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Every Type of Sentence, Explained

Updated on April 16, 2021Writing Tips

Every sentence is unique. That’s a declarative sentence. 

But what makes every sentence unique? That’s an interrogative sentence. 

When you understand each unique type of sentence, you’ll become a stronger writer. That’s a conditional sentence. 

Understanding the different sentence types and how they function together in your writing is more than just recognizing them. Read on to learn more about how the different sentence types operate, how to structure them, and how to make sure you’re using them correctly. 

That last one was an imperative sentence. 

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Types of sentence based on function 

Sentences can be classified in two ways: based on their function and based on their structure. When you describe a sentence based on its function, you’re describing it based on what it does. 

Declarative sentences

A declarative sentence is a sentence that:

  • Makes a statement
  • Provides an explanation
  • Conveys one or more facts

Declarative sentences are among the most common sentences in the English language. You use them every day. They end with periods.

Here are a few examples of declarative sentences: 

  • I forgot to wear a hat today.
  • Your pizza is doughy because you didn’t cook it long enough.
  • Spiders and crabs are both members of the arthropod family.

Interrogative sentences

An interrogative sentence is a sentence that asks a question, like:

  • How many pet iguanas do you have?
  • May I sit here?
  • Aren’t there enough umbrellas to go around?

One hallmark of interrogative sentences is that they usually begin with pronouns or auxiliary verbs. When this kind of sentence does start with the subject, it’s usually in colloquial speech. For example:

  • He went there again?
  • Rats can’t swim, right?

Exclamatory sentences

Much like an interrogative question ends with a question mark, an exclamatory sentence ends with an exclamation mark. These sentences communicate heightened emotion and are often used as greetings, warnings, or rallying cries. Examples include:

  • Hey!
  • High voltage! Do not touch!
  • This is Sparta!

The only difference between a declarative sentence and an exclamatory one is the punctuation at the end. But that punctuation makes a big difference in how the reader or listener interprets the sentence. Consider the difference between these:

  • It’s snowing.
  • It’s snowing!

Imperative sentences

An imperative sentence is a sentence that gives the reader advice, instructions, a command or makes a request. 

An imperative sentence can end in either a period or an exclamation point, depending on the urgency of the sentiment being expressed. Imperative sentences include:

  • Get off my lawn!
  • After the timer dings, take the cookies out of the oven. 
  • Always pack an extra pair of socks.

With an imperative sentence, the subject is generally omitted because the reader understands they’re the one being addressed. 

Conditional sentences

Conditional sentences are sentences that discuss factors and their consequences in an if-then structure. Their structure is:

Conditional clause (typically known as the if-clause) + consequence of that clause. 

A basic example of a conditional sentence is: 

  • When you eat ice cream too fast, you get brain freeze.

Getting more specific, that sentence is an example of a zero conditional sentence. There are actually four types of conditional sentences, which we cover in detail (and explain which tense to use with each) in our post on conditional sentences

Types of sentence based on structure

The other way to categorize sentences is to classify them based on their structure. Each of the types of sentences discussed above also fits into the categories discussed below. 

Simple sentences

A simple sentence is the most basic type of sentence. This kind of sentence consists of just one independent clause, which means it communicates a complete thought and contains a subject and a verb.

A few examples of simple sentences include:

  • How are you?
  • She built a garden.
  • We found some sea glass.

A simple sentence is the smallest possible grammatically correct sentence. Anything less is known as a sentence fragment

Complex sentences

In contrast to a simple sentence, a complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. While an independent clause can be its own sentence, a dependent clause can’t. Dependent clauses rely on the independent clauses in their sentences to provide context.

Dependent clauses appear after a conjunction or marker word or before a comma. Marker words are words like whenever, although, since, while, and before. These words illustrate relationships between clauses. 

The following are complex sentences:

  • Before you enter my house, take off your shoes. 
  • Matt plays six different instruments, yet never performs in public. 

Compound sentences

Compound sentences are sentences that contain two or more independent clauses. In a compound sentence, the clauses are generally separated by either a comma paired with a coordinating conjunction or a semicolon. In some cases, they can be separated by a colon. 

Examples of compound sentences include:

  • I was thirsty, so I drank water.
  • She searched through her entire closet; she could not find her denim jacket.

How can you tell if you have a compound sentence? Swap out your semicolon, colon, or coordinating conjunction for a period. If you now have two distinct, complete sentences, you’ve got a compound sentence. 

Compound-complex sentences

When a sentence has two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause, that sentence is a compound-complex sentence. These are long sentences that communicate a significant amount of information. The clauses don’t need to be in any specific order; as long as you’ve got at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause, you’ve got a compound-complex sentence. 

Here are a few examples of compound-complex sentences:

  • I needed a new computer, so I got a laptop because they’re portable.
  • The students were excited; they could go home early because of the power outage. 

Make every one of your sentences stronger

All sentences are not created equally. And that means some types of sentences are a little bit harder to get just right. Before you send that next email or submit your next paper, have Grammarly give your writing a once-over and suggest ways to make every one of your sentences as strong as it can be

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