The Simple Sentence

 on Connie

The simple sentence in grammar is a sentence with only one SV unit. 

It looks like this:     SV.    or    SVC.

Here are some examples:

  • You can put your soda here.

  • We don't allow food or drinks in the lab.

  • I have an awful headache.

  • We don't agree with each other.





Often people think "simple" means easy or short.  Nah.  All it means is one SV unit.  Check out the next sentence.

I run every morning about the break of dawn around five a.m. two miles down the dusty roads of my neighborhood with my two dogs alongside.

Many of my students say that's a run-on!  Okay, it may not be a good sentence, the way it goes on and on and on, but by grammar's rules, it's fine.  When I use "run-on," I am speaking grammatically.  Here is my definition of a run-on.




Look at my humongous sentence above again.  How many verbs are there?  (You should find only one:  run.  Note:  You can check whether a word is a verb by asking if you can DO it.  And sure, you can "break" something, but in this sentence it is THE break, so it's a noun, not a verb.)  And how many subjects are there?  (Here again, there's only one:  I.) 

Hmm.  One subject and one verb.  It's a simple sentence.  It's not even trying to be a run-on!  (Remember, you need two sentences for it to be a run-on.)


What's the rest of the humongous sentence?  You got it -- crud!  And crud that follows the typical order of subject first, then verb, doesn't need any punctuation.  It's like pinning the tail on the end of the donkey; it's natural.

 Donkey facing right                                                                                        Donkey facing left

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Simple Sentence



or       C, SV.


What if you want to put some of that crud first?  Just like you do when you give your last name first and then your first name, you would put a comma there to indicate that this is not normal.  It's the weird order of things.  It's like pinning the tail on the NOSE of the donkey. 

Connie Gulick                                                   Gulick, Connie

SVC                                                                C, SV.

Every morning about the break of dawn around five a.m., I run two miles down the dusty roads of my neighborhood with my two dogs alongside.



Multiplicity in a simple sentence

Okay, so if it has more than one subject or verb, it can't be a simple sentence, right?

WRONG!  Simple sentences can have multiple subjects or multiple verbs or both.  A simple sentence is one SV UNIT.  Just because you find two subjects and two verbs doesn't make it two sentences.  Look at the following: 

George and Mary went to town and watched a movie.

How many subjects?  Two.  George and Mary.  How many verbs?  Two.  Went and watched.

SBoy and girl kissing

So is this a compound sentence?  Nope.  It's a simple sentence.  That's because there is only ONE SV unit.  Maybe another way to look at the UNIT is the space -- no, the union or the kiss between the subjects and verbs.  There is only one place where one of the subjects meets one of the verbs -- that space between Mary and went. 

George and MaryKiss went to town and watched a movie.

Since there is one place where the subjects on the one side and the verbs on the other meet up, it's a simple sentence.

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Here are some examples of multiples within simple sentences:


Simple sentences with
multiple subjects

  • Harry and IKissgot a divorce last January.
  • George and his cousins Kissdrove by in his big red pickup.
  • Celery and cabbage Kissare good weight-loss foods.
  • You and I disagree.
  • A pizza and a beer make the perfect dinner after work on Friday.
  • Ellen and Fred are flirting across the receptionist's desk.


Simple sentences with
multiple verbs


  • I Kissbought a pizza on my way home but accidentally dropped it in the driveway.
  • My boyfriend Kissloves me and leaves me little notes in my bookbag.
  • Ursula Kisswent to town last night and danced until 2.
  • You can either press "Enter" or hit "Delete."
  • My sister shops carefully and saves lots of money.
  • He neither needs nor wants your help.


Simple sentences with
multiple crud

  • I Kissbought a pizza and a beer at the joint down the street.
  • My boyfriend Kissgave me chocolates and flowers for my birthday.
  • We had to buy a textbook and a workbook for Spanish.
  • The driver dropped his cigarette, lost control of his car, and ran off the road, through a fence, and into a ditch.  (Note commas here are to separate the elements of two lists.)
  • Banana peels are useful for shining your shoes or to put into compost.


Simple sentences with
multiple everything

  • My sister and her best friend Kissare surfing and taking hula lessons in Hawaii.
  • Helen and Troy Kissheld hands and kissed.
  • The children and their dog chased each other around the house and giggled the whole time.
  • We had to buy a textbook and workbook for Spanish and then check out some library books for anatomy and chemistry.

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  This page last updated Thursday, August 14, 2014, by Connie Gulick.

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