Types of Sentences in English Grammar
Before dealing with the types of sentences, let us examine a sentence. A sentence is a set of grammatically linked words that conveys complete sense.
A sentence essentially consists of a subject and a predicate (that states what the subject does or is).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 of these sentences can be classified to different categories. In this article we are going to look at the different types of English sentences.
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 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.
You may be using 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 may 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 types of 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 based on function, there are only 4 sentence types in the English language.
- The first is the statement or Declarative sentence;
- the second is the question or Interrogative sentence;
- the third is the exclamation or Exclamatory sentence;
- and finally, the fourth is the command or Imperative sentence.
Each sentence type has its own purpose and use. They do not cross over or impose their way on the other sentence’s 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
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 statement 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 exclamation mark.
Now let us study the four types of sentence functions in detail, one by one.
#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 am going to the shop now.
I will go to the ball game tomorrow.
Positive and negative sentences
Declarative sentences can either be positive or negative. When they have a positive meaning, they are called positive sentences or affirmative sentences. When they have a negative meaning they are called negative sentence.
A positive sentence or affirmative sentence says us that something is so. A sentence that says that something is not so, is called a negative sentence. A positive sentence has no negative words. It can be made negative using negative words such as not, none, nobody, and isn’t.
Examples of positive (PS) and negative (NS) sentences:
- The girl is singing. (PS)
The girl is not dancing (NS)
- 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
Positive sentences can be changed to negative sentences with the help of auxiliary verbs.
*Auxiliary verbs are verbs that help the main verbs to change tense, to form negative, and to make question etc... E.g. Do, be, shall, will, have, etc. **
These will be explained in more detail in the article, “Auxiliary verbs”.
a) With change in meaning:
It is very easy to change a positive sentence to negative with change in meaning. You have just to add suitable negative words, such as not, anyone, 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)
b) Without change in meaning:
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. 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. Examples:
- 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 are four types of question 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) For example:
- 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. For example:
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. For example:
- 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?
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. For example:
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 have to be used in these types of questions. For example:
- 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. For example:
#1. Where are you going?
Ans. I am going to the mall.
#2. How are you doing?
Ans. ‘I am doing great.’
#3. 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 home town 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 so as 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 are question embedded in a statement. For example:
I asked him where he was staying.
A question,”Where are you staying?” is embedded in this statement. But it should be clearly understood that an interrogative sentence always ask direct questions and indirect question or embedded questions do not come under the category of” Interrogative sentences.”
#3. 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 mark. 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!
What a cute baby!
Depending upon the situation, there are different methods of expressing or writing exclamatory sentences. Some examples of the common categories are given hereunder.
1. Expressing strong emotion
- Many, many sweet returns of the day!
- Happy New Year!
- Happy Christmas!
2. Those begin with “What”:
- What beautiful scenery!
- What a cute baby!
- What a nice behavior!
3. Those begin with “How”:
- How beautifully she sings!
- How brightly it shines!
- How neatly she has kept her house!
4. Exclamatory sentences containing “such”:
- She is such a kind lady!
- He is such a bright student!
- She is such a wonderful writer!
5. 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. The Command or Imperative sentence
These are made usually by people who are in authority or are quite bossy. There is no fact and no search for information in these sentences. They also can 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 to whom the command is directed towards. To be specific the subject is “you”. It is understood here. That makes imperative sentences second person sentences.
Types of Sentences based on structure
In English language, based on the structure, there are four types of sentences. They are:
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,
1. 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.
2. 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 has to 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 by itself. It can stand as a sentence by itself. On the other hand, ” when the night came.” cannot stand by its own and make complete sense. It is dependent on the main clause, “They went home”.
.Now let us study the sentence structure one by one.
#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 express 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
Compound sentences contain at least two independent clauses that have related ideas. These clauses are joined together using a coordinating conjunction, a correlative conjunction, semicolon or a Transitional expression
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?
Let us take the case of two simple sentences.
We can combine them only if the two simple sentences are related. You can’t pick two completely different simple sentences, link them together and claim you have made a compound sentence. What you made was an English mess.
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 a comma and a *coordinating conjunction
- Using **correlative conjunction.
- Using semicolon.
- With a semi colon and a ***transitional expression.
- Quick Reference:
*coordinating conjunctions are conjunctions used to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences of equal rank. The 7 conjunctions used in English language are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. (Acronym: FANBOYS)
**correlative conjunctions are also called paired conjunctions as they work in pairs. They are used to connect two words, phrases or clauses of equal status.
Commonly used correlative conjunctions: not only…but also, either …or, neither…nor, though…net et also, either …or, neither…nor, both…and, though…yet
***Transitional expression is a word or phrase which is used to connect one idea to another between or within the sentence. This includes conjunctive adverbs too. Examples: on the other hand, moreover, on the contrary, nevertheless, etc.
Forming Compound sentences using a comma and a coordinating conjunction
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.
Punctuation: A comma must be put before the coordinating conjunction.
If the independent sentences to be joined are very small 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 correlating conjunction
- John is not only very handsome, but also is very 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.
Punctuation: It may be noted that a comma must come before the conjunction that introduces the second independent clause.
Forming Compound sentences using semicolon
If the two independent sentences to be joined are closely related we can join them 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 transitional expression
- 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.
Punctuation: It may be noted that a semicolon precedes the transitional expression and a comma after it.
We have not received your reservation; therefore, our assumption is that you will not be attending the meeting.
#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 too 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
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 actually combining #2 & #3 sentence types together. Some examples may 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
(because we, the beginners,
had faced the veterans confidently). —-dependent clause
because —- subordinating conjunction
In the above example, there are two Independent clauses combined together 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 conjunction
In the above example, there are two complex sentences (each consisting of one independent clause and one dependent clause), combined together 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— Independent clause
I loved her——- Independent clause
(for the dangers that I
had faced to marry her) — dependent clause
because she loved me —- dependent clause
and —- coordinating conjunction
that, because —- subordinating conjunction
Above example also has two complex sentences connected together with the coordinating conjunction, “and”.
It just takes a little patience and dedication to learn everything there is to know about the types of sentences.
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 of them at different times, even if you are not so fluent in English.
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.