Compound Sentences

In this lesson, we will study compound sentences and learn how to create them by joining two or more independent clauses together.

intermediate
"Compound Sentences" in the English Grammar

What Are Compound Sentences?

Compound sentences are sentences that have at least two independent clauses. These independent clauses are joined using a comma, semicolon, or conjunction.

What Is an Independent Clause?

An independent clause is a clause that has a subject and verb and forms a complete thought.

This dress is too expensive, and that hat is too small.

This sentence is a compound sentence, because it has two independent clauses: 'This dress is too expensive' and 'that hat is too small', separated by a comma and the conjunction 'and'.

Coordinators

Coordinating conjunctions (also called coordinators) are used with commas and semicolons to join independent clauses together. Here are the coordinators you can use to join independent clauses:

  • For
  • And
  • Now
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

Tip

Note that they form a mnemonic: FANBOYS.
The most common coordinators are 'and,' 'but' and 'or'.

However, as mentioned earlier, compound sentences can also use a semicolon to connect the two clauses, in which case no conjunction is necessary.

What Are Compound Sentences Used for?

an independent clause + an independent clause

To write a fluent and fast-paced text, we can use compound sentences. They can be used to combine two or more complete and related sentences into a single one. A compound sentence brings together individual, related ideas to form a single sentence.

Simple sentence #1: I have a pet hamster.

Simple sentence #2: Its name is Frodo.

Compound Sentence: I have a pet hamster, and its name is Frodo.

To combine them into a compound sentence, we simply add a comma and the coordinator 'and'.

I have a pet hamster; its name is Frodo.

Alternatively, we can make a compound sentence using only a semicolon and the sentence would still be correct.

Even though these two simple sentences talk about the same thing, the subject of each sentence is different: the subject of the first sentence is I and the subject of the second one is name. That's why they are considered independent clauses. Now, look at the example below which is not a compound sentence:

I have a pet hamster whose name is Frodo.

This sentence needs at least two subjects and two verbs to be a compound sentence. If both sentences use the same subject, it must be stated twice. Otherwise, it’s not a compound sentence.

Tip

Sentences that have two subjects or two verbs are not necessarily compound sentences. The following sentence is not a compound sentence, because it only has one subject, and the clause after the conjunction 'and' is not an independent clause.

He went to a restaurant to eat lunch and meet his friends.

However, this sentence can be turned into a compound sentence by adding another independent clause with a second subject:

He went to a restaurant to eat lunch and meet his friends, but he forgot to bring his wallet.

Imperatives

Imperatives normally do not show their subjects, because they are implied. So the following imperative sentence is a compound sentence with two subjects:

Come here at once, or I will come to you!

Punctuation Rules

When writing a compound sentence, the independent clauses can be joined together in two ways:

  1. putting a comma before the coordinating conjunction
  2. (if a coordinating conjunction is not used), putting a semicolon between the clauses

Compound Sentences with Conjunctive Adverbs

We can also join independent clauses using conjunctive adverbs, such as :

  • moreover
  • however
  • indeed
  • therefore
  • at least

They didn't study; therefore, they failed the test.

She preferred garden salad; he wanted a burger.

In this case, the conjunctive adverb must be preceded by a semicolon (;) and followed by a comma (,).

Tip!

Remember to use a lowercase letter at the beginning of the second independent clause. Because a compound sentence is a single sentence, only the first letter of the first word is capitalized.

Review

A compound sentence joins two or more related sentences of equal importance. Each sentence or independent clause must still have a subject and a verb.

She went to the park, but he stayed at home.

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