English Grammar: Classifying Sentences

Updated on June 9, 2018
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L. Sarhan has a B.A. in English and Creative Writing and plans for an M.A. in English with a concentration in literature and theory.

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There are a variety of ways to classify sentences. Sentences can be classified by type as well as classified according to the sentence structure. Young students often start learning about the different types of sentences in the first or second grade. The terms start off simple and easy for young children to remember and only later do they learn the true classification of the types of sentences. As they get older they begin to learn about classifying sentences in other ways such as according to the structure of the sentence.

Types of Sentences

Declarative Sentence

A declarative sentence is a sentence that makes a statement by stating a fact or declaring something. In early elementary grades, it is often simply referred to as a statement sentence or an assertive sentence. All declarative sentences have an end with a period (.).

Examples:

  • Jay sharpened his pencils.
  • Raj shut the door.
  • Sophia likes the color yellow.

Imperative Sentence

An imperative sentence is a sentence that makes a request or gives a command of some sort. When children first learn about imperative sentences, these sentences are often referred to as command sentences. Imperative sentences can end with either a period (.) or an exclamation mark (!) depending on the tone of the sentence. The subject of an imperative sentence is always you. Even if the word "you" doesn't appear in the sentence, it is always applied. Therefore, "you" is considered to be an understood subject.

Examples:

  • Please hand me the keys. [request]
  • Stop yelling! [strong command]
  • Call your mother. [mild command]

Interrogative Sentence

An interrogative sentence is a sentence that asks a question. To make it easier for children, teachers teach this as simply a question sentence because it is always asking something. Interrogative sentences are used to inquire about something to get more information. It is easy to recognize an interrogative sentence. Every interrogative sentence ends with a question mark (?).

Examples:

  • Would you like to go to the movies?
  • What is your name?
  • How much is the necklace?

Exclamatory Sentence

An exclamatory sentence, or exclamation sentence, is a sentence that expresses strong emotions such as excitement or shock. One way to recognize an exclamatory sentence is that it always ends with an exclamation mark (!) that doesn't give a command.

Examples:

  • What a delicious sandwich!
  • That was scary!
  • It is really cold!

Exercise 1: Types of Sentences

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Sentences Classified According to Structure

Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is a sentence that has one independent clause and no subordinate clauses. An independent clause, also known as the main clause, is, in essence, a simple sentence. It explains who or what the sentence is about (subject), what is happening (predicate) and conveys a complete thought (complete sentence). A subordinate clause, also known as a dependent clause, is a group of words that cannot stand alone because it is not a complete thought.

Examples:

  • Tom taught Jim how to play the piano.
  • A panther is a beautiful animal.

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a sentence that has more than one independent clause but no subordinate clauses. The independent clauses of a compound sentence may be joined together by using a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, nor, yet, or so). Independent clauses can also be joined together by a semicolon, or by a semicolon and a transitional expression or a conjunctive adverb.

Common conjunctive adverbs - also, anyway, however, then, therefore, furthermore, meanwhile, instead, still, moreover, besides

Common transitional expressions - in fact, on the other hand, by the way, at any rate, for example, in other words, on the contrary, as a result

Examples of compound sentences:

  • Leonard had a terrible car accident, but he will be fine. [two independent clauses joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction]
  • Jenny Calloway was an amazing journalist; she interviewed hundreds of influential people during her career. [two independent clauses joined by a semicolon]
  • I am going to the library; furthermore, I plan to look for books on homeschooling.[two independent clauses joined by a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb]

Sometimes people confuse a simple sentence that has a compound subject or a compound predicate as a compound sentence.

Examples:

  • Ian and Jake washed the car. [simple sentence with a compound subject]
  • Fatima painted her nails and talked on the phone. [simple sentence with a compound predicate]
  • Maria swept the porch and Bobby raked leaves. [compound sentence]

Exercise 2: Simple Sentences vs. Compound Sentences

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Complex Sentence

A complex sentence is a sentence with only one independent clause and at least one subordinate clause. Typically a subordinated clause starts off with a subordinate conjunction such as, after, although, because, before, if, since, when, whenever, wherever, or while just to name a few. If a subordinate clause introduces the independent clause, a comma is used between them. If the independent clause comes before the subordinate clause the no comma is necessary.

Examples:

  • Because it was Black Friday, it was crowded at the store. [subordinate clause introduces the independent clause]
  • It was crowded at the store because it was Black Friday. [independent clause comes before the subordinate clause]

Compound-Complex Sentence

Compound-complex sentences are sentences with more than one independent clause and at least one subordinate clause. The subordinate clause is usually separated from the independent clauses with commas.

Examples:

  • Although I like to go jogging, I haven't found the time to go, and I haven't been in the mood for jogging. [Although I like to go jogging... is a subordinate clause. I haven't found the time to go and I haven't been in the mood for jogging are both independent clauses.]
  • We thought the game was boring, but our children, who love baseball, didn't want to leave. [We thought the game was boring and (but) our children didn't want to leave are both independent clauses. Who love baseball is the subordinate clause.]

Exercise 3: Complex and Compound-Complex Sentences

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Understanding how sentences are classified according to their construction will help you build better sentences to convey your thoughts in a proper manner. This helps give the listener or the reader a better understanding of what you are trying to convey.

Check out these websites for unit studies and worksheets that will help give you more practice with classifying sentences:

Classifying Sentences Quiz

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 L Sarhan

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      • rainaelf profile image

        Mari S Adkins 

        4 months ago from Lexington

        @RedElf "We also used to parse sentences by diagramming them." I find it handy, still. If I'm writing and can't get something to sound just right, I take to diagramming. I'm not quite sure why, but this seems to horrify some people. But it works for me!

      • Venkatachari M profile image

        Venkatachari M 

        5 months ago from Hyderabad, India

        Very good article educating people with English grammar.

        I solved all the quizzes and got 100% in the first three and 90% in the fourth one.

      • erical2473 profile image

        Erica Ligocki 

        5 months ago from Colorado

        Very nice!

        Informative and easy to follow. Well-done! :)

      • RedElf profile image

        RedElf 

        5 months ago from Canada

        Oh, my. (short, declaitive sentence) Nicley done and most informative. (sentence fragment, declarative) I haven't thought about this since grade school, though it did bring back memories of those uncomfortable desks.(compund sentence, two independent clauses joined by a comma and a coordinating conjunction).

        We also used to parse sentences by diagramming them. It's amazing what gets crammed into your head when you're young. Even when we think we've forgotten, it's still lurking in there somewhere. Thanks for this one

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