All sentences fall into just four categories.
A simple sentence is a sentence with one independent clause.
Note what the definition does not say. It doesn’t say that a simple sentence is short or easy to understand. It doesn’t say anything about phrases. A simple sentence can have forty-seven phrases, but only one independent clause.
Let’s look at an example:
I love simple sentences.
(That’s easy enough. It is obviously one independent clause.)
But look at this:
Being an English teacher with a penchant for syntactical complexity, I love simple sentences.
(It’s longer, more challenging and contains bigger words, but it’s still a simple sentence. Being an English teacher with a penchant for syntactical complexity” is a participial phrase. “With a penchant” and “for syntactical complexity” are prepositional phrases.)
Look at this:
Being an English teacher with a penchant for syntactical complexity, I love to read simple sentences upon getting up and before going to bed.
(Amazingly, it’s still a simple sentence. I am piling on phrase after phrase, but the sentence still contains only one independent clause.)
A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses.
I love conjunctive adverbs, but my students love each other.
(The independent clauses are in blue. This sentence contains no dependent clauses)
Sometimes a compound sentence contains more than two independent clauses.
I love conjunctive adverbs; my students love each other, and we all love holidays.
Sometimes longer linking words can be used.
I can name several conjunctive adverbs; consequently, my friends are impressed.
A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.
Because life is complex, we need complex sentences.
(The independent clause is in blue. The dependent clause is italicized.)
Because people know that I am an English teacher,they make allowances for how I dress and what I say.
(This sentence contains four dependent clauses. The independent clause is in blue. Note that two of the dependent clauses are inside of and part of the independent clause. Don’t be alarmed. That happens all the time.)
Declarative sentences make a statement to relay information or ideas. They are punctuated with a simple period. Formal essays or reports are composed almost entirely of declarative sentences.
Examples of Declarative Sentences:
- The concert begins in two hours.
- July 4th is Independence Day.
- Declarative sentences make a statement.
- You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.
- Green is my favorite color.
- Hawaii is a tropical climate.
(more information about declarative sentences)
Imperative sentences issue commands or requests or they can express a desire or wish. They are punctuated with a simple period or they can be exclamations requiring an exclamation mark. It all depends on the strength of emotion you want to express. Exclamatory sentences can consist of a single verb or they can be more lengthy and complex.
Examples of Imperative Sentences:
- Watch for oncoming traffic.
- Respond immediately.
- Please lower your voice.
- Meet me at the town square.
- Drop what you’re doing and come celebrate with us!
(more information about imperative sentences)
Exclamatory sentences express strong emotion. It doesn’t really matter what the emotion is, an exclamatory sentence is the type of sentence needed to express it. Exclamatory sentences always end in an exclamation mark, so it’s pretty easy to spot them. Use exclamatory sentences to portray emotion but take care to use them sparingly. Otherwise, your writing will lack sincerity.
Examples of Exclamatory Sentences
- The river is rising!
- I can’t wait for the party!
- I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t pass this test!
- Oh, my goodness, I won!
- Suddenly, a bear appeared in my path!
- This is the best day of my life!
- Please don’t go!
(more information about exclamatory sentences)
Interrogative Sentences / Question
Interrogative sentences are also easy to spot. That’s because they always ask a question and end in a question mark.
Examples of Interrogative Sentences:
- Is it snowing?
- Have you had breakfast?
- Do you want Coke or Pepsi?
- Who are you taking to the prom?
- You like Mexican food, don’t you?
Notice that the interrogatives may require a simple yes/no response or are more open ended, each end in a question mark. (more information about interrogative sentences)