What Is a Compound Sentence? (with Examples)

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a sentence with at least two independent clauses.

compound sentence

An independent clause (unlike a dependent clause) can stand alone as a sentence.

Examples of Compound Sentences

Below are examples of compound sentences. In each example, the independent clauses are shaded.
  • Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. (Albert Einstein, 1879-1955)

  • There used to be a real me, but I had it surgically removed. (Peter Sellers, 1925-1980)

  • Go, and never darken my towels again. (Groucho Marx, 1890-1977)
  • (Note: Go is the shortest sentence in English.)

  • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do. (Dale Carnegie)

Joining the Independent Clauses in a Compound Sentence

In a compound sentence, the independent clauses are joined using one of the following methods:
  • A conjunction with a comma (e.g., ", and")
    • I like tea, and he likes coffee.
Read more about conjunctions.
  • A semicolon
    • I like hot chocolate; it sends me to sleep.
Read more about using semicolons.
  • A colon
    • I know one thing: I love that girl.
    • (This is rare because the words after a colon are not often an independent clause.)
Read more about using colons.
  • A dash
    • I know you're hereI can smell your perfume.
Read more about using dashes.
  • A conjunction with a semicolon (e.g., "; and")
    • After the lights went out, I could hear you whispering; and I know you were talking about me.
    • (This is rare because it's an outdated style.)
Read more about using semicolons before conjunctions.

A Video Summary

Here is a short video explaining what we mean by compound sentence.

The Four Types of Sentence Structure

A compound sentence is one of four main sentence structures, all of which are shown below. In these examples, the independent clauses are shaded.

A Complex Sentence. A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. For example:
  • Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock. (Will Rogers, 1879-1935)
A Compound Sentence. A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses. For example:
  • Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. (Joseph Heller, 1923-1999) (Jane Wagner)
  • (This example has three independent clauses.)
A Simple Sentence. A simple sentence has just one independent clause. For example:
  • A country can be judged by the quality of its proverbs. (German Proverb)
A Compound-Complex Sentence. A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. For example:
  • I stopped believing in Santa Claus when he asked for my autograph in a department store, but I still want to believe in him.

Why Should I Care about Compound Sentences?

There are two great reasons to learn about compound sentences.

(Reason 1) Deciding whether to put a comma before "and" (or any conjunction).

A conjunction (e.g., "and," "or," "but") that joins two independent clauses in a compound sentence is preceded by a comma. A conjunction that joins two of anything else is not normally preceded with a comma. For example:
  • She tells great jokes and sings brilliantly.
  • (There is no comma before "and." This is a simple sentence. It is just a list of two verbs, "tells" and "sings.")
  • She tells great jokes, and she sings brilliantly.
  • (This time, there is a comma before "and." This is a compound sentence. The clauses either side of the "and" could be standalone sentences, i.e., they're independent clauses.)
Here is a real-life example. In this example, the independent clauses are shaded.
  • A geek is a guy who has everything going for him, but he's just too young. He's got the software, but he doesn't have the hardware yet. (Filmmaker John Hughes)
  • (Note that the conjunctions (in bold) are preceded by commas because the clauses either side of them are independent clauses. This is two compound sentences.)
  • A geek is a guy who has everything going for him but is just too young. He's got the software but doesn't have the hardware yet.
  • (Note the commas have gone. This is two simple sentences.)
The trick is to look for a subject-verb pairing after the conjunction. If both are present in both halves of your sentence, then you should put a comma before your conjunction.

Read more about commas with conjunctions.

(Reason 2) Avoid the run-on sentence.

You cannot join two independent clauses with just a comma. That causes a mistake known as the run-on sentence.
  • Dogs have masters, cats have servants.
  • Cannibals don't eat clowns, they taste funny.
  • I didn't fall, I'm just spending some quality time with the floor.
Let's fix them.
  • Dogs have masters, but cats have servants.
  • Cannibals don't eat clowns; they taste funny.
  • I didn't fallI'm just spending some quality time with the floor.
Read more about run-on sentences.

Learning the other sentence structures will also help with punctuating sentences correctly.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

What is a sentence? What are independent clauses? What are dependent clauses? What is a complex sentence? What is a simple sentence? Commas before conjunctions Glossary of grammatical terms