Types of Sentences

Updated on October 8, 2016

Types of Sentences

What is a sentence? And how many types of sentences do we have in the English language?

By definition, a sentence is a group of words which contains a subject, a verb, and a predicate and which expresses a complete thought or sense.

A sentence can also be defined as a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate, which conveys a complete sense or meaning. A sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop, an exclamation mark, or a question mark.

The characteristics of a sentence

  • A sentence is made up of at least two words
  • All sentences have subjects. A sentence without a subject is not a sentence.
  • A sentence has a verb (finite verb). You cannot have a sentence without a finite verb.
  • Sentences must end in a full stop, an exclamation mark or a question mark.
  • Sentences are started with capital letters.
  • Last but not least, a sentence express meaning or a carries a complete thought.

An example of a complete sentence is: John is happy.

This group of words clearly has all the features of a sentence mentioned above.

  • John is the subject.
  • Is is the verb (finite verb)
  • It ends in a full stop.
  • It has a predicate “is happy
  • Last but not least it makes sense.


Positive and Negative Sentences

A sentence can either be positive or negative depending on the words used in forming it.

A negative sentence is a sentence that has any of these negative words in it: not, never, nothing, nobody, barely, hardly, scarcely, seldom, etc.

A positive sentence does not contain any of the negative words above.

Positive sentence: I am happy.

Negative sentence: I am not happy.

I guess you have noticed that we formed the negative sentence by simply adding the negative word ‘not’ into the sentence. This is basically the difference between a negative sentence and a positive sentence.

Having looked at this, let us now answer the second question asked at the beginning of this article - how many types of sentences do we have in the English language?


Types of Sentences

When taking a look at the types of sentences that we have in the English language, we divide the sentence into two categories or groups:

  • The first category looks at the types of sentences based on the structure of a sentence
  • The second category looks at the types of sentences based on the function of a sentence

Let us look at these two groups one after the other.


Types of Sentences – Structural

When dealing with the structure of a sentence, sentences can be grouped under four types: Simple sentences, Compound sentences, Complex sentences, and Compound-complex sentences.


What is a simple sentence?

A simple sentence is a sentence that contains one subject, a verb and a predicate and makes a complete thought. Simple sentences can also be defined as sentences that contain one independent or main clause.

Simple sentences can either be short or long. More often than not, simple sentences are short.

Examples of simple sentences

  • I am happy.
  • The man has gone to jail.
  • We won the game.
  • John is now our president.
  • You are a liar.

Below is an example of a lengthy simple sentence:

John with his friends from the United States and Germany will be coming to the county for the Christmas holiday.


What is a compound sentence?

A compound sentence is a sentence that has two or more main clauses that are connected to each other by the coordinating conjunctions: and, or, but, as, yet, for, so, nor.

A compound sentence can also be defined as a sentence that is made up of two or more simple sentences joined together by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, yet, so, nor, for).

An example of a compound sentence is:

The woman gave the food to the boy but he refused to accept it.

The sentence above is a compound sentence because it is made up of two main (independent) clauses that are joined together by the coordinating conjunction ‘but’. Both clauses in the sentence above are also simple sentences. “The woman gave the food to the boy” is a simple sentence and so is “he refused to accept it”. Both simple sentences have been joined together by the word ‘but’ to form a compound sentence.

Some more examples of compound sentences:

  • I bought a brand new car and I drove it to work the following day.
  • You must repent for the end is near.
  • The woman studied very hard yet she failed to pass the exam.
  • The thief may be sent to jail or he may be freed by the judge.


What is a complex sentence?

A complex sentence is a sentence that is made up of one main/independent clause that is joined to one or more dependent/subordinate clauses.

NOTE: Subordinate/dependent clauses are always introduced by subordinating conjunctions such as: until, although, after, because, once, since, unless, while, in order that, provided that, when, etc.

An example of a complex sentence is:

I won’t visit you if you do not stop that.

The sentence above is a complex sentence simply because we have one main independent clause (I won’t visit you) that has been linked to a dependent clause (if you do not stop that).

More examples:

  • If you fail the exams, I won’t buy you a bicycle.
  • Because the weather was cold, I wore a jacket to the office.
  • If you study hard, you will pass the paper.
  • We shall remain here till the police come.
  • You can’t achieve anything meaningful in life unless you work hard.

Each of the complex sentences above has two parts, namely the independent clause and the dependent clause.

NOTE: When the dependent clause comes before the independent clause, you have to use a comma to separate the two clauses. But if the independent clause comes before the dependent clause, then there is no need using a comma to separate them.


What is a compound-complex sentence?

A compound-complex sentence is a sentence that is made up of two or more main/independent clauses and one or more dependent/subordinate clauses.

Here, the two independent/main clauses are joined together by any of the following conjunctions: and, yet, or, nor.

The compound-complex sentence is called compound-complex simply because of the fact that it has the characteristics of both the compound sentence and the complex sentence.

It behaves like the compound sentence because it has two main/independent clauses. It also behaves like the complex sentence because it has at least one subordinate/dependent clause.

Examples:

  • John was sent to school, but he quit school because he wanted to travel all over the world.
  • My brother studied Economics in the university, but I am studying English because I want to be an English teacher.
  • Before a man gets married, it is advisable that he prepares adequately and he must be financially independent.

The highlighted groups of words in the sentences above are all dependent/subordinate clauses, and they are each joined to two independent/main clauses in their respective compound-complex sentences.


Let us now turn our attention to the second category of the types of sentences. Here, we look at the types of sentences based on the their functions

Types of Sentences Based On Their Functions (Functional Types of Sentences)

Sentences can also be grouped according to the purpose that they serve. Sentences have four main purposes. Sentences can be declarative, interrogative, exclamatory or imperative.


What is a declarative sentence?

Declarative sentences are sentences that establish facts or give factual information. Any sentence that is used for the purpose of establishing a fact or providing information is called a declarative sentence. These sentences always end in a full stop.

Examples of declarative sentences

  • I know London.
  • Sweden is in Europe.
  • Abigail is a woman.
  • The man loves his family.
  • Africa is the poorest continent in the world.


What is an interrogative sentence?

The word “interrogate” means to ask questions. Interrogative sentences are therefore sentences that are used in asking questions. Any sentence that is used for the purpose of asking question is referred to as an interrogative question. All interrogative questions end in question marks.

Examples of interrogative questions

  • Are you happy?
  • What is your name?
  • Do you understand the lesson?
  • Can you do the work?
  • Have you done the homework?


What is an exclamatory sentence?

An exclamatory sentence is a sentence that is used to express strong emotions such as shock or surprise. An exclamatory sentence always ends in an exclamation mark.

Examples of exclamatory sentences

  • The house is on fire!
  • That is wonderful!
  • We have won!
  • It is so good to see you again!


What is an imperative sentence?

An imperative sentence is a sentence that is used to either make a command or request. An imperative sentence can either end in a full stop or an exclamation mark. It will end in a full stop if it is making a request. If it is making a command then it might end with an exclamation mark.

Examples of imperative sentences

  • Please, get me a glass of water.
  • Put the books on the table.
  • Don’t come home late again.
  • Send the message for me please.


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