a purple pennoun phrase
been watchingverb phrase
red, round ballsadjective phrase
spoke loudlyadverb phrase
out the doorprepositional phrase

When there is more than one word forming a meaningful unit within a clause, this is known as a phrase. The English language has five main types of phrases. Read on to learn more.

Noun Phrase

When a group of words is built around a single noun, this is known as a noun phrase. Take a look at the following examples:

  • Don’t go near the water.
  • Whose purple pen is this?
  • She refilled the stapler.

Verb Phrase

When a phrase contains a main verb and an auxiliary verb, this is known as a verb phrase. Take a look at the following examples:

  • How long have you been waiting?.
  • I will need to walk my dog.
  • My family and I have been on vacation.

Adjective Phrase

When a group of words is built around a single adjective, this is known as an adjective phrase. It can also be a group of words. Take a look at the following examples:

  • He was soaked by the cold rain.
  • We wandered into the dark cave.
  • The black wolf spooked us.

Adverb Phrase

When a group of words are built around a single adverb, this is known as an adverb phrase. It can also be a group of words. Take a look at the following examples:

  • We go to the park often.
  • He ran around the race track quickly.
  • The soldiers fought bravely.

Prepositional Phrase

When a group of words consists of a preposition followed by its object (usually a noun phrase), this is known as a prepositional phrase. Take a look at the following examples:

  • We travelled around the world.
  • She found a shell near the ocean.
  • Alice looked through the looking glass.

Study the table below. It shows all phrase types in one sentence:

Shehas been readingtheoldtatteredbookfor two weeks.

Remember that the word “phrase” describes any short grouping of words, such as “raining cats and dogs” and “to tell the truth”.

What is a Sentence?

Thisis a sentence.

A sentence has two parts:

  1. a subject (what the sentence is about)
  2. a predicate (what is said about the subject)

Look at the following table:


This sentence is short. Sometimes sentences are short and at other times they are longer. There must always be a subject and a predicate. Study the following table:

Rebeccawritesbooks for a living.

The predicate must always contain a verb. The predicate is only a verb in some sentences:


At the minimum, a sentence must have a subject and a verb. There is only one type of sentence that is the exception: the imperative sentence. Usually, when someone gives a command, they do not use a subject. They do not say a subject because the subject is always the same. The subject is: you. This is the basis of an imperative sentence. Take a look at the following chart:

Don’tcome back!


A sentence should always express a complete thought. Study the following table:

complete thought?
sentenceShe read a book.YES
Please stop that.
Do you want to go to the park?
not a sentenceA hot coffee cupNO
Underneath the car

A sentence always begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark, such as a period, question mark, or an exclamation point. Read the following examples:

  • Let’s go swimming.
  • Is this where you live?
  • Be quiet!

Even though it may look easy to define a sentence, this is not true. People who study grammar do not all agree on what a sentence is. Because this is an introductory lesson, the sentences in this lesson are simplistic. Sentences can be quite complex, but we will cover that in a later lesson.

Sentence Structure

There Are Four Types Of Sentences:


In the “What is a Sentence?” section, we saw the basic rules of forming a sentence. Now we dig a little deeper and look at the four types of sentences and sentence structure.

Simple Sentence

A sentence that is made up of only one independent clause is known as a simple sentence. (An independent clause contains a subject, verb and expresses a complete thought)

Independent Clause


  • I want to dance.
  • My brother wants to play football.
  • The horse jumps over the fence.
  • Anna lights a candle.

Compound Sentence

When a sentence has two or more independent clauses joined by either a conjunction or semicolon, this is known as a compound sentence. Either clause could form a sentence if used alone.

Independent ClauseCoordinating ConjunctionIndependent Clause


  • I like dancing, but my brother likes football.
  • The trees blew in the wind; a tornado was coming.
  • The horse jumps over the fence, and the rider falls off its back.

Take a look at the coordinating conjunctions. There are seven.

  • and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Complex Sentence

When a sentence is made up of an independent clause and a dependent clause, this is known as a complex sentence. A dependent clause contains a subject, verb, subordinating conjunction or a pronoun, but it does not express a complete thought.

Independent ClauseSubordinating ConjunctionDependent Clause


  • She failed the exam although she studied.
  • We exercise until we are tired.
  • My coffee was bitter before I added creamer.
  • Everyone laughed after the comedian told a joke.

Take a look at some common subordinating conjunctions:

  • after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once, since, than, that, though, till, until, when, where, whether, while

Take a look at the five basic relative pronouns:

  • that, which, who, whom, whose

Compound-Complex Sentence

When you have a sentence with at least two independent clauses and more than one dependent clause, this is called a compound-complex sentence.

Independent ClauseSubordinating ClauseDependent ClauseCoordinating ConjunctionIndependent Clause


  • Stephanie forgot Maryann’s birthday, but when she finally remembered, she bought her a cake.
  • I do not like thriller novels although I like other types of novels, but my brother loves them.

Another name for a dependent clause is a subordinate clause.

While the above examples are basic sentences, there are more complex sentences. In these examples, a dependent clause may come before an independent one.

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