The Complete Guide to English Sentence Structure: 18 Easy Formulas and 90+ Example Sentences
By learning some easy English sentences, you are setting yourself up for understanding all English conversations.
Even the most complicated sentences start with a simple sentence structure. A sentence is created by combining a set of words to make a complete, grammatically correct communication.
Learn these basic English sentence structures, and you will be learning a valuable lesson—no matter your level of English.
- How to Understand Any English Sentence
- How to Make Your Own English Sentences
- 18 Easy Formulas to Build English Sentences
- Making Statements About the Present
- Making Statements About the Past
- Making Statements About the Future
- Making Negative Statements
- Asking Questions
- Example Sentences
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How to Understand Any English Sentence
To understand easy English sentences, you need to break them down into even smaller parts.
Sentences are made up of words. More specifically, they are made up of parts of speech. A part of speech defines what a word does in a sentence.
The parts of speech are:
- Adjective: An adjective word that modifies (changes) or describes a noun or another adjective. Examples: Beautiful, white, shiny.
- Adverb: An adverb is a word that modifies or describes a verb. (It shows how something is done.) Examples: Quickly, carefully, brightly.
- Preposition: A preposition is a word that describes the relationship to a noun. Examples: From, under, until.
- Conjunction: A conjunction is a connecting word. Examples: And, but, although.
These terms will be important later in this post, in your English studies and in whichever English situations you find yourself in, whether with friends, at school or at work!
How to Make Your Own English Sentences
Now you need to learn how to combine parts of speech to form your sentence. A sentence has a subject (the person, place or thing that the sentence is about) and an action (what the subject is doing). Together, they express a complete thought. Even the shortest complete sentence in the English language follows this rule:
“I am.” (“I” is the subject, “am” is the action!)
Here is another simple sentence:
Once you have your subject and action, you can start to add more detail. You can add an object (whoever or whatever the action is being done to):
“I ate a hamburger.”
Or you can add a description:
“I ate a delicious hamburger.”
Sometimes you can even add more subjects and actions:
“I ate a delicious hamburger, but my friend only ate some fries.”
When you are trying to understand a sentence, you can use the above knowledge to break it into smaller pieces. You can also use this information to create the most basic sentences.
18 Easy Formulas to Build English Sentences
Before you begin, there are two things you should know about this guide:
1. Whenever we use [noun], you can replace it with a [pronoun]. For example, you can say “Sam is tired,” or you can say “He is tired.” Both are correct.
2. Whenever we use “is,” you will need to replace it with the correct form of “to be.” Choose the right form based on this list for the present tense:
- I am.
- He / she / it is.
- You / they / we are.
And this list for the past tense:
- I / he / she / it was.
- You / they / we were.
That’s all! Now you are ready to begin.
Making Statements About the Present
1. Describing something or someone.
Form: [Noun] is [adjective].
Notes: If the noun you are using is not a pronoun (the name of a place or the name of a person), add the word “the” (or “this,” or “that”) before it.
2. Stating the location of something or someone.
Form: [Noun] is [preposition] [location].
Notes: To state the location of something or someone, a preposition is usually necessary. Choose the correct preposition to give the right information. You can also say someone was “here” or “over there.” Since these terms are relative (their meaning depends on your own location), you do not need to add the final “location.”
Once again, nouns that are not names of people or places get “the” added before them.
- The cat is under the bed.
- Charlie is next to Anne.
- He is on the train.
- The dog is here.
- The men are over there.
3. Explaining what someone is doing.
Form: [Noun] is [verb -ing].
Notes: The “-ing” form of a verb means an action is taking place right now. Use this form when talking about an action that has not ended yet.
4. Stating what someone does for a living or a hobby.
Form: [Noun] [verb -s].
Notes: Using this structure implies the subject of your sentence does the action regularly (like a hobby, or a job), even if they are not necessarily doing it right now.
5. Expressing feelings.
Form: [Noun] [feeling verb -s] [noun]. / [Noun] [feeling verb -s] [to verb / verb -ing].
Notes: Feeling verbs include verbs like “love,” “like” or “hate.” You can love or hate an object, or an action. When you describe someone’s feelings about an action, you can use either the “to verb” or “verb -ing” forms. In most cases, both are correct!
You can also use this form to describe needs and wants, but remember that in that case, the “verb -ing” form cannot be used. For example, you don’t “need sleeping.” You “need to sleep,” or just “need sleep.”
- I love sunshine.
- The elephant likes painting.
- Tom hates his job.
- I need to eat.
- I want food.
- She wants to sleep.
- She needs sleep.
6. Making a suggestion.
Form: Let’s [verb]. / Please [verb].
Notes: To suggest an action that you will also take part in, use the first structure. To politely ask someone to do something, use the second one.
- Let’s eat.
- Please eat.
- Please move. (Please note: This might be grammatically correct, but it is actually not very polite! The polite way to ask someone to move is to say “excuse me.”)
Making Statements About the Past
7. Describing something or someone in the past.
Form: [Noun] was [adjective].
Notes: You describe someone in the past tense almost the same exact way as in the present—just change the “is” to “was.” Using this structure suggests that either the description is no longer accurate, or that the description is for a specific moment.
- The flower was red.(…It is not red anymore.)
- You were wonderful.(…You played the violin so well in the concert.)
- The Empire State Building was tall.(…Until the giant apes tore it down.)
8. Stating the location of something or someone in the past.
Form: [Noun] was [preposition] [location].
Notes: As with a description, describing a location in the past and the present is very similar. The rules remain the same; only the verb tense changes. Remember, again, that using this form means the location has changed, or that the statement was only true for a specific time period in the past.
- The cat was under the bed.(…But then it ran away.)
- Charlie was next to Anne.(…Then he went behind her.)
- He was on the train. (…That is how he knew the train was going to be late.)
- The dog was here.(…But then its owner took it away.)
- The men were over there. (…Until they finished their job and went home.)
9. Explaining what someone did, or used to do in the past.
Form: [Noun] was [verb -ing]. / [Noun] [verb -ed].
Notes: There is a slight difference between the “verb -ed” form of an action, and the “was verb -ing” form.
- Using the “verb -ed” form describes something that has finished happening.
- Using the “-ing” form of a verb describes something that was happening during a specific period of time in the past.
Another form you can use is: [Noun] used [to verb]. This form is used for any kind of action that someone used to do in the past, but has since stopped doing.
All these forms can be used with feeling verbs, as well! Just add the “noun” or “verb -ing” after the feeling verb for a complete sentence.
- The cat napped. (…That’s why he is so happy now.)
- Kate sang.(…The concert was wonderful.)
- He was reading.(…That is why he did not hear the doorbell ring.)
- The Statue of Liberty used to shine.(…But being in the salty water all those years has made it green.)
- I used to love shrimp.(…But then I learned that I am allergic to it.)
- Sally hated swimming. (…She had to do it every day in school.)
Making Statements About the Future
10. Stating what someone will do in the future.
Form: [Noun] is going to [verb]. / [Noun] will [verb].
Notes: The great thing about the future tense is that you don’t need to remember any verb forms! To turn a sentence into the future tense, just add the words “is going to” or “will” before the verb. Using this structure without any additional details means you will be doing the action very soon.
11. Stating when something will happen.
Form: [Noun] will [verb] [preposition] [time]. / [Noun] is going to [verb] [time adverb].
Notes: Use this structure to talk about things that will happen in the future. When you use a specific time, a preposition is needed.
- Use “at” when stating a clock time, and “on” when stating a day or date.
- Use “in” when stating a year, month or another time frame (like “a couple of years” or “two minutes”).
- When you use a time adverb like today, tomorrow or yesterday, you don’t need a preposition.
- The train will leave at 5:00 AM.
- I will visit my parents in October.
- Anthony is going to dance tomorrow.
Making Negative Statements
12. Stating what someone is not, or not doing.
Form: [Noun] is not [adjective / verb-ing].
Notes: Changing a sentence into a negative one is as easy as adding the word “not.”
- The flower is not red.(…It is white.)
- You are not wonderful. (…That’s not very nice!)
- The Empire State Building is not tall. (…We never said the sentence has to be true!)
- Kate is not singing. (…Why did she stop?)
13. Stating what someone did not do.
Form: [Noun] did not [verb]. / [Noun] was not [verb -ing].
Notes: Remember the rules from before. Using the first form above puts the focus on the action (in this case, saying it did not happen at all). “Verb -ing” puts the focus on the time the action took place (saying it was not happening at a specific moment).
- I did not sleep. (…I stayed awake all night.)
- I was not sleeping. (…While the teacher gave her lesson.)
- The customer did not pay. (…At all. How terrible!)
14. Stating what someone will not do in the future.
Form: [Noun] is not going to [verb]. / [Noun] will not [verb].
Notes: Changing the future tense into a negative sentence is just as easy. Just add “not” before the verb.
- I am not going to eat. (…I will not eat green eggs and ham!)
- Sam will not dance.(…He has ants in his pants.)
- The cat will not nap. (…He is going to eat first.)
15. Asking where someone is.
Form: Where is [noun]?
Notes: You can also use this form to ask about places, things and any other kind of noun you might be trying to find.
16. Asking what someone is doing.
Form: What is [noun] doing?
Notes: The noun in this case should be a living thing. (Generally, non-living objects don’t do much!)
17. Asking about when something will happen.
Form: When will [noun] [verb]?
Notes: This is a useful sentence structure to know when you want to find out about events in the future.
18. Asking who is doing something.
Form: Who is [verb -ing]? / Who is [verb -ing] [noun]?
Notes: This structure is a bit different. It can be used to refer to the present, and to the near future tenses.
- Use it to find out who is doing a certain action—for example, if you hear a trumpet and want to know who is playing it).
- Or, you can use it to find out who will be doing an action in the near future—for example, if you are going on a trip and want to know who will drive the car.
If the action is being done to something, don’t forget to add that something in for a complete thought!
- Who is playing the trumpet?
- Who is driving?
- Who is cooking?(…It smells great!)
Mastering English Introductions
Here are some phrases for introducing yourself when you meet new people, and questions to learn more about them.
Hi! I am [Name]. (And you?)
Here is an informal greeting you can use when you meet new friends. If the person does not tell you their name, you can say your name first. Then ask, “And you?” or “And what is your name?”
Hi! I am Stephen. And you?
Nice to meet you.
After you learn each other’s names, it is polite to say this phrase.
A: Hi, Stephen, I am Chad.
B: Nice to meet you, Chad.
A: Nice to meet you, too.
Where are you from?
Ask this question to find out which country someone is from. You answer this question with “I am from _______.”
Can you answer this question in English? Say both the question and answer aloud right now.
A: Nice to meet you, Sergio. So, where are you from?
B: I am from Spain.
What do you do?
Most adults ask each other this question when they meet. It means what do you do for a living (what is your job).
I think this question is boring, so I ask other questions. But many people will probably ask you this, so it is important to know what it means.
A: What do you do, Cathleen?
B: I work at the university as a financial specialist.
What do you like to do (in your free time)?
Instead of asking for someone’s job title, I prefer to ask what they enjoy doing. The responses (answers) are usually much more interesting!
A: So, Cathleen, what do you like to do in your free time?
B: I love to read and to garden. I picked two buckets of tomatoes last week!
What is your phone number?
If you want to keep in contact with someone you just met, ask this question to find out their phone number. You can replace “phone number” with “email address” if you want to know their email address.
You might also hear people use the more casual, “Can I get your phone number?“
It would be great to meet up again sometime. What is your phone number?
Do you have Facebook?
Many people keep in touch (contact) through Facebook. Use this question to find out if someone has a Facebook account. You might also ask, “Are you on Facebook?”
Let’s keep in touch! Do you have Facebook?
Everyday, Conversational English Phrases
These eight phrases can be used in many different situations.
Thanks so much.
This is a simple sentence you can use to thank someone.
To add detail, say:
Thanks so much + for + [noun] / [-ing verb].
Thanks so much for the birthday money.
Thanks so much for driving me home.
I really appreciate…
You can also use this phrase to thank someone. For example, you might say:
I really appreciate your help.
Or you can combine this phrase with the last one:
Thanks so much for cooking dinner. I really appreciate it.
Thanks so much. I really appreciate your cooking dinner.
When you need to get through but there is someone blocking your way, say “Excuse me.”
You can also say this phrase to politely get someone’s attention. For example:
Excuse me, sir, you dropped your wallet.
Excuse me, do you know what time it is?
I am sorry.
Use this phrase to apologize, whether for something big or small. Use “for” to give more detail. For example:
I am sorry for being so late.
I was not expecting anyone today. I am sorry for the mess.
You can use “really” to show you are very sorry for something:
I am really sorry I did not invite you to the party.
In fact, I am sorry has many different uses in English and they are not always that obvious! Because of this, using native content when learning English expressions is very important to ensure you are learning them properly.
What do you think?
When you want to hear someone’s opinion on a topic, use this question.
I am not sure if we should paint the room yellow or blue. What do you think?
How does that sound?
If you suggest an idea or plan, use this phrase to find out what others think.
We could have dinner at 6, and then go to a movie. How does that sound?
Let’s hire a band to play music, and Brent can photograph the event. How does that sound?
That sounds great.
If you like an idea, you can respond to “How does that sound?” with this phrase. “Great” can be replaced with any synonym (similar word), such as “awesome,” “perfect,” “excellent” or “fantastic.”
A: My mom is baking cookies this afternoon. We could go to my house and eat some. How does that sound?
B: That sounds fantastic!
Oh, never mind.
Let’s say someone does not understand an idea you are trying to explain. If you have explained it over and over and want to stop, just say “oh, never mind.” You can now talk about something else!
You can also use “never mind” to mean “it does not matter” or “just forget it.” In these situations, say it with a smile and positive tone, though. When you say this phrase slowly with a falling, low tone, it can mean you are bothered or upset.
A: Are you going to the grocery store today?
B: No, I am not. But why—do you need something?
A: Oh, never mind! It is okay, I will go tomorrow.
Talking About Learning English
As an English learner, you will likely want to tell others that English is not your first language. You will also need to ask native speakers to repeat phrases and words or to speak slower. The following phrases will be useful for these situations.
I am learning English.
This simple phrase tells people that English is not your native language. If you are a total beginner, you can add “just started” like this: “I just started learning English.”
My name is Sophie and I am learning English.
I do not understand.
Use this phrase when you do not understand what someone means.
Sorry, I do not understand. The U.S. Electoral College seems very confusing!
Could you repeat that please?
If you would like someone to say a word, question or phrase again, use this question. Since “to repeat” means “to say again,” you can also ask, “Could you say that again, please?”
We can say “please” either at the end of the question or right after “you,” like this:
Could you please repeat that?
Could you repeat that, please?
Could you please talk slower?
Native speakers can talk very fast. Fast English is hard to understand! This is an easy way to ask someone to speak more slowly.
Note: This phrase is not grammatically correct. However, it is used often in every day (casual) speech. The grammatically correct question would be, “Could you please talk more slowly?“
That is because “slowly” is an adverb, so it describes verbs (like “talk”). “Slower” is a comparative adjective, which means it should be used to describe nouns (people, places or things), not verbs. (For example: My car is slower than yours.)
A: You can give us a call any weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at five five five, two five zero eight, extension three three—
B: I am sorry, could you please talk slower?
Thank you. That helps a lot.
After someone starts speaking more slowly for you, thank them with this phrase.
You can use it in many other situations, too.
A: Ben, could you please make the font bigger? It is hard for me to read the words.
B: Sure! I will change it from size 10 to 16. How is this?
A: Thank you. That helps a lot.
What does _____ mean?
When you hear or see a new word, use this phrase to ask what it means.
A: What does “font” mean?
B: It is the style of letters, numbers and punctuation marks when you type. A common font in the USA is called Times New Roman.
How do you spell that?
English spelling can be tricky, so make sure to learn this question. You could also ask someone, “Could you spell that for me?”
A: My name is Robbertah Handkerchief.
B: How do you spell that?
What do you mean?
When you understand the words one by one, but not what they mean together, use this question. You can ask it whenever you are confused about what someone is telling you.
A: The Smiths do have a really nice house, but the grass is always greener on the other side.
B: What do you mean?
A: I mean that if we had the Smith’s house, we probably would not be happier. We always think that other people have better lives than us, but other people have problems, too.
Everyday English Phrases for Shopping
Everyone needs to go shopping, whether it is for food, clothing or household items like furniture. These phrases will help you find what you want to buy and how much it costs.
Can you help me?
If you need help while you are shopping, this is a simple way to ask.
Can you help me? I cannot find what I want.
Excuse me, can you help me?
I am looking for…
If you cannot find what you want in a store, you can ask a salesperson to help you find it. Just add the name of what you want to buy after the phrase “I am looking for…”
Excuse me, I am looking for a winter coat.
I am looking for snow boots.
Do you have this [object] in a different color?
If you see something you like, but you do not like the color, you can ask if you can get it in a different color.
Another way to say this is “Does this come in a different color?”
You can also add the name of the object after “this.”
I do not like this shade of red. Do you have this in a different color?
Does this bowl come in a different color? This will not match my kitchen.
I do not know my size.
Sizes for clothing and other things differ from country to country, so you might have to look up the correct size for the country where you are shopping.
If you cannot figure out your correct size, it is perfectly fine to ask for help from the sales staff.
I do not know my size. Can you help me?
I want to buy a shirt, but I do not know my size.
I need this in a size ______.
This is a simple way to ask for a piece of clothing or a household item in the size you need—if you already happen to know the right size.
I need this in a size 10, please.
This is too large. I need this in a size 5.
Where can I find [item]?
Since every supermarket is set up (arranged) a little differently, we all can have trouble finding certain items.
You can ask someone at the store to help you find what you need with this simple phrase: “Where can I find…?” Just add the name of what you want after “find.”
The store clerk might answer you with a phrase like, “It is on aisle eight,” or, “It is in the Produce section, near the lettuce.”
Customer: Where can I find black olives?
Sales clerk: They are on aisle ten, near the pickles.
Customer: Where can I find a bag of almonds?
Sales clerk: They are in the baking section, on aisle seven.
How much does this/that cost?
If you are holding something you want to buy, or it is right near you, you can say “How much does this cost?” to find out (learn) the price.
You can also put the name of the object you want to buy after “this.”
How much does this shirt cost?
If you can see what you want to buy, but it is not right near you, you can point to it and say, “How much does that cost?” or “How much is that [item]?”
How much is that lamp over there?
I do not need a bag.
Let us say you just bought something small. You can easily carry it. You might tell the sales clerk or cashier that you do not need a shopping bag.
You might also say this if you have a shopping bag with you and do not need to get one from the store.
No, thank you. I do not need a bag. I can just carry it.
I do not need a bag. I brought my own with me.
Can someone help me carry this out?
If you buy something really large and hard to carry, like a table or a huge order of groceries, you are going to need help.
Most stores that sell large and heavy items offer assistance (help) from a member of staff. The staff member can help you carry your purchase (what you have bought) out of the store. They might even help you place it in your vehicle.
This is too heavy for me. Can someone help me carry this out?
Can someone help me carry this out? I have eighteen bags of groceries here!
Can I have this delivered?
Sometimes, you need to buy something so large—and so heavy—that there is no way you could bring it home from the store yourself.
That is when you will want to ask, “Can I have this delivered?”
This refrigerator is perfect! Can I have this delivered?
Can I have this delivered next Tuesday?
Simple English Sentences for Your Job
“I just started working here. I’m the new [name of your job].” Tell people you’re new by using this sentence.
“I’m working in the [name] department. What do you do here?” Jobs fall under different departments, which are sections of the jobs that concentrate on one part of the job. For example, the IT (Information Technology) Department works with setting up and fixing the company’s computers. When you introduce yourself, tell the person which department you work for, and ask them for theirs.
Making “small talk”
Small talk is light, polite conversation. It can be about the weather, food, or anything that isn’t too serious. If you’re in the same room or in an elevator as someone else, or just standing near each other and you aren’t working, making small talk can open conversation. This saves you from uncomfortable silences but also forms connections and eventually friendships.
“I love your (shoes/necklace etc.). Where did you get it/them?” Complimenting someone (saying something nice about a person) makes them feel good, and asking a question afterwards starts a conversation.
“I can’t believe how hot/cold it is today!” The weather is always a safe topic and can be used for almost any kind of weather. If it’s a beautiful day, say “I can’t believe how nice it is today.”
Submitting reports and ideas
“If you have a moment, I would love your thoughts on this.” This is a polite way of asking your boss or coworker for input on something you wrote or did.
“I have the report/information you asked for.” This is just a simple way of saying you finished the job you had.
“Do you mind if I record this?” A good way to make sure you don’t miss anything important at a meeting is to record it so you can listen to it again later. Make sure to ask for permission first by using this sentence.
“Excuse me, can you please speak up?” This is a polite way to ask someone to speak louder if you can’t hear them.
“Do we still have that meeting after lunch?” Make sure you know when all the meetings are so you don’t miss them.
Asking for help/clarifications
“I’m having trouble with [something]. Do you know who can help me?” Before you ask someone for help, find out if they’re the right person for the type of problem you’re having.
“Do you have a minute?” Before you ask for help, this is a common way to politely make sure the person isn’t busy.
“Are there any rules I should know about?” Every job has its own rules and ways of doing things. Find out what they are so that you can follow them.
The easy sentences you learned above are just the beginning.
You have the first Legos in place.
Now go build a castle!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)