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Kinds of Sentences and Their Punctuation


A sentence may be one of four kinds, depending upon the number and type(s) of clauses it contains.


        An independent clause  contains a subject, a verb, and a complete thought.


        A dependent clause contains a subject and a verb, but no complete thought.



1. A SIMPLE SENTENCE has one independent clause.


Punctuation note:  NO commas separate two compound elements (subject, verb, direct object, indirect object, subjective complement, etc.) in a simple sentence.



2. A COMPOUND SENTENCE has two independent clauses joined by

        A.  a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so),

        B.  a conjunctive adverb (e.g. however, therefore), or

        C.  a semicolon alone.


    Punctuation patterns (to match A, B, and C above):

        A. Independent clause, coordinating conjunction  independent clause.

        B. Independent clause; conjunctive adverb, independent clause.

        C. Independent clause; independent clause.



3. A COMPLEX SENTENCE has one dependent clause (headed by a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun ) joined to an independent clause.


    Punctuation patterns (to match A, B, C and D above):

        A.  Dependent clause,  independent clause

        B.  Independent clause  dependent clause

        C.  Independent,    nonessential dependent clause,     clause.

        D.  Independent    essential dependent clause     clause.



4. A COMPOUND-COMPLEX SENTENCE has two independent clauses joined to one or more dependent clauses.


Punctuation patterns:

 Follow the rules given above for compound and complex sentences.

A compound-complex sentence is merely a combination of the two.




Two independent clauses may be joined by

    1.  Coordinating conjunctions  (FANBOYS)         Ic,  and    ic

    2.  Conjunctive adverbs       Ic;    therefore    ic.


A dependent (subordinate) clause may be introduced by

    1. Subordinating conjunctions (ADVERB CLAUSE)     Dc, ic.   or    Ic dc.

    2. Relative pronouns (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)  I, dc,  c.    or      I  dc  c.

   3.  Relative pronoun, subordinating conjunctions, or adverbs (NOUN CLAUSE)



For further information on these resources, contact
Margaret L. Benner

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