What Is a Simple Sentence? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is a sentence that consists of just one independent clause. A simple sentence has no dependent clauses. (An independent clause (unlike a dependent clause) can stand alone as a sentence.)

Examples of Simple Sentences

Below are examples of simple sentences.
  • I cannot drink warm milk.
  • A day without sunshine is like night.
  • Only the mediocre are always at their best. (Novelist Jean Giraudoux)
  • Reality continues to ruin my life. (Cartoonist Bill Watterson)

More about Simple Sentences

simple sentence example

A simple sentence is not always a short, basic sentence like the four examples shown above. A simple sentence could have a compound subject (i.e., a subject with two or more simple subjects). For example:
  • Jack likes walking.
  • (This is a simple sentence with one simple subject ("Jack").)
  • Jack and Jill like walking.
  • (This is a simple sentence with a compound subject made up of two simple subjects ("Jack" and "Jill").)
A simple sentence could also have a compound predicate (when two or more verbs share the same subject). For example:
  • Jack likes fishing.
  • (This is a simple sentence with a normal predicate, i.e., there's just one main verb ("likes").)
  • Jack likes fishing but hates hunting.
  • (This is a simple sentence with a compound predicate. The subject "Jack" is the subject of two verbs ("likes" and "hates").)
  • Jack likes walking and fishing but hates running and hunting.
  • (This is still a simple sentence with a compound predicate. The subject "Jack" is still the subject of two verbs ("likes" and "hates"), but you can see how a simple sentence could start to get quite busy.)
Here's an example of a simple sentence with a compound subject, a compound predicate, and direct objects with more than one item.
  • Jack and Jill like walking and fishing but hate running and hunting.
  • (This is still a simple sentence. There are no dependent clauses.)
Here is a real-life example of a busy simple sentence:
  • Wolves and European brown bears developed a fear of humans too late and became extinct in the British wilds and the forests and mountains of Europe in medieval times.

The Four Types of Sentence Structure

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

A Simple Sentence. A simple sentence has just one independent clause. For example:
  • You're only as good as your last haircut. (Author Fran Lebowitz)
A Complex Sentence. A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. For example:
  • When you write a comic strip, the person on the left always speaks first. (Comedian George Carlin)
Read more about complex sentences.

A Compound Sentence. A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses. For example:
  • I used to jog, but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass. (Singer David Lee Roth)
Read more about compound sentences.

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 my mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph. (Actress Shirley Temple)

Why Should I Care about Simple Sentences?

Here is a good reason to care about simple sentences:

Be clear on when to use a comma before "and."

Being able to identify a simple sentence helps with comma placement. Writers are often unsure when to use a comma before words like "and," "or," and "but" (called conjunctions).

Let's look at some examples:
  • Jack likes chicken and loves Nando's.
  • Jack likes chicken but hates turkey.
  • (These are both examples of simple sentences with compound predicates. In each example, there is one subject governing two verbs. Note that there is no comma before the "and" or the "but.")
Compare the two examples above with these sentences:
  • Jack likes chicken, and he loves Nando's.
  • Jack likes chicken, but he hates turkey.
  • (These look similar, but they are not simple sentences with compound predicates. There are two subjects ("Jack" and "he"), each governing its own verb. These are examples of compound sentences not simple sentences with compound predicates. Each sentence features two independent clauses, not one. Note that there is now a comma before the "and" and the "but.")
The Rule

Use a comma before an "and" (or "but," "or," etc.) that joins two independent clauses (i.e., clauses that could stand alone as sentences).
Remember that with a compound predicate, the second half of the predicate cannot stand alone as a sentence because it doesn't have its own subject.
  • Jack likes chicken and loves Nando's.
  • (In this example of a simple sentence, "loves Nando's" is not an independent clause. That's why there's no comma before "and.")
  • Jack likes chicken, and he loves Nando's.
  • (In this example of a compound sentence, "he loves Nando's" is an independent clause. That's why there is a comma before "and.")
Read more about compound sentences.
Read more about conjunctions.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

What is a sentence? What are independent clauses? What are dependent clauses? What is a compound sentence? What is a simple sentence? Glossary of grammatical terms