Sentence Types: What Are Sentence Types? Definition and Examples

By Carly Forsaith, updated on June 21, 2023

Do you want to learn about the different sentence types? Then you've come to the right place! This article will teach you everything you need to know about all the various sentence types that exist in English grammar.

  • Sentence types are categorized based on function and structure.
  • There are at least four sentence functions and four sentence structures.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.

What Are Sentence Types?

You'll yield different results if you do an online search for sentence types. Some will tell you about the different types of sentence functions, and others will tell you about the different types of sentence structures.

Both are valid and correct answers, which is why I'm going to cover them both in this article. But what do these terms mean? Let's find out.

Sentence Types by Function

As per Merriam-Webster's definition, "function" is

  • the action for which a person or thing is specially fitted or used or for which a thing exists.

So what is a sentence's function?

  • Specifically, it refers to what it does, which is one of four things: it makes a statement, asks a question, expresses strong feelings, or gives a command.

Let's learn about the four types of sentence functions:

  • declarative
  • interrogative
  • exclamatory
  • imperative

Declarative Sentences

Declarative sentences, also known as assertive sentences, are the default sentence type. If your sentence isn't asking a question, exclaiming, or giving a command, it's probably a declarative sentence.

With these types of sentences, you can:

  • state a fact, belief, or opinion
  • make a request
  • give information
  • make a statement

Declarative sentences make up the majority of sentences in the English language and tend to end with a period. They can be any length or level of complexity, as we'll find out later when we look at sentence structure types. Just like any sentence, at the very least, they must contain a subject and a predicate.

Here are some examples of declarative sentences:

The new restaurant in the city center serves delicious Italian food.

Dogs are adorable.

Alan and I are heading to the party soon, but first we need to stop by the store to buy some liquor and snacks for the hosts.

As you can see, a declarative sentence can be concise, or it can be pretty long. What's more, the word order tends to follow the sequence.

subject → verb → object.

Let's not forget that you can also have negative declarative sentences:

I don't understand this science homework.

She won't tell me why she is so upset.

I don't know why you're so upset; this doesn't affect you.

Interrogative Sentences

Interrogative sentences ask a question.

You can use them to:

  • request information
  • introduce a topic
  • make a persuasive point (rhetorical questions)

They end with a question mark and can be closed or open.

Here are some examples:

What did you think of the workshop this morning?

Our topic today is interrogative sentences; do you know what they are?

What time do you call this? 

Interrogative sentences usually fall under one of the following sequences:

auxiliary verb → subject → main verb

main verb BE → subject

WH-word auxiliary verb → subject → main verb

This also works for negative interrogative questions:

Why don't you try applying for other jobs?

Haven't you already spoken to her?

Couldn't you see where you were going?

Exclamatory Sentences

Exclamatory sentences express a reaction or strong emotion to something and always end with an exclamation point. You can use them to express emotions and feelings such as surprise, pain, anger, disgust, or disbelief.

You can use them for:

  • Greetings
  • warning messages
  • expressions of strong feelings

Exclamatory sentences are very similar to declarative ones. The difference is just that an exclamatory sentence also conveys some emotion. Take a look at the two following sentences, for example. They are both the same, except the second one is exclamatory.

Read these out loud and get a feel for the difference that exclamation point makes.

Derek's already here.

Derek's already here!

The exclamation point tells us there's some emotion about the fact that Derek's already here. We would need to know the context to know what the feeling in question is, but one hypothesis is that perhaps Derek is usually late, so the speaker is surprised that he is already here. Or, perhaps there has been some anticipation around his arrival, and the exclamation point conveys excitement.

Here are some more examples of exclamatory sentences:


Warning, wet paint! 

I love you so much!

Just like the other sentence types, exclamatory sentences can be negative.

Don't go in there!

He hasn't replied to my text! 

I disagree!

Imperative Sentences

Imperative sentences express a command.

You can use them to:

  • Give your dog commands
  • Request something
  • Make to-do lists
  • Extend invitations
  • Give warnings
  • Give instructions

They end with a period or, sometimes, an exclamation mark. They can be extremely short or relatively long. In fact, the shortest possible sentence is imperative because you don't have to mention the subject; it's implied. You jump straight into the predicate, starting with the verb itself.

NOTE: It's the only type of sentence in English grammar that doesn't require a subject.

Here are some examples:


Take a seat.

Grab that chair over there and come take a seat next to me.

Imperative sentences can be negative, too, in which case they always begin with 'do not' or 'don't':

Don't go in there!

Do not talk to me please.

Don't look.

Sentence Types by Structure

Now we've covered the different types of sentence functions, let's talk about the types of sentence structure. As per Merriam-Webster's definition, "structure" is

  • coherent form or organization

So what is a sentence's structure?

  • Specifically, it refers to the way a sentence is organized.

There are four different ways to organize a sentence, and they are called:

  • simple
  • compound
  • complex
  • compound-complex

Simple Sentences

Simple sentences are the most basic kind of sentence in English grammar. They consist of just one independent clause (a clause that conveys a complete thought and can stand alone) and need only one subject and one predicate. If there is more than one clause, it's no longer a simple sentence.

  • Simple sentences can take on any function, whether declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, or imperative.

Here is an example of each:

The garden needs watering.

Shall we have lunch together?

It's already 5 pm! 

Grab me a drink while you're at the bar.

Compound Sentences

While simple sentences need just one independent clause, compound sentences need two. The idea is that you join two independent clauses and get a compound sentence.

So how do we join them together? Two options: use a semicolon or a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Let's take a look at some examples of compound sentences.

I love the cinema; let's go catch a movie!

We were exhausted, so we went to bed early.

They'd lived in Spain for so long, yet they'd never been to Seville. 

Complex Sentences

Complex sentences require one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. A dependent clause can't stand alone because it doesn't convey a complete thought. That's why it needs to be attached to an independent clause.

  • You can use subordinating conjunctions (after, before, since, while, as, etc.) to join a dependent clause to an independent one.

Here are some examples:

While you're washing the dishes I'll dry them and put them away.

Can I use the bathroom before we go?

Let's grab a drink after work! 

 Compound-Complex Sentences

If you know what a compound sentence is and you know what a complex sentence is (which you now do!), you can figure out what a compound-complex sentence is. In case you're still unsure, I'll help you out. A compound-complex sentence comprises at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause.

  • The clauses don't need to be in any specific order, but it's a good idea to be conscious of using the correct punctuation so it doesn't turn into a run-on sentence.

Let's look at an example:

We'll never find the car key unless we stumble on it accidentally; it looks like we'll be walking home.

'We'll never find the key' is our first independent clause. 'Unless we stumble on it accidentally' is our dependent clause, easily recognizable as it begins with the subordinating conjunction 'unless.' And 'it looks like we'll be walking home' is our second independent clause. It's joined to the rest of a sentence with a semicolon, as is often the case with an independent clause.

Concluding Thoughts on Sentence Types

That concludes this article on the different sentence types. I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Sentence types are categorized as per their function and their structure.
  • There are four sentence function types: declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative.
  • There are four sentence structure types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

If you enjoyed this article, you'd probably like our Grammar Book. It's a free online database full of grammar articles just like this one. Check it out!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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