Classification of the sentences

"Words have weight, sound and appearance; it is only by considering these that you can write a sentence that is good to look at and good to listen to"

W.S Maugham

Traditionally English sentences are classified by their structure and purpose.

Based on their purpose we distinguish the following four types of the sentences:

A declarative sentence (declaration) - makes a statement. It ends with a period: The day was lovely.

An interrogative sentence - asks a question for obtaining new information. It ends with an interrogative mark - Are you coming with us? There is a special type of interrogative sentences called rhetorical questions which generally do not require a reply. They are used more for emotional effect.

"How many times do I have to remind you of that?".

Some of the rhetoric questions have become idioms:

"Who cares?", "How should I know?", "Are you kidding me?".

An exclamatory sentence (exclamation) is a more emotional version of a common statement and it ends with an exclamation mark: What a lovely day!

An imperative sentence (command, order) - is usually a demand, request or call for action: Let's forget about it. Do try to understand me.

According to their structure all the variety of English sentences can be divided into four types:

  • Simple sentence comprises a subject and a predicate (as well as secondary parts of a sentence): She (subject) invited (predicate) us to dinner.
  • Compound sentence unites two independent clauses brought together by a semicolon or a comma + a coordinating conjunction: She keeps telling me to control myself, but she never does herself.
  • Complex sentence consists of the main clause and at least one subordinate clause: Although he is trying to convince me (subordinate clause), I do not believe a single word he says. (Main clause).
  • Compound-complex sentence has two main clauses and one or more subordinate clauses introduced by subordinating conjunctions and joined by a coordinating conjunction:

I opened the parcel, but the boy disappeared before I could utter a word.

For more detailed information on compound, complex and complex-compound sentences see a separate section of our guide.

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