building blocksSimple Sentences

English grammar has four sentence structures: simple, compound, complex and compound-complex. In this lesson, you’ll learn about simple sentences, but first, think of your favourite food. Now imagine eating that food every night for a year. Would it still be your favourite food at the end of that time? Probably not. By then you’d be tired or bored with it, right? The same logic applies to writing. If you read the same type of sentence over and over again, you’d become tired of it, just like you’d become tired of eating the same food over and over again. That’s why good English writers use all four types of sentences, not just one. That’s also why it’s important for you to be able to write each type correctly.

Now look at the following pair of sentences and decide if either one is a simple sentence.

Despite the availability of numerous over the counter drugs, the best remedy for a common cold virus is still getting lots of rest and drinking lots of liquids, especially water.

Colds are viruses.

If you thought the second sentence was a simple sentence, you’d be right. However, you’d also be right if you thought the first sentence was a simple sentence. What does this tell us about simple sentences? It tells us that we cannot determine whether or not a sentence is simple by looking at the length. As we have just seen, simple sentences can be quite long.

Now look at these examples of simple sentences.

Example Explanation
Many people eat cereal for breakfast. subject = people, verb = eat
Ted goes to the gym and exercises three times a week. subject = Ted, verbs = goes & exercises
Yuriko and Mina are going to Hawaii this summer. subjects = Yuriko & Mina, verb = are going

These examples show us that simple sentences can have more than one subject and more than one verb, but only express one idea or complete thought.

Here are some more examples.

The flight arrived on time. (subject + verb)

The passengers and crew arrived on time. (subject + subject + verb)

The passengers found their luggage and left the airport. (subject + verb + verb)

The passengers and crew went through Customs and left. (subject + subject + verb + verb)



English includes many verbs that have more than one part. Do not confuse them with other verbs in sentences. Look closely at the following examples.

Example Explanation
James and his girlfriend will meet us at the theatre. subjects = James & girlfriend, verb = will meet
We probably won't have to wait very long for the next bus. subject = we, verb = won’t have to wait


When looking for verbs, just look for ones that change tense. Therefore “will meet” is considered one verb in the first sentence. “To wait” in the second sentence is an infinitive and infinitives don’t change. Therefore, you shouldn’t count that verb. In other words, sentence two has only one verb.


Do not count verbs when they are used to modify nouns, as in the first example below, or when they are used as nouns (gerund forms), as in the second.

They will meet us at the skating arena.

Skating is very popular.


What have we learned about simple sentences? To decide whether a sentence is simple or not, we look at the subjects and verbs, not the length of the sentence, for simple sentences can be quite long. When looking for verbs, we only look for those which change tenses. Finally, we check to see if the sentence is expressing one complete idea or thought.

When you are sure that you understand the lesson, you can continue with the exercises.