ECHO: Sentence Patterns

Here are a few definitions that you'll need to keep in mind.

Clause

A group of words that contains a subject and a verb.

Independent Clause (IC)

A group of words that contains a subject and a verb and can stand alone grammatically.

Dependent Clause (DC)

A group of words that contains a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone grammatically.

The following types are the basic sentence patterns in English. All writing will use one of these sentence patterns.

Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is made up of one independent clause and all of its modifiers; that is, it has a subject, a verb, and is grammatically complete.

  • I like chocolate chip cookies and cold milk.

  • James gave the keys to his son.

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is made up of two independent clauses and all of their modifiers; that is, it has two subjects, two verbs, and is grammatically complete. (See Options 1, 2, 3 on the Coordination / Subordination handout.)

  • I like chocolate chip cookies and cold milk, but my best friend enjoys apple pie a la mode and hot coffee.

  • Susan reads science fiction novels, and her sister reads romance.

Compound sentences are joined with a word called a connectorand, but, or are examples of connectors. Sometimes compound sentences are joined with a semi-colon (;) rather than a connector. A semi-colon is considered a weak period.

  • I like chocolate chip cookies and cold milk; my best friend enjoys apple pie a la mode and hot coffee.

  • Susan reads science fiction novels; however, her sister reads romance.

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence is made up of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. We can write complex sentences in two ways:

  1. I like my doctor very much because she is always willing to listen to me. (IC DC)

  2. Because my doctor is always willing to listen to me, I like her very much. (DC, IC)


Notice that example "a" contains no punctuation but example "b" contains a comma following the dependent clause. (See Options 4 and 5 on the Coordination / Subordination handout.)

A new beginning

The problem with most writing is that we, as writers, tend to begin with the subject, add a verb, then follow with additional phrases, modifiers, and so on. For example

I went to Dairy Queen for lunch today to get a chili dog.

Not that there is anything really wrong with the above sentence, but if every sentence in a several-page paper followed the same format, our readers would fall asleep. But don't worry. There are ways to add some "spice" to the writing. Now, take a look at a number of ways to begin this sentence, keeping the same information, but making the sentence more interesting to read.

Adverb

Today, I went to the DQ for lunch to get a chili dog.

Prepositional Phrase

For lunch today, I went to the DQ to get a chili dog.

Infinitive Phrase

To satisfy my craving for a chili dog, I went to the DQ for lunch today.

-ING Phrase

Craving a chili dog, I went to the DQ for lunch today.

-ED Phrase

Determined to eat a chili dog, I went to the DQ for lunch today.

Dependent Clause

Because I wanted a chili dog, I went to the DQ for lunch today.

See? Even a very minor correction can make the writing more interesting for your reader. Now go out and give your writing a New Beginning.