Simple sentence | Definition & Examples

Sentence and word structure updated on  April 2, 2024 4 min read

A simple sentence is a single independent clause with a subject and predicate. Simple sentences convey a complete thought, but they do not contain any dependent clauses (also known as subordinate clauses).

Simple sentence examples
Juliet waited on her balcony.
Mice love snacks.
He left.

What is a simple sentence?

A simple sentence is composed of a single subject (i.e., a person or thing that performs an action) and a predicate (i.e., a verb and other words that describe the action).

The subject is usually a noun or pronoun, while the predicate is composed of the verb (also known as the predicate verb or main verb) and any other information related to the verb.

Simple sentence subject and predicate examples
Zoe prepared dinner.
Yael and Brenda met for coffee.
Boxing is his favorite sport.

Simple sentences are the most basic type of sentence in English. However, they can be built on in a number of different ways depending on the predicate verb.


The most basic simple sentences generally follow SVO (subject–verb–object) order. The key for a simple sentence is that there is just one subject and one predicate. However, some complete sentences, such as imperative sentences may also just consist of a verb because the subject is implied (e.g., “Go!”).

In addition to the verb, the predicate can also include direct objects, indirect objects, adverbs, and so on. These give extra information about the action performed by the subject.

Predicate examples
Marguerite lied.
Marguerite told a lie.
Marguerite told me a lie.

She went home.
She went home late.

Simple subjects vs compound subjects

A simple sentence can either have a simple subject or a compound subject.

A simple subject refers to a subject that is just one noun, pronoun, or noun phrase.

Simple subject examples
Peter retired last year.
Blue poison dart frogs are dangerous.
They saw a film.

In contrast, a compound subject consists of two or more nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases.

Compound subject examples

Peter and Mary got married 44 years ago.

The guitar, ukulele, and sitar are all string instruments.

She and her sisters never fought as kids.

For both simple and compound subjects, the subject is the performer of the action if the predicate includes an action verb or is what the verb describes if the predicate includes a stative verb or linking verb.

Simple predicate vs compound predicate

Simple sentences can have either a simple predicate or a compound predicate.


In a simple sentence with a simple predicate, there is only one predicate verb indicating the action or state of the subject.

Simple predicate examples
Everyone needs help sometimes.
Please clean up after yourself.
Nikolas is a physicist.

Conversely, a compound predicate has two or more predicate verbs that share the same subject.

Compond predicate examples
We laughed and joked the entire time.
Desi and Dev aren’t friends anymore and haven’t spoken for a long time.
Uncle Ray spent his life cooking but never became very good at it.

Compound predicates are joined together using coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “but,” and “yet.”

If the verbs in the compound predicate are in a list, a comma should be used between them. However, if there are only two verbs in the compound predicate that are connected using a coordinating conjunction, no comma should be used because the verbs share the same subject.

Punctuating compound predicate examples
She coughed sneezed and sniffled all night.
She coughed, sneezed, and sniffled all night.

Paul and Tenzin went out, and ate dinner.
Paul and Tenzin went out and ate dinner.

I feel sick, but have to go to work.
I feel sick but have to go to work.

Simple sentence vs compound sentence

A simple sentence consists of a single independent clause, whereas a compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses linked together either using a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon.

Each independent clause in a compound sentence has its own subject. For this reason, a comma separates the clauses, and the subject is stated in each clause.

Compound sentence examples
Before I felt angry, but now I just feel sad.
I love hiking, and I go every Sunday.
Wanda and Cinzia are studying Swahili; they will take the proficiency test next year.

Simple sentences have a single subject (simple or compound). As such, they do not use commas to separate the subject and predicate verbs, unless multiple predicate verbs are listed in succession (“Wanda and Cinzia are working, studying, and planning a trip”).

Recommended articles

Do you want to know more about reasoning, rhetoric, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


Reasoning

Rhetoric

Common mistakes

Begging the question fallacy

Foreshadowing

Bestest

Hasty generalization fallacy

Logos

Calfs or calves

Appeal to pity fallacy

Enjambment

Dieing or dying

Slippery slope fallacy

Double entendre

Led vs lead

Ad hominem fallacy

Pathos

Weather vs whether


How can I distinguish between the subject and predicate?

The subject of a sentence is usually a noun (including pronouns and noun phrases), while a predicate is always a verb and also includes other words that describe the verb.

To distinguish between the two, ask yourself if the word is performing an action or is being described, or if it is part of the action or description.

As an example, in the sentence “Vera nearly missed the train,” “Vera” is the thing being described. “Nearly” is an adverb that describes the action, “missed” is the predicate verb, and “the train” is the direct object of the verb.

What do you use to join two simple sentences to make a compound sentence?

Two simple sentences can be joined together to form a compound sentence in two ways:

  • By adding a comma and coordinating conjunction between the independent clauses (e.g., “We wanted to have pizza, but they wanted sushi”)
  • By adding a semicolon between the independent clauses (e.g., “We’d been walking for hours; I couldn’t go on any longer”)

What is an example of a simple sentence with a compound subject?

A compound subject is a single subject composed of two or more nouns, pronouns, or noun phrases. A simple sentence is a sentence with a single independent clause.

For example, “Ya-Li and Bo were running late” has a subject that consists of two nouns (“Ya-Li” and “Bo”).

In the sentence “Hanna and her friends aren’t very welcoming,” the subject consists of one noun, “Hanna,” and one noun phrase, “her friends.”

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Alexandra Rongione

Alexandra has a master’s degree in literature and cultural studies. She has taught English as a foreign language for a range of levels and ages and has also worked as a literacy tutor.

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