Sentence Structures

Sentences and Clauses

Before working on sentences the English department focus on clauses. A clause has a subject and a verb and in many cases, a clause can be a sentence. In every instance pupils should be encouraged to think of who (the noun) is doing what (the verb).

Andrew kicked the ball.

The who doing what is the main clause of the sentence – everything else is additional information, or subordinate clauses.

Andrew kicked the ball, which broke the Science room window.

A sentence must start with a capital letter and end with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.

Tips for writing good sentences

  • A sentence must have a main clause. This is the only part of the sentence that makes sense on its own.
  • If sentences are too long, they can be hard to read or understand.
  • Read your sentence out loud. Does it make sense?
  • A sentence can just be two words!

What is a verb?

We often think of verbs as “doing words”. This is true, but the English department are now focusing on verbs being “doing and being” words. If you think back to languages in school, to be is a verb, giving valid sentences:

He is.
They are.
I am.

In addition, whilst children can usually identify active verbs (such as run, walk, jump) as verbs, they are not used in everyday writing all that much. We use more abstract verbs – some examples are below.


Varying sentence structures

If you vary the structure of your sentences it makes writing more interesting to read. Use these tips to help.

Commas and Conjunctions

People often use commas to join sentences together. It is better to split into two sentences.

Seren ran home, she was late.
Seren ran home. She was late.

An even better way of doing this is to use a joining word, or conjunction to make a more complex sentence.

Seren ran home, but she was still late.

Adverbs and Adjectives

Sentences can be made longer and more interesting by using describing words such as adverbs and adjectives.

An adjective describes a noun: e.g. a hungry dog. 

An adverb describes a verb: e.g. ran quickly.

For example:

The dog ran towards the food.
The hungry dog ran quickly towards the food.


Connectives are words that can be used to links ideas together within text (or speech). They are also used to develop arguments or put concepts in order (of importance or chronology).


Connectives to link sentences

Compound and Complex Sentences

A simple sentence has only one clause (who is doing what).

Andrew kicked the ball.

A compound sentence has two clauses, joined by a connective, both of which can stand alone and still make sense.

Andrew kicked the ball and Emma caught the ball.

However although grammatically correct, compound sentences are often a bit stilted to read.

A complex sentence can be used to put across more detailed ideas. Complex sentences have one main clause and a subordinate (or minor/dependent) clause.

Andrew kicked the ball as he walked past it.

The subordinate clause in this sentence is “as he walked past it”. It is a clause with a subject and a verb but doesn’t make any sense by itself.

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