What is a simple sentence in English grammar?
This is the second of three lessons about Simple and Compound Sentences. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Focus specifically on the simple sentence structure in English
– Provide four rules for writing grammatical simple sentences
– Include examples of each rule to help guide the reader
Having explored in Lesson 1 the five features of sentences that are important for understanding sentence structures, in this second lesson we next explore simple sentences such as ‘I like studying’. Sentences such as this are as easy to learn and recognise as they sound, and are one of the first structures that any learner of English will practise forming. To create simple sentences with accuracy, students must simply remember the following four rules.
Rule 1: One Subject and One Verb Phrase
As was explained in Lesson 1, almost all clauses (and therefore all sentence structures) require subjects and verbs. To recognise how many clauses there are within a sentence, the simplest thing to do is to count how many subjects and main verbs exist. Thankfully, because simple sentences require only one clause, this is quick and easy. To exemplify this, the following sentences are all simple simply because they contain only one subject and one main verb each:
Rule 2: One Independent Clause
As was also explained in Lesson 1, sentences may be comprised of one or many clauses and clauses may be either independent or dependent in type. Simple sentences, however, always contain only one independent clause that has one subject and one main verb. The previous expressions ‘I like studying English’ and ‘He practices grammar every day’ are both independent clauses because they can both stand alone as complete thoughts and as complete sentences. In other words, when a sentence is made up of one independent clause, then that sentence’s structure is simple.
Rule 3: Expect Other Phrase Functions
As well as containing a subject and a verb, a simple sentence may also be composed of objects, complements and adverbials, such as the three example sentences in the following table. The thing to remember here is that a simple sentence may have many objects, adverbials and complements, but always contains only one subject and one verb phrase:
Rule 4: Watch out for Compound Elements
While we discussed before how simple sentences (and clauses in general) contain only one subject, sometimes it may appear that such clauses in fact contain two subjects. Take, for example, the simple sentence ‘Jessica and I cooked the rice’. Although it may appear that there are the two subjects ‘Jessica’ and ‘I’ in this clause – which have been conjoined with the coordinate conjunction ‘and’, in fact grammatically these two subjects form the singular subject ‘we’ as in ‘We cooked the rice.’ This sentence is therefore still considered to be simple in structure even though there are two elements that look like separate subjects.
Compound sentences, on the other hand, do require two unique subjects to be grammatical – although these subjects should be distributed across two independent clauses instead of one. To find out more about compound sentences, continue studying with Lesson 3 of this short course. Consider also completing the Lesson 2 activities to check your understanding and measure your progress.
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