What is a sentence?
Communication does not 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 about the different types of sentences the English language uses to make communication clear and informative. Using the right sentence with the right sentence structure is the key to great communication.
Before dealing with the types of sentences, let us examine a sentence. A sentence is a set of grammatically arranged words that conveys complete sense.
A sentence consists of a subject and predicate. A new sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with an appropriate punctuation mark.
In our daily life while speaking, reading, and writing, we come across thousands of sentences. Based on their structure and the function they perform; all these sentences can be classified to different categories. In this article we are going to look at the different types of English sentences.
What are the types of sentences?
By default, types of sentences are classified based on function. Sentences can be classified based on structure as well. This article covers 8 different types of sentences classified based on function and structure.
[A] Types of Sentences based on Function
Based on function, there are four sentence types in the English language. They are:
- Declarative sentence (The statement)
- Interrogative sentence (The question)
- Exclamatory sentence (The exclamation)
- Imperative sentence (The command)
Each sentence type has its own purpose and use. They do not cross over or impose their way on the other sentence’s purpose
Importance of punctuation in types of sentences:
Before going into the details of the types of sentences, we should stop for a minute to say about the importance of punctuation.
When you write the different sentence types, you should make sure to use the right punctuation. A question mark goes with the interrogative sentence, a period with the declarative sentence and an exclamation mark with exclamatory sentence. The imperative sentence generally uses a period, but when a strong feeling is to be expressed, it can use an exclamation mark.
Now let us study the four types of sentence functions in detail, one by one.
1. Declarative sentence
A Declarative sentence is a type of sentence that expresses an opinion or simply makes a statement. In other words, it makes a declaration.
- That car is old.
- I love honey on toast.
- Our World of Dogs provides excellent pet boarding in Bangalore.
- The girl likes pancakes, but she doesn’t know how to make them.
- Our World of Horses blog has the best information about Buckskin horse breed.
The declarative sentence uses all tenses. They handle past, present, and future very easily.
- I went to the store yesterday.
- I am going to the shop now.
- I will go to the ball game tomorrow.
Types of declarative sentences.
Declarative sentences can be two types as indicated below:
- Positive sentence
- Negative sentence
When the Declarative sentences have a positive meaning, they are called positive sentences or affirmative sentences. A positive sentence has no negative words.
- The girl is singing. (PS)
A positive sentence or affirmative sentence tells us that something is so. A sentence that tells that something is not so, is called a negative sentence.
- The girl is not dancing (NS)
More Examples of positive (PS) and negative (NS) sentences:
- I lost my pencil box. (PS)
- I have no pencil now. (NS)
- You look dull. (PS)
- I have not taken bath today. (NS)
Changing positive sentence to negative sentence:
A positive sentence has no negative words. It can be made negative using Auxiliary verbs and negative words such as not, none, nobody, and isn’t.
Changing positive sentence to negative sentence with change in meaning
It is quite easy to change a positive sentence to negative with change in meaning. You have just to add suitable negative words, such as not, none, nobody, or isn’t, taking the help of proper auxiliary verbs.
- I am going. (PS)
- I am not going (NS)
- She works in a school. (PS)
- She doesn’t work in a school. (NS)
- Someone came here yesterday. (PS)
- Nobody came here yesterday. (NS)
- They are going. (PS)
- They are not going. (NS)
Changing positive sentence to negative sentence without change in meaning:
Two methods are given below. We can use one of them suitable to the context.
Method 1. Using antonyms
- The sugar bottle is empty. (PS)
- There is no sugar in the sugar bottle. (NS)
- This shirt is dirty. (PS)
- This shirt is not clean. (NS)
Method 2. Using degree of comparison
- He is taller than I. (PS)
- I am not as tall as he. (NS)
- Mary is more beautiful than Ann. (PS)
- Ann is not as beautiful as Mary. (NS)
2. Interrogative sentence
What is an interrogative sentence?
- 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?
Types of Interrogative sentence
There are four types of interrogative sentences. They are:
- Yes/No Interrogatives
- Alternative Interrogatives
- Wh- Interrogatives
- Tag Questions
Questions which require a “yes” or “no” answer, are called Yes/No Interrogatives.
- Are you going home?
- Will you come with me?
The answer to each of the above question will be either a “yes” or “no”
How to form Yes/No Interrogatives:
Yes/No Interrogatives are formed with the help of auxiliary verbs. The typical form of such question is:
Auxiliary verb (be, do or have) + subject + main verb or
modal verb + subject + main verb
The auxiliary verbs are inverted with the subject (subject – verb inversion)
- Are you going to school?
- Will Jack come tomorrow?
- Have you finished your homework?
- Do you like folkdance?
When there is more than one auxiliary verb or model verb in the sentence, only one auxiliary verb or model should be put before the subject.
- Have you been working for the whole day? (Only “have” has been put before the subject “you”)
Alternative Interrogatives are questions that give a choice among two or more answers. Therefore, these questions are also called choice questions.
- Do you prefer coffee or tea?
- Will you come with me now, or will you go with James afterwards?
- Do you prefer to live in the village or the city?
- Will they buy an apartment or villa?
How to form Alternative Interrogatives:
Alternative Interrogatives are also formed with the help of auxiliary verbs. The form of such a question is:
Auxiliary verb (be, do or have) + subject + main verb or
Modal verb + subject + main verb.
The auxiliary verbs are inverted with the subject (subject-verb inversion)
In the alternative question to be formed, if the main verb is “be”, additional auxiliary verb need not be used.
- Are those flowers roses or Begonias? (The main verb, “are” itself is used to ask the question)
Wh- Interrogatives are questions asked using one of the question words, who, what, where, when, why, and how. Auxiliary verbs also must be used in these types of questions.
- Where are you going?
- How are you doing?
- Why did you do that?
When you use the ‘wh’ and ‘how’ question words, the questions demand full sentence answers.
Q. Where are you going?
Ans. I am going to the mall.
Q. How are you doing?
Ans. ‘I am doing great.’
Q. Why did you do that?
Ans: ‘Because I wanted to.’
Although in the above examples, the answers are given in single sentences, depending upon the situation, the answer may require long explanation.
Tag questions are questions formed by attaching question tags onto the end of a declarative sentence. The tags are usually made using an auxiliary verb inverted with subject. These question tags change the declarative sentences to interrogative sentences.
- You are from USA, aren’t you?
- She is watching a film in the T.V.at home, isn’t she?
- You will go to your hometown tomorrow, won’t you?
- She was a kind woman, wasn’t she?
- He is not attending the meeting, is he?
Sometimes a declarative sentence can be used as interrogative sentence by putting a question mark at the end of the sentence. When you ask questions like this orally, the last syllable of the sentence should be given proper intonation to make the listener understand that a question is being asked to him.
- The train has already left?
- Your son got the job he desired?
Indirect questions/Embedded questions
Indirect questions are questions embedded in a statement.
- I asked him where he was staying.
A question, “Where are you staying?”, is embedded in the given statement. But it should be clearly understood that an interrogative sentence always asks direct questions. Indirect questions/ embedded questions do not come under the category of “Interrogative sentences”.
3. Exclamatory sentence
What is an Exclamatory sentence?
An Exclamatory sentence is a type of sentence that expresses strong emotion. In listening, it is not hard to identify an exclamation sentence. The tone of the person’s voice will convey that information. But in writing, to make an exclamatory sentence you need to use the exclamation mark. Here are a few examples of exclamation sentences:
- What a tasty pizza!
- How I wish to go now!
- We are the champions!
- What a cute baby!
There are different methods of expressing or writing exclamatory sentences. We must choose one suitable for the occasion. Some examples of the common categories are given hereunder:
Exclamatory sentences expressing strong emotion
- Many, many sweet returns of the day!
- Happy New Year!
- Happy Christmas!
Exclamatory sentences those begin with “What”:
- What a beautiful scenery!
- What a cute baby!
- What a nice behavior!
Exclamatory sentences those begin with “How”:
- How brightly it shines!
- How beautifully she sings!
- How neatly she has kept her house!
Exclamatory sentences containing “such”:
- She is such a kind lady!
- He is such a bright student!
- She is such a wonderful writer!
Exclamatory sentences containing “so”:
- She is so glamorous!
- He is so handsome!
- That gentleman is so generous!
It is to be remembered that exclamatory sentences express strong emotion and should be used carefully. They are not to be used to write reports or academic purposes.
4. Imperative sentence
What is an Imperative sentence?
An Imperative sentence is one of the types of sentences which is used to issue a command, instruction, make a request, or offer advice. Basically, they tell people what to do. These sentences also provide direction to whoever is being addressed and therefore, they are sometimes called directives too.
Imperative sentences usually end with a period but can occasionally end with an exclamation point.
Given below, are some examples of imperative sentences which illustrate their function.
- Get your hands up! (Command)
- Do your homework. (Instruction)
- Close the window. (Request or demand)
- Go to the bank and make that deposit. (instruction)
- Go to bed. (Demand)
- Please come with me for dinner. (Invitation)
While hearing the command sentence, it is the tone of voice by the user that tells you what is meant, but in writing, it is the sentence structure that helps. If the situation so demands, an imperative sentence can use an exclamation mark instead of a period.
The imperative sentences typically begin with verbs that issue a command. Normally the subject of an imperative sentence is implied. The subject is the person to whom the command is directed towards. To be specific, the subject is “you”. It is understood here. That makes the imperative sentences second person sentences.
[B] Types of Sentences based on Structure
In English language, based on the structure, there are four types of sentences. They are:
- Simple sentence
- Compound sentence
- Complex sentence
- Compound-Complex sentence
Information about clauses that you should know:
Before delving into the details of sentence structures, let us learn some basic facts about clauses because all sentences consist of clauses. Some sentences consist of only one clause (simple sentence) whereas some sentences may contain several clauses (complex, compound, or complex- compound sentences). A clause should have a subject and predicate of its own and should express a thought. There are two types of clauses, namely,
Independent clause or main clause
An Independent clause is a clause that has a subject and a predicate of its own and makes good sense by itself. In other words, it can be said that an Independent clause can stand by itself as a sentence. Therefore, it is called an Independent clause. It is also called main clause, principal clause, and co- ordinate clause.
Dependent clause or subordinate clause
A Dependent clause, also called a subordinate clause, is a clause that is a part of a sentence. It cannot stand on its own and make complete sense. It must depend on the main clause to have complete sense. For this reason, it is called a dependent clause.
As a basic example, a sentence which shows an Independent clause, and a Dependent clause is given hereunder.
- They went home when the night came.
In the above sentence,” They went home” is the independent clause because it has got a subject (They) and a predicate (went home), and it expresses a complete idea. It can stand as a sentence by itself. On the other hand, the clause, ” when the night came.” cannot stand on its own and make complete sense. It is dependent on the main clause, “They went home”. So “when the night came“ is a dependent clause.
Now let us study the sentence structures one by one.
1. The simple sentence
Simple sentences are one of the 4 types of sentences based on structure. 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 express a complete thought.
It can only have one clause.
That is simple and straightforward. Here are a few examples of a simple sentence:
- I ran out of paper for the printer.
- The cake smells good.
- Can I have some milk to drink, please?
- She went to the store.
These are quite simple and quite easy sentences to create and use.
2. The compound sentence
Compound sentences contain at least two independent clauses that have related ideas. These clauses are joined using a coordinating conjunction, a correlative conjunction, semicolon, or a conjunctive adverb
Here are a few examples of compound sentences:
- The photographer wiggled his bells, and the baby smiled.
- I arrived late; however, the class had not begun.
- It was hot outside, but the ice cream did not melt.
How to form compound sentences?
We can combine two simple sentences only if they are related. You cannot pick two completely different simple sentences, link them together, and claim you have made a compound sentence. What you made was an English mess. For example, let us take the two simple sentences given below.
- I want to play chess. He will go to Delhi tomorrow.
The above two sentences have no relation to each other. Therefore, they cannot be combined.
Now look at the following sentences
- I want to buy a scooter. I haven’t sufficient money.
Above sentences have relation with each other. They can be combined to form a compound sentence as shown below:
- I want to buy a scooter, but I haven’t sufficient money.
Compound sentences can be formed using any one of the following four methods as the situation demands.
- Using coordinating conjunction
- Using correlative conjunction
- Using semicolon
- Using conjugative adverb
Forming Compound sentences using a coordinating conjunction
We know that there are seven coordinating conjunctions in English language, and they are: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So (Acronym: FANBOYS).
When we join two independent clauses with a coordinate conjunction to form a compound sentence, we must choose the most suitable one for the context.
Punctuation rule: The coordinate conjunction must be preceded by a comma.
- I ran to class, but my friend walked.
- Ann went to her friend’s house, and her sister accompanied her.
- I went quickly, for I had to attend a meeting at 9.00 A.M.
If the independent sentences to be joined are short and closely related either a comma or a coordinating conjunction are sufficient for joining the same.
- Ann opened the door and Jill took the bag inside. (No comma)
- Ann opened the door, Jill took the bag inside. (Only comma)
Forming Compound sentences using a correlative conjunction
We know that correlative conjunctions are paired conjunctions, that are always used together. Some of the most common correlative conjunctions are:
not only… but also
No sooner … than
We can join two independent clauses using a pair of correlative conjunctions. But while choosing a correlative conjunction to form a compound sentence, care must be taken to select the most suitable conjunction capable of expressing the relationship between the two independent clauses.
Punctuation rule: A comma must come before the conjunction that introduces the second independent clause.
- John is not only very handsome, but also is highly intelligent.
- You can either go with Jim in his car or go by bus afterwards.
- I neither know, nor wish to know about Jill’s whereabouts.
- No sooner had I reached the hall, than the meeting started.
Forming Compound sentences using semicolon
If the two independent sentences to be joined are closely related, we can join them only with a semicolon.
- I wanted to play caroms; my friend wanted to play chess.
- Jill filled the bucket; Jack carried it.
- I brought the rope; father tied the knot.
Forming Compound sentences using conjunctive adverb
We know that conjunctive adverbs are adverbs used as conjunction to join two independent clauses. Thus, using conjunctive adverbs too, we can form compound sentences. There are a lot of conjunctive adverbs in English language. When we choose a conjunctive adverb to join two independent clauses, care must be given to select one that is most suited to the relationship of the two clauses.
Punctuation rule: A semicolon precedes conjunctive adverb and a comma after it.
- I was awake the whole night; therefore, I am feeling sleepy now.
- Jack misbehaved in the class; as a result, he got punishment from his teacher.
- We have not received your reservation; therefore, our assumption is that you will not be attending the meeting.
3. The complex sentence
The complex sentence is a sentence that consists of an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses, introduced, and joined with the linking word, called subordinating conjunctions. There are a lot of subordinate conjunctions in English language. Some of the commonly used subordinate conjunctions are: 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:
- As 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.
- As the world is getting warmer, polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct.
In the above complex sentences, the dependent clauses are highlighted. A subordinate conjunction introduces and links each of the dependent clauses to the independent clause. The dependent clause may be an adverb clause, a noun clause, or a relative clause.
Notice that the independent clause does not have to be the first clause in the sentence. When the dependent clause is placed first, we generally put a comma after it. But in case the independent clause comes first no comma is usually needed.
He will pass the test if he studies well.
4. The compound-complex sentence
To make a compound-complex sentence, you need at least two independent clauses, a conjunction, and one or more dependent clauses (subordinate clauses).
To make it simple, you are combining two sentence types together. That is, a complex and compound sentence are combined to form a compound-complex sentence. Some examples will help you:
- We did not win the game, but we were not unhappy because we, the beginners, had faced the veterans confidently.
We did not win the game – Independent clause
we were not unhappy – Independent clause
but – Coordinating conjunction
(because we, the beginners, had faced the veterans confidently). – Dependent clause
because – Subordinating conjunction
In the above example, there are two Independent clauses combined with the coordinating conjunction” but”, and one dependent clause connected to the independent clause with the subordinating conjunction, “because”
- The flower girl was crying because she could not sell her flowers till evening, but when the gentleman bought the entire flower basket, she became happy.
The flower girl was crying – Independent clause
she became happy – Independent clause
(because she could not sell her flowers till evening) – Dependent clause
(when the gentleman bought the entire flower basket) – Dependent clause
but – Coordinating conjunction
when, because – Subordinating conjunctions
In the above example, there are two complex sentences (each consisting of one independent clause and one dependent clause), combined with the coordinating conjunction” but”. The dependent clause of the first complex sentence is connected to the independent clause with the subordinating conjunction,” because” and the second complex sentence is connected to the independent clause with the subordinating conjunction, “when”.
- She loved me for the dangers that I had faced to marry her, and I loved her because she loved me.
She loved me for the dangers – Independent clause
I loved her – Independent clause
(that I had faced to marry her) – Dependent clause
because she loved me – Dependent clause
and – Coordinating conjunction
that, because – Subordinating conjunctions
Above example also has two complex sentences connected with the coordinating conjunction, “and”.
As a compound-complex sentence is a combination of complex and compound sentences, so all the rules relevant to both complex sentences and compound sentences are to be observed while forming compound-complex sentences too.
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. A word of caution is not to use the Backslash [ \ ] symbol in place of the Forward slash [ / ] symbol while framing sentences. The forward symbol is an English punctuation symbol while the forward slash is used in the computing language. I have written a dedicated article on \ Backslash symbol which differentiates the usage between the forward slash and backslash. Please refer the same here Backslash and Forward Slash.