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Simple Sentences

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Successful writers use a variety of sentences to make essays interesting and effective. If a writer uses too many simple sentences, the passage is often difficult to read. On the other hand, if a writer uses too many complex sentences, the passage becomes difficult to understand.  A balance of simple, compound and complex sentences not only make an essay more readable, but also adds depth and meaning.

Simple Sentence

Simple sentences need a subject and a verb, and to express a complete idea. The subject is what the sentence is about. The verb describes the action of the subject.  

The sentence is complete when we know who or what the subject is, what the action is (verb), and, if needed, the recipient of the action (direct object). For example, if we say, Tom prepared his lunch, we know who the subject is, Tom (subject), what the action is, prepared (verb), and what received the action, his lunch (direct object).

Types of Verbs

Transitive verbs MUST have a direct object to be complete. Such as accept a gift, ask a favor, break a glass, prepare a meal.

Intransitive verbs do not need a direct object to be complete. Such as agree, laugh, smile, look, sleep.

Ambitransitive verbs can be both transitive and intransitive. Such as read, read a book, sing, sing a song, continue, continue talking, play, play the piano.

Compound Subjects & Verbs

A simple sentence may also have a compound subject (Tom and Mary), or a compound verb (went and saw). Tom and Mary went and saw the Grand Canyon.

Imperative Sentences

Imperative sentences are the exception to the rule. When we are giving advise, or a command, we often omit the subject. Because the action is more important than the subject. A teacher may say, Turn in your homework by tomorrow. Or a customer at a restaurant may say, Give me the diner special.

Just a word of caution.

Use imperatives carefully, as you may sound bossy, even if your tone of voice is polite.

Use the root form of a verb to make an imperative sentence. See examples below:

  • Give me your name.
  • Take this to your teacher.
  • Do your homework.
  • Clean your room.


If the subject, or the helping verb, or the verb are missing, or the idea is not complete, the sentence is a fragment.

Fragments can be corrected by adding the missing part. You may need to look up the verb in the dictionary to check if it is transitive or intransitive.

Fragment = a small part broken or separated off something

Here are some examples of sentence fragments.

  1. Apple pie a popular dessert in America.
  2. Cities are building.
  3. Are polluting the environment.

In the first sentence, the to be verb is missing. It should read, Apple pie is a popular dessert in American.

In the second sentence, building is a transitive verb, so we need to add a direct object. Cities are building homeless shelters.

In the last sentence, the subject is missing. We could say, Factories are polluting the environment.