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Sentence Type Basics for English Learners

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Writing in English begins with the sentence. Sentences are then combined into larger structures such as essays, business reports, etc. There are four sentence types in English. The first sentence type is the most common:

Declarative

A declarative sentence "declares" or states a fact, arrangement or opinion. Declarative sentences can be either positive or negative. A declarative sentences ends with a period (.).

Examples

I'll meet you at the train station.
The sun rises in the East.
He doesn't get up early.

Imperative

The imperative form instructs (or sometimes requests). The imperative takes no subject as 'you' is the implied subject. The imperative form ends with either a period (.) or an exclamation point (!).

Examples

Open the door.
Finish your homework
Pick up that mess.

Interrogative

The interrogative asks a question. In the interrogative form the auxiliary verb precedes the subject which is then followed by the main verb (i.e., Are you coming ....?). The interrogative form ends with a question mark (?).

Examples

How long have you lived in France?
When does the bus leave?
Do you enjoy listening to classical music?

Exclamatory

The exclamatory form emphasizes a statement (either declarative or imperative) with an exclamation point (!).

Examples

Hurry up!
That sounds fantastic!
I can't believe you said that!

Sentence Types

All of these sentence types further fall into four basic sentence type categories in English.

  • Simple
  • Compound
  • Complex
  • Compound - Complex

Simple Sentences

Simple sentences contain no conjunction (i.e., and, but, or, etc.).

Examples

Frank ate his dinner quickly.
Peter and Sue visited the museum last Saturday.
Are you coming to the party?

Compound Sentences

Compound sentences contain two statements that are connected by a conjunction (i.e., and, but, or, etc.).

Examples

I wanted to come, but it was late.
The company had an excellent year, so they gave everyone a bonus.
I went shopping, and my wife went to her classes.

Complex Sentences

Complex sentences contain a dependent clause and at least one independent clause. The two clauses are connected by a subordinator (i.e, which, who, although, despite, if, since, etc.).

Examples

My daughter, who was late for class, arrived shortly after the bell rang.
That's the man who bought our house
Although it was difficult, the class passed the test with excellent marks.

Compound - Complex Sentences

Compound - complex sentences contain at least one dependent clause and more than one independent clause. The clauses are connected by both conjunctions (i.e., but, so, and, etc.) and subordinators (i.e., who, because, although, etc.)

Examples

John, who briefly visited last month, won the prize, and he took a short vacation.
Jack forgot his friend's birthday, so he sent him a card when he finally remembered.
The report which Tom complied was presented to the board, but it was rejected because it was too complex.

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