Sentence Structure II. Compound Sentences

How to Get a Sentence and Compound It

by Owen Fourie

People who are found guilty of crimes get sentences, and they might compound their problems by further misdemeanors in jail, but we’ll play a safer game by focusing on compound sentences in grammar.

The silver car reversed down our driveway, and it was driven to the four-way stop, and it collided with a motorcycle, and no one was injured, and both vehicles were damaged, and you should not write like this.

There are better ways to join the simple sentences that you see here.

From simple sentences to compound sentences

To write effectively, it is necessary to know and to use the various sentence structures: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

Having looked at the simple sentence in the previous post, we need now to consider what to do if we have written several simple sentences.

There are several ways to join them. By using these ways, we will produce a compound sentence.

What is a compound sentence?

A compound sentence is formed when two or more independent clauses or simple sentences are joined to each other.

Such joining may be accomplished by using

  • coordinating conjunctions;
  • semicolons;
  • conjunctive adverbs.

Coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are the words and, but, for, nor, or, so, and yet. You can remember them quite easily by using an acronym, that is by taking the first letter of each conjunction and making one or two new words.

I had thought of nab foys or ban foys, but that might not sit well with Scottish readers, so it is probably safer to go with the generally accepted fan boys.

Here are some examples of the use of coordinating conjunctions to form compound sentences:

  • Our driveway is well-shaded, for there are bald cypress trees on both sides.
  • The driver of the silver car was not troubled by the damage to his vehicle, nor was he angry with the motorcyclist.
  • The driver of the silver car can go immediately to the repair shop, or he can go later.
  • The motorcyclist did not seem to care about the incident, yet he expressed regret for the damage done to the silver car.

Note that, in each instance, a comma precedes the coordinating conjunction. This is not always necessary. In instances where the two elements being joined are well-balanced and brief, the comma may be omitted.

  • The silver car has new tires but it has spongy brakes.
  • The motorcycle had been stolen so it has been impounded.


Instead of using a coordinating conjunction, a semicolon can be used to join independent clauses and form a compound sentence.

Here are some examples:

  • Our driveway is well-shaded; there are bald cypress trees on both sides.
  • The motorcycle had been stolen; it has been impounded.

Conjunctive adverbs

Some adverbs may be used to join independent clauses. When they are used in this way, they function as conjunctive adverbs.

This is a partial list of conjunctive adverbs:

accordingly, additionally, besides, consequently, finally, furthermore, hence, however, indeed, instead, meanwhile, moreover, namely, nevertheless, nonetheless, now, otherwise, rather, similarly, still, subsequently, then, thereafter, therefore, thus, undoubtedly, yet, …

Here are some examples using conjunctive adverbs:

  • The motorcycle was not badly damaged; consequently, it was easily repaired.
  • The silver car had been moving slowly in the intersection; otherwise, the collision might have been worse.

It is important to note the punctuation.

  • A semicolon is placed at the end of the first independent clause and before the conjunctive adverb.
  • A comma is placed after the conjunctive adverb.

Unlike the stronger coordinating conjunction that needs only a comma before it, the conjunctive adverb needs stronger punctuation (the semicolon) before it to link the independent clauses. The comma following the conjunctive adverb sets it off from the independent clause that follows it.

Effective use of a compound sentence

The most effective use of a compound sentence is when it contains two equally important points that are set in contrast or in balance:

  • The silver car had unsightly scratches on its front left fender, but it could be easily restored to its original condition.
  • The police arrested the thief, and they impounded the motorcycle.

Avoid run-on sentences and comma splices

Common errors in writing are the run-on sentence and the comma splice.

The run-on sentence brings together two independent clauses without a proper connection between them.

If only a comma is used between two independent clauses, it is called a comma splice, which some grammarians include in the run-on-sentence category.

The following sentences will serve to illustrate these errors:

  • The motorcycle was not badly damaged, it was easily repaired. (comma splice);
  • The silver car had been moving slowly in the intersection the collision might have been worse. (run-on sentence)

Avoid overusing the compound sentence

This article began with a series of simple sentences all joined into one sentence by using the coordinating conjunction and. This type of writing is weak. The logical relationship between independent clauses joined by and is not clearly demonstrated.

Similarly, writing an unbroken series of compound sentences will reflect the immaturity of the writer. It is necessary to learn to use a good mix of the various sentence structures in all your writing.

By using complex sentences, you are better able to show the specific relationship between clauses and the logical progression of your thinking.

Having dealt with the simple sentence previously, and now having considered the compound sentence, we need to advance to the complex sentence in the next post.


Do you have any special technique to help you to produce a good mix of sentence structures in your essays? If so, please tell us what you do to achieve this. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

Copyright © 2011 by English Essay Writing Tips

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