In writing and speaking, there are four basic types of sentences that we use for different purposes:
These different kinds of sentences in English 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. To communicate clearly, it's important to know the function of each type of sentence so you can make the right choice, depending on your purpose.
A declarative sentence is the most basic type of sentence. Its purpose is to relay information, and it is punctuated with a period. For example:
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.
For more on making a statement read Declarative Sentence Examples.
Interrogative sentences interrogate, or ask questions. These are direct questions, and they are punctuated with a question mark. For example:
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.
For more information on questions read Interrogative Sentence Examples.
Exclamatory sentences are like declarative sentences in that they make a statement instead of asking a question, but their main purpose is to express strong emotion. They are easily recognized because they end in an exclamation point instead of a period:
Notice that each one of these examples contains both a subject and a verb, which is still a requirement for a complete sentence. 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.
For additional information on exclamations read Exclamatory Sentence Examples.
Imperative sentences do not simply state a fact but rather tell someone to do something. These can be in the form of friendly advice, basic instructions or more forceful commands. For example:
Many imperative sentences end in periods, but some of the more forceful demands may end in an exclamation point to highlight the emotion. 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."
To see more examples of commands read Imperative Sentence Examples.
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 paragraph above 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.
Using the right type of sentence in your writing depends on your intention:
Your writing will benefit from a clear understanding and correct usage of all four types of sentences. In addition, try to vary your sentence structure between simple, compound, and complex sentence construction. Too many simple sentences may lose the reader's interest.