Types of Sentences
1. What are the Types of Sentences?
When we write or speak, we can use many different types of sentences to express what we want to say. Here, we will discuss four main types of sentences: declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory; each has its own functions and patterns.
And don’t be afraid of their fancy names; their meanings are simple and easy to understand.
2. Declarative Sentences
a. What is a Declarative sentence?
Declarative sentences give information. We use them to share facts and ideas, in other words, to declare, state, assert, or claim something. These are probably the most common kind of sentence in writing, speeches, and lectures; they are the meat-and-potatoes of giving information. Other kinds of sentence may be more common in conversation with your friends.
Here are a few examples:
- The dog went to the county fair.
- Kim saw the dog eat popcorn.
- Dogs don’t usually eat popcorn.
- The popcorn blew the lid off the pot because it was so hot.
- I like popcorn more than grubs, for a snack.
b. How to Write a Declarative Sentence
A declarative sentence is a statement, such as, “A is B” or “A does B.” It ends with a period. Declarative statements can express feelings, but declarations do not have any particular feeling otherwise. For example “I like popcorn,” is a simple sentence informing us that you like popcorn, but the sentence itself is pretty unemotional.
If you write “I LOVE popcorn!” it not only informs us that you love popcorn, but the exclamation point also gives it emotional intensity, regardless of what it says. In other words, with a period it is declarative and relatively unemotional. With an exclamation point, it becomes exclamatory (see below) and more emotional.
3. Interrogative Sentences
a. What is an interrogative sentence?
An interrogative sentence is a question. They are easy to recognize because they always end with question marks (?). Questions are really requests or commands for people to give us information, but they are more polite than commands.
What kind of information we are asking for can be indicated by who, what, where, when, why, how, and compounds built from those words, such as how1 much, or in what way.
Finally, the order of the verb and subject are reversed from what they would be in a declarative sentence – the verb goes before the subject – and this is true also for yes/no questions also, which have no wh-word. However, if you are a native speaker of standard English you probably don’t have to think about these things to get them right.
Here are some examples:
- Why is the dog going to the county fair?
- Have you ever been to a county fair? (a yes/no question)
- What is your favorite sauce to put on grubs?
- How do you make popcorn?
b. How to Write an Interrogative Sentence
Writing an interrogative sentence is simple and easy. Remember—it’s just a question! There are two kinds of questions in English, wh-word questions and yes/no questions.
Wh-questions are formed in three steps (that you probably don’t have to think about): (1) replace the missing piece of information with the appropriate wh-word. (2) Put that word at the beginning of the sentence, and (3) if the verb is “to be,” or if there is a helping verb, put that before the subject of the sentence; otherwise, put the verb “do” before the subject.
- Who cooks fresh popcorn around here?
- Where can I buy fresh popcorn? (notice only the helping verb is inverted)
- What is the best flavor of popcorn?
- When do you usually eat popcorn?
- Why don’t you let your dog eat popcorn?
- How do those grubs taste?
In order to make a yes/no-question, you simply follow rule (3) putting either a form of “be,” a helping verb, or “do” before the subject:
The popcorn is delicious.
I like it.
Is the popcorn delicious?
Do you like it?
3. Imperative Sentences
a. What is an imperative sentence?
An imperative is a verb expressing a command, thus, an imperative sentence basically gives instructions, requests, or demands, although they can also be used to share wishes and make invitations. Basically, they tell someone what to do. But commanding someone to do something like have fun! or come to my party! is naturally understood as a well-wishing or invitation. Here are some examples:
- Have fun at the fair! (well-wishing)
- Come to the fair with me! (invitation)
- Feed the dog once per day. (instruction)
- Please don’t give the dog popcorn. (request)
- Stop feeding the dog! (command)
The verbs in imperative sentences are in a certain form called the “imperative mood,” that looks different than the declarative, or indicative, form. Look at these two sentences:
Don’t feed the dog. Imperative verb “don’t” giving a command
He didn’t feed the dog. Indicative verb “didn’t,” just stating a fact
b. How to Write an Imperative Sentence
Writing an imperative sentence is easy, but it’s important to remember its role. The tone of an imperative sentence can be fairly neutral or it can express strong emotions. Because of this, one can end with either a period or an exclamation mark (!). For instance, a forceful command should end with an exclamation mark, but a more neutral request needs only a period.
It is also worth noting that we have many ways to make imperatives seem less rude in English; compare:
- Get me a cup of coffee!
- Please get me a cup of coffee.
- Could I possibly trouble you to get me a cup of coffee?
Notice that the last sentence isn’t even an imperative, grammatically; it’s a question. We call that an indirect command and it’s much more polite than an imperative!
Note that although both imperative and exclamatory sentences can end in exclamation marks, they have different grammatical forms and serve different purposes.
4. Exclamatory Sentences
a. What is an Exclamatory Sentence?
Exclamatory sentences are ways to share strong feelings such as excitement. They are usually just like declarative sentences in form and function, just with more emotion. But one can also make exclamatory questions, or exclamations that are not full sentences; here are a few:
- I can’t believe how fast that dog ate all the popcorn!
- Hey! There’s no more popcorn!
- What do you think you’re doing?!
- That popcorn isn’t for dogs!
b. How to Write an Exclamatory Sentence
You can turn any declaration into an exclamatory sentence by adding an exclamation point. And people often do that in an attempt to make their words more exciting, “loud,” or full of emotion.
But, really it is better writing to use stronger words rather than exclamation points and words like “very” or “so.” For example, instead of saying, “That movie was so bad!” you might say “That movie was a piece of irredeemable trash.” The second way is more effective than the exclamation point.
Don’t overuse exclamation points. They can make you sound like an air-head. They are better reserved to show how someone speaks, in a story, rather than to convey the strength of your own feelings.
To review, here’s a chart to help you remember the four types of sentences.