What Is a Sentence? (with Examples of the Different Types of Sentence)A sentence is a group of words which expresses a complete thought.
A sentence must contain a subject and a verb (although one may be implied).
The Four Types of SentenceThere are four types of sentence.
- A declarative sentence. A declarative sentence states a fact and ends with a period / full stop. For example:
- He has every attribute of a dog except loyalty. (Thomas P Gore)
- I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. (Remember, a statement which contains an indirect question (like this example) is not a question.)
- An imperative sentence. An imperative sentence is a command or a polite request. It ends with an exclamation mark or a period / full stop. For example:
- When a dog runs at you, whistle for him. (Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862)
- An interrogative sentence. An interrogative sentence asks a question and ends with a question mark. For example:
- Who knew that dog saliva can mend a broken heart? (Jennifer Neal)
- An exclamatory sentence. An exclamatory sentence expresses excitement or emotion. It ends with an exclamation mark. For example:
- In Washington, it's dog eat dog. In academia, it's exactly the opposite! (Robert Reich)
The Four Sentence StructuresA sentence can consist of a single clause or several clauses. When a sentence is a single clause, it is called a simple sentence (and the clause is called an independent clause). A sentence must contain at least one independent clause. Below are the four types of sentence structure (with their independent clauses shaded:
- A Complex Sentence. A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. For example:
- Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock. (Will Rogers, 1879-1935)
- When you're on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (Peter Steiner)
- A Compound Sentence. A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses. For example:
- Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war. (William Shakespeare, 1564-1616)
- A Simple Sentence. A simple sentence has just one independent clause. For example:
- You can't surprise a man with a dog.(Cindy Chupack)
- A Compound-Complex Sentence. A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. For example:
- When a dog bites a man, that is not news because it happens so often, but if a man bites a dog, that is news. (John B Bogart)
Once you have written a sentence, you cannot put a comma and carry on writing. This is called a run-on error or a comma fault. For example:
- I love the mountains, they remind me of home. (run-on error)
- I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals. (Sir Winston Churchill, 1874-1965)
Read more about using a semicolon, a colon, ellipsis, or a dash to extend a sentence.
In an imperative sentence (an order) or an interrogative sentence (a question), the subject or verb may be implied. For example:
The shortest sentence in English: "Go."
Click on the
Can you start a sentence with a conjunction (e.g., and, but)? What is the subject of a sentence? What are verbs? What is a declarative sentence? When do you use periods / full stops? What is an indirect question? What is an imperative sentence? What is an interrogative sentence? What is an exclamatory sentence? What is an independent clause? What is a complex sentence? What is a dependent clause? What is a compound sentence? What is a simple sentence? Glossary of grammatical terms