Types of Sentences in English Grammar
Types of Sentences is often referred to as “Sentence Types”, “Different Types of Sentences” and “Kinds of Sentences” (this last reference you may often find in old English Grammar books). Types of sentences can be classified primarily in two groups – “Types of sentences based on function” and “Types of sentences based on structure”. Before we delve deep into the subject, let’s glance into the significance of sentences in English language.
Communication doesn’t happen on its own
It takes a lot of learning and information to be able to communicate with another human being. One piece of that work is to learn the about the different types of sentences the English language uses to make communication clear, concise and informative.
Using the right sentence with the right sentence structure is the key to great communication. In this article we are going to look at the different types of English sentences.
You may use them already without even noticing it. Most native English speakers have learned the different sentences young in life. By the time they reach high school they have forgotten the names and just use each style without thinking.
That is what practice and constant use does for you. You can use English grammar without thinking about it. Non-native English speakers are not so lucky. Until they get years of practice in, they still have to think about which sentence they should use and when.
To find out about the different sentences, just continue to read the article. You may learn something you did not already know. Or you may be reminded of something your teachers taught you long ago.
Different types of sentences based on function
If you are into counting, you will find that there are only 4 sentence types in the English language.
- The first is the statement or Declarative;
- the second is the question or Interrogative sentence;
- the third is the exclamation or Exclamatory;
- and finally, the fourth is the command or Imperative.
Each sentence type has its own purpose and use. They do not cross over or impose their way on the other sentences purpose. When you master the different sentence types and learn where to use them, you will find that your conversations or writing will perk up and be a lot better
Let’s take a look at the four types of sentences:
#1. The Statement or Declarative sentence
This is labeled in that way because all you are doing is making a declaration about something you like, etc., or a statement about something. That’s it. Here are some examples to illustrate what we are talking about.
That car is really old
I love honey on toast
The girl likes pancakes, but she doesn’t know how to make them
These statements are simple to construct and have no frills about them. Then these statements do not depend on being fact. They can be stating an opinion as well. The opinion does not necessarily have to be true but just what the person thinks.
Also, the declarative sentence uses all tenses. There is no special use for them as they handle past, present and future very easily.
I went to the store yesterday
I will go to the ball game tomorrow
We should stop for a minute to say that when you use the different sentence types, you should make sure to use the right punctuation. A question mark goes with this type of sentence. A period with the statement sentence, an exclamation mark with imperative or exclamation sentences, and the imperative can use either the exclamation mark or a period.
#2. The Question or Interrogative sentence
When you need information, you ask a question. This is the sole purpose of this sentence type. If you want to know what is going on, you ask a question. If you want to know where someone is going, you ask a question. If you need to find something, you ask a question.
It is not rocket science that we are doing here. Learning the different sentence types is simple, easy and quick. Here are a few examples of question sentences, in case you didn’t know:
Where are you going?
What is happening?
What do you want me to do?
Do you want me to write something for you?
Are you going to school today?
There is a wide variety of question sentences. Each one can use their own question word to begin. Some of those question words are, but not limited to the following: ‘Are you…’; ‘have you…’; ‘is it…’; ‘why did you…’ and on it goes.
** Special note- when you use the ‘wh’ and how question words, the yes/no answer is not the correct response. These questions demand full sentence answers. For example:
#1. Where are you going?
Correct- I am going to the mall
#2. How are you doing?
Correct- ‘I am doing great.’
#3. Why did you do that?
Correct- ‘because I wanted to.’
Do you see the point? Yes/no answers do not work for ‘wh’ and how questions. They will work for those questions starting with other question words like are, do, is, should and so on.
Figuring out how to ask and answer question words is quite simple, especially once you get the hang of it.
#3. Exclamation or Exclamatory sentence
As a child you may have heard these a lot. When a child steps out of line or makes the wrong decision, parents tend to emphasis what they are saying by using exclamatory sentences.
That is the purpose of exclamation sentences. They express very strong emotion. In listening, it is not hard to identify an exclamation sentence. The tone of the person’s voice will convey that information.
In writing, to make an exclamatory sentence you do need to use the exclamation point. Writing does not have any sound helping it out, so it needs help from its punctuation friends. Here are a few examples of exclamation sentences:
I said I wanted pizza!
I want to go now!
We are the champions!
There are times where you can combine a question sentence and an exclamation sentence and handle two jobs at the same time:
What were you thinking?!
Usually a parent uses these combinations. They are used when their child did something really stupid or very dangerous. Another example:
Where do you think you’re going?!
This is usually said when a parent catches their grounded child sneaking out of the house. They are not really looking for an answer but conveying to the disobedient child their very strong emotion.
#4. The Command or Imperative sentence
This are made usually by people who authority or are quite bossy. There is no fact and no search for information in these sentences. They also an be used without strong emotion. What command sentences do, and you may have figured it out already, is to tell people what to do.
Police officers, firemen during a fire, teachers, employers, and parents all use the command sentence quite well. They have the authority to tell people what to do and where to go.
Bossy older brothers and sisters do not have the authority but their place in the family line makes them think they can tell you what to do. Here are a few examples of command questions:
Get your hands up!
Do your homework.
Close the window.
Go to the bank and make that deposit.
Go to bed!
In using and hearing the command sentence, again it is the tone of voice by the user that tells you what is meant. In writing, it is the sentence structure as an imperative sentence can use both a period and an exclamation mark.
Also, you may think that the person using an imperative sentence has forgotten their grammar lessons. These sentences normally do not contain a subject. The subject is the person the command is directed towards. That makes them second person sentences.
It is understood without explanation who is being given the command.
Types of Sentences based on clause structure
We should spend a little time talking about this variety of sentence types. It will give you a better idea how to construct your sentences. There are four types of sentences here as well:
- first, is the simple sentence
- second, is the compound sentence
- third, is the complex sentence
- and finally, the compound-complex sentence
As you grow older or use English more often, you will naturally transition to the different sentence structures. Soon, you will be able to pick and choose which sentence structure fits your communication purpose and can use all them at different times, even if you are fluent in English.
#1. The simple sentence
While it is the easiest sentence to create, it does have some rules you must follow. Along with being one independent clause there are aspects that need to be part of the sentence:
- It must have a subject and a verb
- It must be a complete thought
- It can only have 1 clause
That is simple and straightforward. Here are a few examples of a simple sentence:
I ran out of paper for the printer.
The lasagna smells good.
Can I have some milk to drink, please?
She went to the store.
These are very simple and very easy sentences to create and use.
#2. The compound sentence
A little more difficult than the simple sentence, but still very easy to learn how to use and put together. There are two basic rules governing compound sentences:
- Two or more simple sentences make one compound sentence
- A conjunction is needed to make a compound sentence
With these simple rules, English is looking easier to learn all the time. When you put your mind to it, these sentence structures are more common sense than anything else. Here are a few examples of compound sentences:
I ran to class, but my friend walked.
The photographer wiggled his bells and the baby smiled.
I arrived late, however the class had not begun.
It as very hot outside and the ice cream melted.
All it takes to make a compound sentence is to remember to link two simple sentences with a conjunction. Of course, the two simple sentences have to be related. You can’t pick two completely different simple sentence, link them together and claim you have made a compound sentence. What you made was an English mess.
#3. The complex sentence
Now we are getting into the trickier part of making sentences. The complex sentence is comprised of an independent clause and a dependent clause. They to have to be joined together to make the sentence complex.
That is the only rule for this type of sentence. However, certain words are used at the beginning of the dependent clause. These words are called subordinating conjunctions and can be-
as, as if, before, after, because, though, even though, while, when, whenever, if, during, as soon as, as long as, since, until, unless, where, and wherever
Some examples of complex sentences are as follows:
Because the bridge wasn’t properly maintained by the government, it fell down.
Whenever they eat at this restaurant, they order a hamburger and fries.
He’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight if he keeps exercising.
Because the world is getting warmer, polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct.
Notice that the independent clause does not have to be the first clause in the sentence.
#4. The compound-complex sentence
If you think the last sentence was difficult, wait till you read about this one. To make a compound-complex sentence, you need more than one sentence, a conjunction, a dependent clause and a subordinate clause.
To make it simple, you are actually combining #2 & #3 sentence types together. Some examples may help you:
I will get to watch television, but first, I have to clean up the dishes after we finish eating.
We won the game, but my uniform was muddy because it rained the entire time.
I will get to watch television, but first, I have to clean up the dishes after we finish eating.
Some final thoughts
As we said before, learning English can get overwhelming. There are so many things to learn. But if you break down the different aspects into manageable parts, you should be able to pick up the language quite well.
It just takes a little patience and dedication to learn everything there is to know about sentence types.