How to Write Simple Sentences
If the past tense of buy is bought, should the past tense of fly be flought? What about goed instead of went, or teached instead of taught?
English grammar is complicated, and the many exceptions to the rule can be very confusing. Even a simple sentence is not always as simple as it seems!
Try this self-check. Which ones are simple sentences?
- The girl rode her bicycle to school.
- The teacher and her students are reading.
- He jumped and shouted with joy.
- Jack and his father dragged and pulled the canoe down to the water.
These are all simple sentences. The first one is easy, however, the other three are a little more complicated as they have compound subjects and compound verbs. So let’s have a look at some of the grammatical features of simple sentences.
A simple sentence
A simple sentence expresses one complete thought and must have a subject and a finite verb.
Example: The girl rode her bicycle to school.
The first thing to remember is that the subject is always a noun or a pronoun. A simple sentence can have several nouns or pronouns but only one subject. Look at this sentence.
Example: One morning he found a shiny seashell on the beach.
This simple sentence has one pronoun and three nouns, but only he is the subject. Also notice that the sentence does not start with the subject.
How to find the subject
To find the subject of a sentence we should look for the finite verb first. A finite verb is often referred to as a doing verb, which tells us about the action performed by the subject.
Example: She celebrated her birthday yesterday.
In this sentence, the finite verb is celebrated. When we ask who or what celebrated, the answer is she. She is the subject and is performing the action.
A simple sentence with a compound subject
When a simple sentence has two or more nouns or pronouns that perform the same action, it has a compound subject.
Example: The teacher and her students are reading.
Both the teacher and the students are reading. The compound subject is teacher and students, as they are performing one action.
A simple sentence can also have more than two nouns or pronouns as the subject, as long as they perform the same action.
Example: My cousins, aunts and uncles are coming to dinner.
The cousins, aunts and uncles are coming to dinner. The compound subject is cousins, aunts and uncles, as they are performing one action.
A simple sentence with a compound verb
When the subject has two or more verbs, we say the subject has a compound verb.
Example: He jumped and shouted with joy.
The subject, He, performed both actions, so jumped and shouted is a compound verb.
A simple sentence with a compound subject and a compound verb
As long as we follow the rules for compound subjects and compound verbs, we can use both in a simple sentence.
Example: Jack and his father dragged and pulled the canoe down to the water.
In this simple sentence Jack and father is the compound subject and dragged and pulled is the compound verb.
Use authentic texts to model the grammatical features of a sentence
If you would like some more tips on how to help students improve their writing, you may be interested in our video on Sentence Structure. In this video, we use the book, Storm Boy by Colin Thiele, to show you how to easily introduce different types of clauses, write simple, compound and complex sentences, and use noun groups and verb groups.