The four different kinds of sentences in English — declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory — allow us to express ourselves clearly. Using a variety of sentences in your writing will add interest and help you get your ideas across effectively. Keep reading for explanations of each type of sentence with examples so you can get your point across.
Types of Sentences
A declarative sentence is the most basic type of sentence. Its purpose is to relay information, and it is punctuated with a period. Simple declarative sentences can make basic statements, such as:
- The boy walked home.
- I love honey.
- My mother is a nurse.
Declarative sentences can also be compound sentences, such as in these examples:
- He wants to eat cookies, but he doesn't know how to make them.
- We plan to visit Florida, and we're spending a day at Disneyworld.
- Jason doesn't know how to ski, so he's taking lessons.
Complex sentences can also be declarative:
- I ordered a latte when I got to the coffee shop.
- While cats are more independent, dogs love being around people.
- Steven found a new job because he enjoys working from home.
If you really want to change it up, you can even use compound-complex sentences to make declarative statements:
- Olivia doesn't enjoy dinner parties and she hates dressing up, although she does like being with her friends.
- Although the service at the restaurant was slow, the food was really good and the prices were fair.
- The weather was good at the beach, so we stayed until it started raining.
As you can see, these sentences make statements, whether of fact or opinion. Declarative sentences can be simple, as in the first two examples, or compound, as in the final example. They can also be in any tense, as long as they do their basic job of presenting information. This makes them the most common sentence type.
Interrogative sentences ask questions (or interrogate). These are direct questions, and they are punctuated with a question mark. For example:
- Why does the sun shine?
- Whose dog is that?
- Will Sherri get to keep all her lottery winnings?
Compound sentences can be interrogative:
- Who are you and why are you here?
- How much does it cost and why do you need it?
- I don't know his home phone number, so can you call his cell phone?
Some examples of complex interrogative sentences are:
- When Martin gets in, can you give him this message?
- Can you call me when it's time to go?
- Did you cheat on the test because you were unprepared?
Finally, you can use compound-complex structure for interrogative sentences:
- Have there been any problems since Nancy was hired, or has it gone smoothly?
- Is the case solved and the suspect is in jail, or are you still working on it?
- Molly moved to Montana and Kyle stayed in town, but are they officially divorced?
Many interrogative sentences start with question words like "how" or "why," but others are yes/no questions that begin with the verb instead of the noun. It is important to remember that interrogative sentences still require a noun and a verb to be complete.
Exclamatory sentences express strong emotions. They are similar to declarative sentences in that they provide information, but they end in an exclamation point instead of a period.
- I said I wanted tacos!
- How well he sings!
- Wow, he just won a gold medal!
You can make exclamatory sentences with compound sentences as well:
- Lauren didn't think she'd get into Stanford, but she was just accepted!
- My new job is a wonderful opportunity and it offers great benefits!
- We knew you wanted to visit Paris, so we bought you a ticket!
Some complex exclamatory sentences include:
- You make me worry when you ride your bike without a helmet!
- We can start the party once Javier arrives!
- Call me whether you have good news or not!
Exclamatory sentences are most effective when they're short, but you can also use them as compound-complex sentences:
- Since you helped me when I was young and inspired me to be a writer, I'm dedicating my book to you!
- Isabelle is always arguing because she's never satisfied with anything, so no one wants to talk to her anymore!
- Now that the results are in and the judges have spoken, I can tell you that you won the contest!
Exclamatory sentences are often used in casual conversation and in written dialogue to show emotion, but they are not typically useful in academic or expository writing. In these more serious works, it's better to make your point with well-written declarative sentences instead.
Imperative sentences tell someone to do something. These can be in the form of friendly advice, basic instructions or more forceful commands. Many imperative sentences end in periods, but some of the more forceful demands may end in an exclamation point to highlight the emotion. For example:
- Please shut the door to keep out the bugs.
- Turn left at the bridge.
- Stop bothering me!
You'll find compound imperative sentences like this:
- Put your phone away and listen to me!
- There was an accident, but don't worry.
- Please order me a soda or pick up a can for me.
Some examples of complex imperative sentences include:
- Since Charlotte was up all night, please let her sleep this morning.
- Don't ever interrupt me when I'm talking to a customer!
- Hand the baby his bottle now that he's done playing.
And if you want to get more complicated, try out these compound-complex imperative sentences:
- Please knock and ask to be invited in, unless there's an emergency.
- As much as I'd like to help, I'm unavailable this afternoon, so ask Dylan instead.
- Don't stay out too late or forget to call me, even if you're having fun.
You can identify an imperative sentence because it appears to be missing a subject. However, the command of each imperative is directed at you, making these sentences second-person. The subject of the sentence may be omitted, but it's called "you understood" because the reader is aware that each sentence could be written as "you do this" or "you do that."
Using Different Sentence Types in Your Writing
Though declarative sentences are by far the most common sentence type, they can lead to dull writing if used exclusively. Take the following paragraph as an example:
I will show you how to make a snowflake. Paper snowflakes are easy to make and can even get addictive once you learn the techniques. The steps outlined below will help you get started.
All three of these sentences are declarative, so the piece begins to sound a little flat. By contrast, see what happens when a variety of sentence types are used instead:
Are you ready to learn how to make snowflakes? Paper snowflakes are easy to make, but be careful! They can get addictive once you learn the basic techniques. Follow the steps below to get started.
As you can see, the second paragraph used one of each of the sentence types, and the result is a more interesting piece. This is appropriate for writing with a casual, friendly tone, and in many works of creative writing. Be careful with more formal writing. In the case of expository writing, declarative sentences are the most appropriate choice.
Choosing the Right Type of Sentence
Using the right type of sentence in your writing depends on your intention. Decide what you want to say with the following guide:
- To relay information or to answer a question, use a declarative sentence.
- To ask a direct question, choose an interrogative sentence.
- To tell someone what to do, use an imperative sentence.
- To show extra emotion, use an exclamatory sentence (but use these sparingly).
The Importance of Sentence Variety
Your writing will benefit from a clear understanding and correct usage of all four types of sentences. They'll help you make your point clear and avoid mixed messages in your writing. Learn more about the different parts of a sentence before you write your next paper. You can also check out additional examples of sentence variety.