedded clause e.g. The old man, who had broken his leg, hobbled to the shop.

When is a phrase used?

A phrase can be used when labeling things such as pictures, diagrams, tables etc.

When is a simple sentence used?

A simple sentence can be used to put across one idea. Simple sentences can be used in stories when you want to create pace and action. 

When is compound / complex sentence used?

A complex sentence can be used when you want to add detail.  In a story they can be used to create atmosphere and build pictures or images of the setting, characters etc.

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You might also like to read:

How To Write More Interesting Sentences

How To Improve Your Spelling

How To Improve Your Child's Creative Writing

6 Ways To Encourage Children To Retell Stories

Free Literacy Worksheets to Help Children Improve Grammar and Sentence Writing:

Free Worksheet - Making Sentences More Interesting - nouns, verbs, adverbs

Free Worksheet - Write Interesting Sentences - conjunctions, adjectives, adverbs

Free Worksheet - Writing Descriptive Sentences

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