The 8 basic sentence punctuation patterns

The eight basic sentence punctuation patterns every college student should know

If you knew nothing more about how to punctuate a sentence than these eight patterns, you would know enough. You can make sophisticated use of dashes, parentheses, colons, and semicolons, but you don’t have to. The eight patterns below are sufficient and will always serve you well. (Obviously, I’m talking only about declarative sentences here, not questions or exclamations.)

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Pattern 1: Simple sentence
Rex barks.
Rex and Fido bark and run.

Pattern 2: Compound sentence with comma and a FANBOYS
Rex barks, and the cat meows.
Rex barks, but the cat meows.

Pattern 3: Compound sentence with semicolon (or colon)
Rex barks; the cat meows.
Rex barks: it is time for dinner.

Pattern 4: Compound Sentence with semicolon, “transitional word,” and comma
Rex is barking; therefore, it is time to bring him indoors.

Pattern 5: Complex Sentence with dependent clause following the independent (main) clause – no comma (usually)
Rex barks when the postman comes.

Pattern 6: Complex Sentence with dependent clause at beginning of the sentence – comma
When the postman comes, Rex barks.

Pattern 7: Sentence with nonessential phrase or clause (Nonrestrictive) – commas
Rex, who belongs to the lady next door, is barking. (complex sentence)
Her dog, Rex the Scottish terrier, is barking.
Her dog, Rex, is barking.

Pattern 8: Sentence with essential phrase or dependent clause (Restrictive) – no commas
The dog that lives next door is barking. (complex sentence)
The dog next door is barking.

Based on: Punctuation Patterns – Pasadena City College

NOTES:

Rex barks. [A SIMPLE SENTENCE HAS A SUBJECT AND A PREDICATE WITH A FINITE VERB]

Rex and Fido bark and run. [A SIMPLE SENTENCE CAN HAVE A COMPOUND SUBJECT & A COMPOUND VERB]

Rex barks, and the cat meows. [A COMPOUND SENTENCE HAS AT LEAST TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES]

Rex barks, but the cat meows. [FANBOYS: FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, SO]

Rex barks; the cat meows. [AT LEAST TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES]

Rex is barking; therefore, it is time to get up. [AT LEAST TWO INDEPENDENT CLAUSES]

Rex barks when the postman comes. [“WHEN THE POSTMAN COMES” IS AN ADVERBIAL CLAUSE]

When the postman comes, Rex barks. [“WHEN THE POSTMAN COMES” IS AN ADVERBIAL CLAUSE]

Rex, who belongs to the lady next door, is barking. [NONESSENTIAL ADJECTIVE CLAUSE – WE KNOW WHICH DOG THE SENTENCE IS TALKING ABOUT, SO ‘WHO BELONGS TO THE LADY NEXT DOOR’ IS EXTRA INFORMATION]

Her dog, Rex the Scottish terrier, is barking. [NONESSENTIAL ADJECTIVE PHRASE – SHE HAS ONE DOG, SO WE KNOW WHICH DOG THE SENTENCE IS ABOUT]

Her dog, Rex, is barking. [NONESSENTIAL ADJECTIVAL WORD – SHE HAS ONE DOG, SO WE KNOW WHICH DOG THIS IS ABOUT – NOTE: A NOUN PLACED NEXT TO ANOTHER NOUN TO IDENTIFY THE 1ST NOUN IS CALLED AN APPOSITIVE

The dog that lives next door is barking. [ESSENTIAL ADJECTIVE CLAUSE – WHICH DOG ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? THE ONE THAT LIVES NEXT DOOR]

The dog next door is barking. [ESSENTIAL ADJECTIVE PHRASE – WHICH DOG? THERE ARE MANY DOGS IN THE WORLD]

AND SEE:
What is writing made of?

I am grateful to Pasadena City College for its illuminating handout: Punctuation Patterns

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