What Is a Compound Sentence?

Figuring out how to use sentence structure in English is vital for improving both your speech and writing abilities. If you only use one kind of sentence structure, your English will sound very monotonous (boring). Thus, many English students want to learn how to vary sentence structure and create more interesting sentences. A key element of varied sentence structure is the compound sentence


Sentence Structure Examples

To better understand compound sentences, it’s important to see how they differ from other sentence structures. There are four types of sentence structures in English: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Let’s take a look at the definitions and examples of each:


Simple Sentence

A simple sentence has only one subject and one predicate. The subject is the person or thing doing the action, while the predicate is the part of the sentence that contains the main verb, as well as any information relating back to the action of the subject (object or modifier). In the following sentences, the subject is in bold. Here are a few examples:

  • He saw a bird.
  • They swim.
  • Sam is really hungry.
  • Jessica wants an ice cream cone.

As you can see, each sentence above has only one subject and one primary verb. Therefore, these are all examples of simple sentences. Now let’s see how complex sentences work:

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. An independent clause can stand on its own. So, if you took out any dependent clauses from the sentence, it would still make sense and be grammatically correct. Simple sentences are also examples of independent clauses without dependent clauses.  

Alternatively, a dependent clause cannot stand on its own and requires an independent clause to be a full sentence. In the following examples, the independent clause is in bold. For example: 

  • When he arrived at school, the other students had already left.
  • I don’t like pizza unless it has a lot of cheese.
  • Since no one would help me, I had to clean the whole apartment by myself.
  • Before they left the house, they grabbed all of their toys and said goodbye to their parents.

All complex sentences have only one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. It’s important to note that the independent clause and dependent clause(s) can appear in any order. Now let’s take a look at compound-complex sentences:

Compound-Complex Sentence

A compound-complex sentence is similar to a compound sentence, as it must have at least one dependent clause. However, rather than just one independent clause, a compound-complex sentence must have two independent clauses. Compound-complex sentences must contain at least one coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, etc) and one subordinating conjunction (after, before, when, while, until, etc).

As before, the following sentences contain independent clauses in bold. For example:

  • While I go to the supermarket, my father cleans the house and my mother takes care of the dogs.
  • The man crashed his car after the other driver ran a red light, but the other driver never looked back.
  • Everyone listened as the politician made his speech, though nobody agreed with his views.
  • They looked for the puppy all day, but he was asleep under a blanket the whole time

As these examples show, coordinating conjunctions link two independent clauses, while subordinating conjunctions introduce a dependent clause before or after an independent clause. Finally, let’s look at the subject of today’s guide: the compound sentence.

What Is a Compound Sentence?

Now that you have a better understanding of the three other types of sentence structures in English, it’s time to answer the question at hand: what is a compound sentence? A compound sentence has one or more subjects or predicates. In other words, a compound sentence is composed of at least two independent clauses and no dependent clauses. These clauses are either joined by a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon.

In the sentences below, you can see the subject(s) in bold. For example: 

  • We heard a loud sound, and the engine turned off.
  • The teacher spoke loudly, but the students were not listening
  • I painted the art; my assistant sold them.
  • You should come back tomorrow; I will know more then

When using a coordinating conjunction to link two independent clauses, you should always use a comma. A comma is not strong enough on its own to join independent clauses without a conjunction. So, if you don’t want to use a conjunction, you’ll need to use a semicolon. 

How to Vary Sentence Structure in English

Varying sentence structure is important when speaking or writing English. Why? Because using the same sentence structure over and over again sounds boring and unnatural. For example, let’s look at a paragraph that only uses simple sentences:

Unvaried Sentence Structure

I like the beach. It is very beautiful. I went there last week. The sun was shining. The water was blue and clear. Some people were playing volleyball. My dog ran and played. My dog grabbed the volleyball. The people chased after him. I apologized to everyone. It was a disaster!

While the paragraph above makes sense, it is awkward to read. Every sentence has a very similar structure (with only one subject and one predicate), which gives it a sense of constant repetition. So, let’s mix things up a bit:

Varied Sentence Structure

I like the beach. It is a beautiful place to spend a day off. In fact, I went to the beach last week after I had finished work. The sun was shining and the water was blue and clear. Some people were playing volleyball nearby, but I wasn’t in the mood to play. My dog ran and played with the people, but he had an ulterior motive. He grabbed the volleyball and ran as fast as he could. The people chased after him, but he was too fast. Eventually, I was able to catch him and return the ball to its rightful owners. Naturally, I apologized to everyone. It started out as such a beautiful day, but it ended on an awkward note. What a disaster!

It sounds much better this way, doesn’t it? Simple sentences only allow you to express simple concepts. By adding compound, complex, and even compound-complex sentences, you can make your English writing and speaking sound more detailed, expressive, and interesting. 

The easiest way to mix things up is to think about several different ways to say the same thing. This will force you to use different sentence structures and think about new ways to express yourself. While you may not be able to do this quickly during a conversation, you can definitely improve your writing and, with time, adapt your speaking to include more diverse sentence structures.


The compound sentence structure is one of the best ways to express two or more distinct but contextually-related statements. It offers you more freedom than simple sentences, without the complexity of other sentence structures. Now that you know the definition of compound sentences, you can start adding them to your own English speaking and writing! This way, you can express yourself clearly and make your English sound more varied and interesting!

If you’d like to hear native English speakers using the compound sentence structure and other types of English sentence structures in everyday speech, be sure to subscribe to the Magoosh Youtube channel today!

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is a freelance writer with a B.A. in Film and Philosophy from the University of Georgia. It was during his time in school that he published his first written work. After serving as a casting director in the Atlanta film industry for two years, Matthew acquired TEFL certification and began teaching English abroad. In 2017, Matthew started writing for dozens of different brands across various industries. During this time, Matthew also built an online following through his film blog. If you’d like to learn more about Matthew, you can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn!
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