Chapter 1: Simple, Compound and Complex Sentences
Please read the following paragraph. The story is “Puss in Boots,” a fairy tale written
by Charles Perrault.
Once there was a miller who had three sons, and whose entire estate consisted of a
windmill, a donkey and a cat. In good years the family ate well, and in bad years they
ate less well, but the miller never increased his estate. So when he died, he left the
windmill to his eldest son, and the donkey to his middle son, but to his youngest son
he had nothing to give but the cat.
Look at the second sentence. It could have been written as three separate sentences. “In
good years the family ate well. In bad years they ate less well. The miller never increased
If it had been written as three separate sentences, each of those sentences would have
been a simple sentence. A simple sentence is one that cannot be broken down any further
and still make sense. The sentence in the story, on the other hand, is called a compound
sentence, because it contains more than one simple sentence. They are joined by the
words and and but.
Now look at the first sentence. It cannot be written as three separate sentences. “Once
there was a miller. Who had three sons. Whose entire estate consisted of a windmill, a
donkey and a cat.” The first sentence is fine: it’s a simple sentence. But the last two aren’t
sentences at all. In fact, they are called subordinate clauses (see Chapter 10). A
subordinate clause is a group of words that makes sense only if it is joined to a simple
sentence. When a subordinate clause is joined to a simple sentence, the result is called a
Determine whether the following sentences are simple, compound or complex. This story
is “Why the Sea is Salty,” and is one of the fairy tales collected by Asbjornsen and Möe.
1. Once upon a time, and long, long ago, there was a pair of brothers, and one of them
was rich while the other one was poor.
2. One Christmas Eve, the poor one found himself with nothing at all in the house to eat.
3. So he went to his brother, and he begged him to give him something for Christmas Day.
4. The wealthy brother frowned and pursed his lips, because, as he had so often said, he
didn’t get rich by giving things away, and this was hardly the first time that his brother was
counting on his charity.