A declarative sentence is a sentence that makes a statement—any statement, from vitally important information to a minor detail. As the simplest way to communicate information, declarative sentences are the most common type of sentence in the English language, as opposed to interrogative sentences, exclamatory sentences, and imperative sentences.
So how do declarative sentences work? Below, we explain all the rules and expert tips, plus we include plenty of declarative sentence examples.
What is a declarative sentence?
A declarative sentence is one of the four sentence types in the English language, along with interrogative sentences, exclamatory sentences, and imperative sentences. Each one serves a unique function; for declarative sentences, their function is to communicate information directly.
Any time you state a fact, opinion, observation, or explanation in a plain manner, you’re using a declarative sentence. For example, every sentence in this paragraph, the above paragraph, and the next paragraph are all declarative sentences.
Like most other sentence types, declarative sentences require a subject and a predicate. The subject is the noun that performs the action of a sentence, while the predicate is simply the verb, or action, of the sentence. Together, a subject and a predicate make up an independent clause, which is necessary for most sentence types, including declarative sentences.
Unlike other common types of sentences, declarative sentences always end in a period.
Types of declarative sentences with examples
As mentioned above, every declarative sentence needs at least one independent clause, which must contain a subject and a predicate. However, declarative sentences can also have more than one independent clause, or an independent clause combined with something called a subordinate clause (sometimes called a dependent clause).
There are four different types of declarative sentences, depending on how many clauses you have and which types they are. We provide a brief summary below, but if you’d like to learn more, check out our guide to sentence structure.
Simple sentence: A simple sentence is a sentence with one independent clause and nothing more.
The sky looks blue.
Compound sentence: A compound sentence is a sentence with two or more independent clauses. The clauses are usually connected by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, known as the FANBOYS), which typically require a comma, but not always. Alternatively, you can connect independent clauses using only a semicolon.
The sky looks blue, and the clouds look gray.
Complex sentence: A complex sentence is a sentence with one independent clause and any number of subordinate clauses. If the subordinate clause comes before the independent clause, use a comma. If not, no comma is necessary.
If I wear my glasses, the sky looks blue.
Compound-complex sentence: A compound-complex sentence is a sentence with two or more independent clauses and one or more subordinate clauses. They follow the rules for both compound sentences and complex sentences.
If I wear my glasses, the sky looks blue, and the clouds look gray.
Word order in declarative sentences
The word order in declarative sentences is quite straightforward:
Subject -> Verb -> Objects
Ideally, the subject comes first, followed by the verb (the predicate), and after that comes the indirect object and direct object. Note that a lot of sentences don’t have objects, so sometimes you only need a subject and a predicate.
Other parts of the sentence, such as prepositional phrases and the subordinate clauses mentioned above, can be added at the beginning or the end of the sentence. You can also add transition words before the subject, a big help with connecting sentences in longer works like creative writing or research papers.
What is the difference between declarative sentences and interrogative sentences?
While declarative sentences are statements, interrogative sentences are questions. In the English language, they follow a couple of different rules than declarative sentences. First, interrogative sentences end with a question mark. Second, the word order for interrogative sentences is this:
Verb -> Subject -> Object
Let’s look at some examples. First, let’s take a simple declarative sentence:
Pronunciation in the United States is different than in the United Kingdom.
Now, let’s rephrase that example as a question, or an interrogative sentence. Notice the changes in both the word order at the beginning and the punctuation at the end.
Is pronunciation in the United States different than in the United Kingdom?
What is the difference between declarative sentences and exclamatory sentences?
Exclamatory sentences are very similar to declarative sentences. They both have the same word order, but exclamatory sentences end with an exclamation point instead of a period.
However, even though they look similar, the meaning is very different. Exclamatory sentences are more urgent, emotional, or surprising. They’re used to make certain sentences stand out as more exciting.
To illustrate what we mean, let’s take our declarative sentence example above and rewrite it as an exclamatory sentence.
Pronunciation in the United States is different than in the United Kingdom!
The word order is identical, and the only technical difference is the punctuation at the end. However, the meaning is very different. As an exclamatory sentence, this example could mean the speaker is excited because they just discovered the difference in pronunciation, or maybe they’re frustrated because they can’t understand a Scottish soap opera.
What is the difference between declarative sentences and imperative sentences?
Lastly, imperative sentences act like commands or requests. In other words, they’re used to give orders to someone, whether politely or not.
Imperative sentences are the only common type of sentence that do not need a subject. Because imperative sentences are always commands, the subject is assumed to be the person the speaker is talking to. Since the subject is assumed, there’s no need to include it in the sentence.
Imperative sentences typically start with the verb, but can also start with subordinate clauses or a polite modifier like “please.” They can end with either a period or an exclamation point.
When in the United Kingdom, change your pronunciation.
Please pronounce words differently!
Examples of declarative sentences in literature
Want to know how to write better sentences? Let’s take a look at some great examples of declarative sentences from English literature. Seeing how renowned authors use declarative sentences can help you understand the finer points.
“You forget what you want to remember, and you remember what you want to forget.”
—Cormac McCarthy, The Road
“Not all who wander are lost.”
—J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
“I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.”
—Toni Morrison, Jazz
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and they are not the same man.”
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby