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Grammar: Compound and Complex Sentences

How do you improve your writing? By using a variety of sentence types! Learn about compound and complex sentences here. 

A compound sentence

My sister works a lot during the day, so her dog stays at home all day alone.
  1. What are the actions?
  2. Who performed the actions?

So, a compound sentence combines two or more simple sentences. (SVC + SVC)

How can you combine simple sentences?

  1. FANBOYS
  2. Linking words or phrases

What are FANBOYS?

  • For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So
These words are also called coordinating conjunctions.


My sister works a lot during the day, so her dog stays at home all day alone.

  • Which of the FANBOYS is used in the sentence above?
  • Where does the comma go?

Complete the rule by choosing the correct option. 

When creating a compound sentence with FANBOYS,  we ___(do / do not) _____ use a comma __(before / after) ___ the FANBOYS. 

Check your answers. 

Linking words or phrases that are not FANBOYS

  • as a result
  • however
  • furthermore
  • moreover
  • in addition
  • additionally
  • ...

These are called conjunctive adverbs. As you can see, sometimes they are single words and sometimes they are a group of words. In all cases, they are used to describe a relationship between complete thoughts.

My sister works a lot during the day; as a result, her dog stays at home all day alone.
  • Which of the linking words is used in the sentence above?
  • Where does the comma go?
  • Where does the semi-colon go?

Complete the rule by choosing the correct option. 

When creating a compound sentence with linking words or phrases, we use a ___ (comma / semi-colon) ____ before the linking word or phrase and a ______ (semi-colon / comma)___ after the linking word or phrase. 

Check your answers. 

Unfamiliar with the meaning of some conjunctive adverbs? Try this website. 


So, two ways to create compound sentences


1.) With FANBOYS
My sister works a lot during the day, so her dog stays at home all day alone.
2.) With other linking words
My sister works a lot during the day; as a result, her dog stays at home all day alone.

Extra practice with compound sentences

Is it compound or not? If the sentence is compound, add the required punctuation. 

  1. Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents.
  2. I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum but latterly I am inclined to wonder.
  3. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings.
  4. The bas-relief was a rough rectangle less than an inch thick and about five by six inches in area.
  5. All traces of strange dreaming had vanished with his recovery and my uncle kept no record of his night-thoughts after a week of pointless and irrelevant accounts of thoroughly usual visions.


Practice with writing compound sentences. Re-write the paragraph below with compound sentences. 

I am a college student. I am also a salesperson at the media market. I am always busy. School is time-consuming. Studying is time-consuming. Working makes me tired. Balancing these activities is difficult. I work too many hours. Work is important. It pays for school.

Check your answers. 

A Complex sentence

Since Thomas works a lot during the day, his children cook him dinner.
  1. What are the subjects
  2. What are the actions?

  • Is “Since Thomas works a lot during the day” by itself a complete thought?
  • Is “His children cook him dinner” by itself a complete thought?
  • Why do you think there’s a comma after the incomplete thought?

His children cook Thomas dinner after he finishes working during the day.
  1. What are the subjects
  2. What are the actions?

  • Is “His children cook him dinner”  by itself a complete thought?
  • Is “After he finishes working during the day.” by itself a complete thought?
  • Why do you think there’s no comma?

Check your answers. 

So, a complex sentence has a complete and an incomplete thought

The words "since" and "after" are subordinating words, which means they signal to the reader the start of an incomplete thought. These words are also called subordinating conjunctions

Since Thomas works a lot during the day, his children cook him dinner.
His children cook Thomas dinner after he finishes working during the day.

Complete the rules by choosing the correct option. 

When a sentence begins with a subordinating word, we _(do / do not)_______use a comma.


If we use a comma, the comma goes __
(before / after) _______ the subject of the complete thought.

Check your answers. 



For further practice with compound and complex sentences, complete the exercises below. 

Punctuate the following sentences by adding commas when necessary. 

  1. When Professor Angell became convinced that the sculptor was indeed ignorant of any cult or system of cryptic lore he besieged his visitor with demands for future reports of dreams. 
  2. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus a dragon and a human caricature I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing.
  3. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity and it was not meant that we should voyage far.
  4. Only cactuses had perennial appeal and cactuses were of no interest to her. 


Unjumble the sentences and add punctuation when necessary.

  • / I hope / a chain / that no one else / a link / will accomplish / this piecing out / certainly / if I live / I shall never knowingly supply  / in so hideous / 
  • pronounced well / he returned / to his quarters / in three days / but / to Professor Angell / by his physician/ he was of no further assistance /
  • / Russian military airplanes / from the very beginning / of the occupation / over Prague / all night long / had flown / 

Complete the rule by choosing the correct option. 

A compound sentence is created by using _____ or ______ and combines two _____(complete / incomplete) __________ thoughts.


A complex sentence is created by using ______________ and combines a ____
(complete / incomplete) _____ with an ____ (complete / incomplete)__ thought. 



Now that we got the basics

Overall, a compound sentence structure creates equality between thoughts, and a complex sentence structure creates inequality between thoughts. With that in mind, why and how could you use compound and complex sentences to influence your reader?

Continue to Advanced Sentence Writing to find out.










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