IELTS Writing: Sentence Construction – an A-Z guide
Grammar is a crucial marking criterion not only in Writing but also Speaking. In particular, along with applying vocabulary in correct context, grammar is assessed on how you write a SENTENCE. In the other words, the examiner will evaluate your ability to use a wide range of structure. You should bear in mind that a decent essay should include:
– Opening (2 sentences)
– Body (2 paragraphs with 5-6 sentences per paragraph)
– Conclusion (2 sentences)
Thus, a good essay only contains 14-16 sentences so if you write good sentences, you can create a decent paragraph. When you connect decent paragraphs you will get a fabulous essay. Very simple!
So the question is how to construct good sentences.
Simply, there are 3 types of sentences we can write, namely, SIMPLE SENTENCES, COMPOUND SENTENCES, and COMPLEX SENTENCES. Now, I will guide you how to write each type of sentences.
1- SIMPLE SENTENCES (lowest score)
– Sentence structure:
You can construct a simple sentence using these structures:
- S+V+O. (John likes cats)
- S+S+V+O. (John and Janet like cats)
- S+V+V+O. (John do not hate and do not have a cat)
In the other words, no matter whether how many subject, verbs, or objects you get in your sentence, it’s still a simple sentence. In fact, you cannot gain a high score by using this kind of sentence.
2- COMPOUND SENTENCES (higher score)
A compound sentence is created by connecting 2 simple sentences using FANBOYS (coordinators: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so; remember to distinguish between BUT and YET) or TRANSITION WORDS (however, furthermore, moreover, in addition, etc.)
– Sentence structure:
S+V+O + (linking words) + S+V+O
A nuclear plant requires strict safety controls, so staff is trained for nearly a year before its operation.
3- COMPLEX SENTENCES (highest score)
– Sentence structure:
S + V + O
S or O contains one clause (clause = S+V+O)
The increasing number of private vehicles put more strain on public infrastructure that the Government has to reconstruct it annually.
S = The increasing number of private vehicles
V = put
O = more strain on public infrastructure / that the Government has to reconstruct it annually ( after “that” is a clause)
A complex sentence is popular with 3 kinds of clauses which are NOUN CLAUSES, ADJECTIVE CLAUSES, ADVERB CLAUSES.
– NOUN CLAUSES
Functions: Act as a noun but it is a clause (S+V+O). Thus, it will stand at the position of Noun.
>If it acts as a Subject (S):
• Whether the Government should ban private vehicles/ is / a controversial issue
• It / is / true that technology is increasingly discouraging human interactions (note that this sentence use “it” as a dummy subject in the replacement for the group of words after “that…”). Actually, this sentence is: that technology is increasingly discouraging human interactions is true. However, in Academic writing, we should not use “that” at the beginning of a sentence so we should use “it” instead.
>>If it acts as an Object (O):
• Some people / believe / that formal education is a guarantee for their future success.
• However, others / hold / an opposite opinion that early working experience brings young people more competitive advantages in the future.
>>Some excellent sentences: (What…not…but…)
• What young people need most is NOT money, BUT soft skills and working experience in some key areas
• What most companies need is NOT robots, BUT creative people who can contribute ideas.
– ADJ CLAUSES
Functions: Act as an adjective, or in the other words, this is a complement clause for a noun.
Students who rely on teachers for knowledge / are / passive in their learning.
Children who are over dependent on technology / may have / a tendency to accompany a sedentary lifestyle.
Working at home / is / suitable for employees that have their own working disciplines.
>>>, which (replacement for the whole sentence)
Manufacturers discharge chemical waste into the rivers, which deteriorates water-quality
(, which is a complement clause for the whole clause before it, this means “the act of discharging chemical waste into the rivers will deteriorate water quality”)
– ADV CLAUSES
Functions: Act as an adverb, this clause talk about time (when), place (where), condition (if) – all condition clause is the complex sentence.
While many countries try to cut down on emissions, US Government withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement.
If a student wants to be successful in their future career, they need to learn about job-specific information.
You should bear in mind that in your essay, complex sentences must comprise at least 70% of total sentences to get the maximum score.
You can also connect a complex and a compound sentence to generate a more sophisticated complex sentence.
Upon graduation, some students wanted to travel, but others went to work.
The article was translated by our volunteer from Hai Vu – an IELTS teacher.