Classifying Sentences: Sentence Types

Last updated: January 10, 2019 at 2:43 am

In the English Language, sentences are classified in two ways:

  1. By purpose: declarative or assertive, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory.
  2. By structure: simple, complex, compound and compound-complex.

Sentence Types by Purpose

Declarative or Assertive Sentences

The declarative sentence makes a statement. Here are some examples:

  1. Guyana is a country in the continent of South America.
  2. Trinidad and Tobago is a twin island country in the Caribbean.

Interrogative Sentences

The interrogative sentence asks a question. You may remember this by bearing in mind that when the police “interrogates” a suspect in a crime, they ask him or her lots of question. Here are some examples:

  1. Have you ever been to Grenada?
  2. Do you know that this beautiful country is nicknamed the “Spice Island”?

Imperative Sentences

The imperative sentence gives a command. You may remember this by thinking of the British Empire which “ruled and commanded” the former British colonies during Britain’s “imperial era.” The words “imperative” and “imperial” both come from Latin “imperium” which means “command or authority.” Here are some examples:

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself.
  2. Do not steal.

Exclamatory Sentences

The exclamatory sentence expressions sudden statements or strong emotions and ends with an “exclamation mark.” Other sentence types may be classified as an exclamatory sentence if they are used to express strong emotions and end with an exclamation mark. Here are some examples:

  1. What a beautiful country is the Bahamas!
  2. How beautiful are its beaches!
  3. Don’t do that!
  4. Wow!

Sentence Types by Structure

The simple sentence is made up of one clause only. A clause is a subject/predicate combination. Remember that the subject is what we talk about, and the predicate is what we say about the subject. Here are some examples:

  1. St. Lucia is a Caribbean island country.
  2. The population of St. Lucia is less than 200,000.
  3. The capital of St. Lucia is Castries.
  4. Its official language is English.

The complex sentence is made up of two clauses: one independent clause and one dependent clause. In a complex sentence, the independent clause makes sense by itself, but the dependent clause relies on the independent clause to complete its meaning. Think of an independent clause as the parent and the dependent clause as a child. Whereas a parent can survive without a child, a child needs a parent to survive. Just as a child depends on a parent for survival, a dependent clause depends on an independent clause to complete its meaning. In the complex sentences below, the independent clauses are set in bold, and the dependent clauses are italicized.

  1. The rain was falling while I was going home.
  2. When I opened the door, the dog ran out.
  3. As soon as I closed my eyes, the doorbell rang.

In a complex sentence, a conjunction joins an independent clause to a dependent clause. However, as in examples 2 and 3 above, that conjunction does not always appear in the middle of the sentence. A conjunction which joins an independent clause to a dependent clause is called a “subordinate conjunction,” whereas a conjunction which joins two independent clauses is called a “coordinate conjunction.”

The compound sentence is made of two independent clauses. Each of these two independent clauses could have been written as one simple sentence. However, we join them because they are directly related to each other. Here are some examples:

  1. We are going home now, but we will be back later.
  2. The door opened, and a strange man stepped out.
  3. He likes football, but his brother loves cricket.
  4. My brother wants to live in Canada, but the Caribbean is my dream.

The compound-complex sentence is a bit more…well…complex. The compound complex sentence is made up at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. In the examples of compound-complex sentences below, the independent clauses are set in bold  while the dependent clause is set in italics.

  1. While I was going home, the rain was falling, and the lightning was flashing.
  2. I was sleeping, and my friend was playing while the teacher was talking to the class.

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