What is a simple sentence in English?

This is the third of eight lessons about Sentence Structures. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Focus specifically on simple sentence structures

– Outline the four considerations of simple sentences

– Provide examples to guide the learner’s understanding

Lesson 3

Simple sentences such as ‘I like studying.’ really are as simple to learn and recognise as they sound. This sentence structure is one of the first structures any learner of English (or any language) will practise forming. To create such sentences correctly, simply remember the following four rules.


1. Include a Subject and a Verb

This first rule applies to almost all clauses, and therefore all sentence structures. To recognise how many clauses there are within a sentence, simply count how many subjects (‘I’) and main verbs (‘like’) there are. However, do be careful as sometimes the English language omits a subject in certain constructions, such as imperatives (orders) like ‘speak up’ or ‘sit down now’. However, such imperatives are still simple sentences even though their subject is hidden: ‘(you) sit down now’.


2. Use only One Independent Clause

As was explained in Lesson 2, sentences may be composed of one or many clauses and clauses may be either independent or dependent in type. However, this is not the case for simple sentences. Simple sentences always contain only one independent clause with one subject and one main verb. Therefore, if we return to our example from Lesson 2, we can see that only the clauses ‘I eat it every day.’ and ‘My doctor told me.’ may stand alone and be considered as simple sentences.

Sentence Structures 3.1 Independent and Dependent Clauses

3. Expect Other Phrase Functions

As well as containing a subject and a verb, a simple sentence may still be composed of objects, complements and adverbials, such as the three example simple sentences in the following table. The trick here is to recognise that a simple sentence may have many objects, adverbials and complements, but is always only composed of one subject and one verb phrase:

Sentence Structures 3.2 Phrase Functions

4. Watch out for Compound Elements

While we said before that simple sentences (and clauses in general) contain only one subject, sometimes it may appear that such clauses in fact contain two. Take, for example, the simple sentence (and independent clause) ‘Sarah and I cooked the rice’. Although it may appear that there are the two subjects ‘Sarah’ 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. Compound sentences, on the other hand, do require two unique subjects spread across two independent clauses, as we’ll find out in Lesson 4.

3 of 8 Lessons Completed


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