Simple, Compound and Complex Sentences: How to Teach them

Written by Dan

Last updated

One of the hardest things for students to grasp is understanding the difference between simple, compound and complex sentences.

This is a concept that teachers need to be able to explain clearly and with examples. This blog post will look at how to teach simple, compound and complex sentences so your students can understand and use them correctly.

By the end of this blog post, you will understand how to explain these sentence types to your students. We hope you find this information helpful!

Related: For more, check out our article on Examples Of Complex Sentences  here.

simple sentence

What are simple, compound and complex sentences?

Understanding the differences between simple, compound and complex sentences can help you effectively use language in communication. 

  • Simple sentences are short, direct and contain only one independent clause. 
  • Compound sentences are independent clauses linked with a conjunction or a semicolon. 
  • Complex sentences have an independent clause combined with at least one dependent clause. 

Dependent clauses modify the sentence’s main idea and start with words like because, since and although. Knowing when to use each type of sentence can make your writing more precise and concise – helping you get your point across succinctly while maintaining an exciting reading experience.

Examples of simple, Compound and Complex Sentences

Simple sentences are typically composed of one clause and lack any modifiers such as conjunctions and relative clauses; for example:

  • “I went to the store.”
  • “Please take out your books.”
  • “Put your hands up.”
  • “Stop talking”
  • “Let’s clean up the room.”
  • “Close your books now”,
  • “Start working on the assignment”,
  • “Open your notebooks to page 35.”
  • “How many students are present today?”
  • “The answer is 533.”
  • “Please be quiet for a moment”,
  • “Thank you for paying attention”.
Sentence TypeDefinitionStructureExampleTeaching Tips
SimpleA sentence containing a single independent clause.Subject + Verb + (Optional: Object/Complement)The cat sleeps on the chair.Start with subject-verb-object construction and gradually introduce adjectives and adverbs.
CompoundA sentence that combines two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon.Independent Clause + Coordinating Conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) + Independent ClauseThe sun rose in the sky, and the birds began to sing.Teach the FANBOYS acronym for coordinating conjunctions; practice with conjunctions and semicolons.
ComplexA sentence with one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.Independent Clause + Dependent Clause (or vice versa), often connected by subordinating conjunctions or relative pronounsAlthough the rain was heavy, the team continued to play.Introduce subordinating conjunctions and relative pronouns; highlight dependent clause indicators.
Compound-ComplexA sentence with multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.(Independent Clause + Coordinating Conjunction) + Independent Clause + Subordinating Conjunction + Dependent ClauseThe players were tired, but they won the game because they worked together as a team.Combine lessons on compound and complex sentences; practice building sentences incrementally.

Note: In the teaching tips, it’s beneficial to start with simple constructions and gradually introduce more complexity as students become more comfortable with each sentence type. Additionally, using visual aids, such as sentence diagrams, can help students visualize the components and structure of each sentence type.

compound sentence

Compound sentences combine two or more independent clauses with a connective word like “and” or “but”; for example:

  • “I went to the store but didn’t buy anything.”
  • “He was late again, so I warned him not to come in late the next time.”
  • “The gate was shut tight, and no one dared to open it.”
  • “She loved the rain and welcomed its arrival each day.”
  • “He never completes his work on time yet expects perfection from his students.”
  • “I drove my car quickly but safely.”
  • “The boy knew he was wrong but refused to admit it.”
  • “They picked up the pace but still hadn’t reached their destination by nightfall.”
  • “She went for a jog even though she wasn’t feeling well at the time.”
  • “The storm was coming fast, yet they stayed until the last minute.”
  • “I wanted to help her, but she told me not to.”
complex sentence

Complex sentences are made up of independent and dependent clauses linked by conjunctions – usually a subordinating conjunction such as “although” or “because,” for instance:

  • “I went to the store because I needed milk.”
  • “Although it was raining heavily, they decided to go on their walk.”
  • “We laughed until our sides hurt because the joke was so funny.”
  • “Until we finally knew the answer, we had been discussing it for almost an hour.”
  • “The crowd cheered as he crossed the finish line first.”
  • “Despite everyone’s best efforts, the project did not succeed.”
  • ” Unless extra funding is given, we will not be able to complete the task.”
  • “Though we were unsure how to proceed at first, eventually, things began to make sense.”
  • “Not only is she talented, but she is also incredibly kindhearted.”
  • “Whenever she has free time, she spends it outdoors.”
  • “While we waited for the food delivery, we talked about our current project.”

By understanding these three types of sentences, we can craft our writing to suit whatever purpose we need it for.

Online Math Learning

How to teach the three types of sentences

Teaching students the difference between the three types of sentences can be challenging, but it can become enjoyable with a few helpful lessons and activities.

By introducing the concept of sentence structure in an engaging way, such as creating sentence puzzles or having students act out sentences as different characters, students will quickly learn how to identify other sentences.

Additionally, sharing compelling examples of each type of sentence while demonstrating their proper uses during conversation will help students make connections and understand how they differ.

With practice, patience, and some creativity on the part of the teacher, teaching students the difference between these three types of sentences can become an exciting learning opportunity for them.

Practice Activities

Understanding and using the three main types of sentences – simple, compound, and complex – can be difficult for students.

But with practice activities focusing on constructing sentences, recognizing sentence structures, and identifying the parts of a sentence, students can learn to use simple, compound, and complex sentences correctly.

For example, have students create a list of adjectives and then write descriptions of characters from their favourite books by combining them with simple, compound and complex sentences.

Or give them sentence-matching activities that ask them to pair each part of a sentence together with each other piece.

No matter the specific action, the more opportunities students have to practice working with these types of sentences, the better equipped they will be to recognize and utilize them correctly in their writing.

Empowering Children to Master Complex Sentences

Step 1: Understand What Makes a Sentence Complex

First things first, what is a complex sentence? Essentially, it’s a sentence containing an independent clause (a complete thought that can stand alone as a sentence) and one or more dependent clauses (phrases that can’t stand by themselves).

For example, “While I was eating breakfast, I watched the sunrise.” Sounds a bit tricky? Don’t worry. Children will become adept at identifying and constructing these sentences with time and practice.

Step 2: Start with Simple Sentences

Before diving into the deep end, let’s start with the basics. Encourage children to write simple sentences first.

Once they’ve mastered this, introduce the concept of adding more information to these sentences, transforming them into complex ones.

For example, the simple sentence “I love reading books” can be expanded to “I love reading books because they transport me to different worlds.”

Step 3: Introduce Conjunctions

Conjunctions are the secret sauce to complex sentences. Words like ‘because’, ‘although’, ‘while’, ‘when’ and ‘if’ can connect ideas and add layers of complexity.

Teach children about these magical words and show them how to use them effectively in their writing.

Step 4: Encourage Reading

Reading broadens the mind and exposes children to a variety of sentence structures.

The more children read, the more they’ll encounter complex sentences, which can inspire them to experiment with similar structures in their own writing.

Step 5: Practice Makes Perfect

Practice is key. Provide children with plenty of opportunities to write and experiment with complex sentences.

Whether it’s through school assignments, journaling, or creative writing projects, the more they practice, the more confident they’ll become.

Step 6: Celebrate Progress

Last but certainly not least, celebrate progress. Every attempt at writing a complex sentence is a step forward.

Acknowledging and praising their efforts’ll boost their confidence and foster a love for writing.

When students understand the difference between simple, compound and complex sentences, they can use them correctly in their writing. This makes their writing more exciting and easier to read.

There are many ways to teach students about sentence types, and the following tips offer some creative and practical ideas you can use in your classroom.

If you have found this article helpful, you will enjoy our article on why fronted adverbials are important and useful!


How are complex sentences used in writing?

Complex sentences are used in writing to join two or more ideas together, often with a subordinating conjunction such as “although”, “because”, “unless”, etc. They can also emphasize one view over another or add detail and nuance to an argument.
For example: “Although the game was difficult, it was still fun to play”, or “I wanted to go swimming, but I didn’t have a swimsuit.”

Do children need to know how to use complex sentences?

Children need to learn how to construct simple and compound sentences before they are introduced to complex sentences. By understanding the basics of sentence structure, they will be better prepared to understand the more nuanced uses of complex sentences. Additionally, using complex sentences adds an extra layer of complexity and sophistication to their writing that can make their work stand out.

What is an imperative sentence?

An imperative sentence is a type of sentence that expresses a command or request. It usually starts with the base form of a verb and ends with a period. For example: “Wait for me.” or “Be quiet!” Imperative sentences can also be used to give advice or instructions. For example: “Always look both ways before crossing the street” or “Take your time and focus on accuracy.”

What is the difference between a declarative sentence and an interrogative sentence?

A declarative sentence is used to make a statement, while an interrogative sentence is used to ask a question. Declarative sentences usually end with a period, while interrogative sentences typically end with a question mark. For example:
Declarative: I am going to the store.
Interrogative: Are you coming with me?
Understanding the difference between declarative and interrogative sentences is essential for students to craft clear and compelling sentences.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






Join our email list to receive the latest updates.

Add your form here