Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Is a Sentence? (with Examples of the Different Types of Sentence)

What Is a Sentence? (with Examples of the Different Types of Sentence)

A sentence is a group of words giving a complete thought. A sentence must contain a subject and a verb (although one may be implied).
A More Formal Definition of Sentence
A sentence is a set of words that is complete in itself, typically containing a subject and predicate, conveying a statement, question, exclamation, or command, and consisting of a main clause and sometimes one or more subordinate clauses.

Oxford Dictionary

The Four Types of Sentence

There 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 Structures

A 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)
Interactive Test

Beware the Run On Error

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 the run-on error (or comma fault).

Read more about using a semicolon, a colon, ellipsis, or a dash to extend a sentence.

The Subject or Verb Could Be Implied

In an imperative sentence (an order) or an interrogative sentence (a question), the subject or verb may be implied. For example:
  • Run!
  • Why?

Shortest Sentence

The shortest sentence in English: "Go."