by Craig Shrives
This Page Includes...
- Why "Sentences" Are Important
- Key Points
What Is a Sentence? (with Examples)
A sentence is a group of words giving a complete thought. A sentence must contain a subject and a verb (although one may be implied).
A More Formal Definition of Sentence
A sentence is a set of words that is complete in itself, typically containing a subject and predicate, conveying a statement, question, exclamation, or command, and consisting of a main clause and sometimes one or more subordinate clauses.
The Four Types of Sentence
A sentence can convey a statement, a question, an exclamation, or a command. There are four types of sentence:
(1) Declarative Sentence
A declarative sentence states a fact and ends with a period (full stop). For example:
- He has every attribute of a dog except loyalty. (Politician Thomas P Gore)
- I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. (Comedian Rita Rudner) (Remember that a statement which contains an indirect question (like this example) is not a question.)
(2) Imperative Sentence
An imperative sentence is a command or a polite request. It ends with an exclamation mark or a period (full stop). For example:
- When a dog runs at you, whistle for him. (Philosopher Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862)
(3) Interrogative Sentence
An interrogative sentence asks a question and ends with a question mark. For example:
- Who knew that dog saliva can mend a broken heart? (Author Jennifer Neal)
(4) Exclamatory Sentence
An exclamatory sentence expresses excitement or emotion. It ends with an exclamation mark. For example:
- In Washington, it's dog eat dog. In academia, it's exactly the opposite! (Politician Robert Reich)
The Subject Could Be Implied.
In an imperative sentence (an order) or an interrogative sentence (a question), the subject or verb is often implied.
- Go. (This is the shortest sentence in English.)
The shortest sentence without an implied subject or verb is "I am" or "I go."
The Four Sentence Structures
A sentence can consist of a single clause or several clauses. When a sentence is a single clause, it is called a simple sentence (and the clause is called an independent clause). A sentence must contain at least one independent clause. Below are the four types of sentence structure (with their independent clauses shaded):
(1) Complex Sentence
A complex sentence has an independent clause and at least one dependent clause. For example:
- Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you can find a rock. (Actor Will Rogers, 1879-1935)
- When you're on the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog. (Cartoonist Peter Steiner)
(2) Compound Sentence
A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses. For example:
- Cry "Havoc," and let slip the dogs of war. (Playwright William Shakespeare, 1564-1616)
(3) Simple Sentence
A simple sentence has just one independent clause. For example:
- You can't surprise a man with a dog. (Screenwriter Cindy Chupack)
(4) Compound-Complex Sentence
A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. For example:
- When a dog bites a man, that is not news because it happens so often, but if a man bites a dog, that is news. (Editor John B Bogart)
Why Understanding Sentences Is Important
There are four great reasons to understand sentence structures and the types of the sentence.
(Reason 1) Avoid the run-on sentence.
By far the most common mistake made by people with otherwise sound writing skills is the run-on sentence. Typically, this error is caused by writing a sentence, putting a comma, and then writing another sentence.
- I love the mountains, they remind me of home.
- Love is so short, forgetting is so long. (Chilean politician Pablo Neruda)
You cannot end a sentence with a comma. These should both be two sentences (or rewritten to punctuate them correctly). Remember that a sentence contains a subject and a verb and gives a complete thought. The criteria for what constitutes a sentence are satisfied twice in each example.
The run-on sentence usually occurs because writers feel a period (full stop) is too much of speed bump between their closely related sentences. The jolt of a period can be smoothed with other punctuation (but not a comma). Here are some options:
- Don't play hide and seek; no one would look for you. (You can smooth the jolt of a period by merging your two sentences into one with a semicolon.)
- I like a woman with a head on her shoulders I hate necks. (Actor Steve Martin) (You can smooth the jolt of a period by merging your two sentences into one with a dash. A dash looks quite stark, and it looks a little informal.)
- My friend is a procrastinator he's afraid of Saturday the 14th. (You can smooth the jolt of a period by merging your two sentences into one with three dots (or ellipses). Using three dots creates a pause for effect, and it looks informal.)
(Reason 2) Punctuate your sentences correctly.
Understanding the four sentence structures assists with deciding how to punctuate sentences. More specifically, it assists with the following two common decisions:
(1) Deciding whether to use a comma with the subordinate clause in a complex sentence.
A complex sentence comprises an independent clause (shaded) and at least one subordinate clause. When the subordinate clause is at the front and acts like an adverb typically stating a time (e.g., When I was six), a place (e.g., Where I live), or a condition (e.g., If I were you) then it is a common practice to offset it with a comma. When such a clause appears at the back, it is usually not offset with a comma. Here are some examples:
- When I was six, I had a wind-up Evil Knievel motorbike.
- I had a wind-up Evil Knievel motorbike when I was six.
- When you're on the internet,nobody knows you're a dog. (Cartoonist Peter Steiner)
- Nobody knows you're a dog when you're on the internet.
Read more about adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses.
(2) Deciding whether to put a comma before a conjunction.
A compound sentence has at least two independent clauses (highlighted), which are usually joined with a conjunction (e.g., and, or, but). A conjunction (bolded) that joins two things is not normally preceded with a comma, but a conjunction that joins two independent clauses in a compound sentence is.
- Lee likes pies and cakes. (There is no comma before and. This is a simple sentence.)
- Lee likes pies, and he likes cakes. (This time, there is a comma before and. This is a compound sentence.)
- Go, and never darken my towels again. (Comedian Groucho Marx) (Remember that Go is the shortest sentence in English.)
Let's examine this point a little more. Look at these two examples:
- I would say, "I'm alone, but I'm not lonely." (Actor Bruce Willis) (Here, but is preceded with a comma because it's joining two independent clauses.)
- I would say, "I'm alone but not lonely." (Here, but is not preceded with a comma because it's joining two adjectives (alone and not lonely) not two independent clauses.)
Here's a tip: Look carefully for the subject and verb in the text after your conjunction to confirm the text is an independent clause. If it is, whack a comma in. If it isn't, don't use a comma.
- Non-rabid wolves have attacked and killed people (mainly children), but this is rare. They live away from people and have developed a fear of humans from hunters and shepherds.
- They live away from people, and they have developed a fear of humans from hunters and shepherds. (Compare this compound sentence with the simple sentence (the last one) in the example above. When you add the word they after the and, the second half becomes an independent clause, and a comma is then required.)
Be aware that a compound sentence can have more than two independent clauses.
- Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. (Playwright Joseph Heller) (This is a compound sentence with three independent clauses. The first independent clause ends with just a comma. This is an occasion when that's allowable.)
- "Veni, vidi, vici" [I came, I saw,I conquered.] (Roman emperor Julius Caesar) (This is another occasion when you have to say it's acceptable to use just a comma to separate independent clauses (an error known as a run-on sentence or comma splice). Grammarians hate the comma splice so much, you will often see "Veni, vidi, vici" translated "As I came; I saw; I conquered" and even "I came, I saw, and I conquered.")
Read more about commas with conjunctions.
(Reason 3) As the subject of an imperative sentence is "you," you can't use "myself."
- If you have any questions, email myself or your line manager.
- Please write to myself with any suggestions.
The subject of an imperative sentence is "you," which is usually implied (i.e., not said or written). This means you cannot use "myself," which requires the subject to be "I." Writers often use "myself," believing it sounds more highbrow. It's wrong. It should be "me."
This is also covered in the entry on reflexive pronouns.
(Reason 4) Don't use a question mark with a declarative sentence that includes an indirect question.
- She asked whether I loved her?
- I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult? (Comedian Rita Rudner)
The bolded texts are indirect questions. These are declarative sentences (i.e., statements) not questions. They should end in periods (full stops).
Here is a 16-minute video summarizing this lesson on sentences.
Video on complex sentences
Video on compound sentences
Video on simple sentences
- You can't write a sentence, put a comma, and then write another sentence. That's an error called a run-on sentence or comma splice.
- If you have a fronted adverbial, use a comma.
- Don't use a comma if your adverbial is at the back.
- Use a comma before a conjunction (e.g., and, or, but) that joins two independent clauses.
- I like tea but hate coffee.
- I like tea, but I hate coffee.
- Be careful when using myself in an imperative sentence.
- If you're approached by any journalists, send them to myself.
- Don't be tempted to put a question mark at the end of a declarative sentence that contains an indirect question.
- I wonder if John will win? (This should end in a period (full stop). It's not a question.)
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Can you start a sentence with a conjunction (e.g., and, but)?What is the subject of a sentence?What are verbs?What is a declarative sentence?When do you use periods (full stops)?What is an indirect question?What is an imperative sentence?What is an interrogative sentence?What is an exclamatory sentence?What is an independent clause?What is a complex sentence?What is a dependent clause?What is a compound sentence?What is a simple sentence?Glossary of grammatical terms
A sentence is a set of words that are put together to mean something. A sentence is the basic unit of language which expresses a complete thought. It does this by following the grammatical basic rules of syntax. For example:"Ali is walking".What is a sentence for enough? ›
Adverb I couldn't run fast enough to catch up with her. She's old enough to know better. Are you rich enough to retire? That's good enough for me.What is sentence definition short answer? ›
A sentence is a grammatically complete idea. All sentences have a noun or pronoun component called the subject, and a verb part called the predicate.How do you remove enough from a sentence? ›
enough + noun
I have enough time. There are enough seats in the car, you should come! We have enough money, let's buy it! And to make these sentences negative we add 'not' – usually before the main verb.
There are four types of sentences, i.e. Assertive/Declarative, Imperative, Exclamatory and Interrogative.Would be enough in a sentence? ›
But if I am a thing so constituted as to live only to now, would that be enough?" I reflected on what I had seen and done, and concluded that it would be enough.What is your enough meaning? ›
You are enough means that you don't have to strive to become more worthy, more valid, more acceptable, or more loved. You already are all of those things. There are things you might want to be more of.What is a sentence for Had enough? ›
I've had enough–there are limits even for the patience of a saint! I had had enough of other people for one night.What is a sentence definition for kids? ›
A sentence is a group of words that forms a complete thought. A sentence begins with a capital letter, ends with an end mark and has a subject and a predicate.What is enough in grammar? ›
Enough is a determiner, a pronoun or an adverb. We use enough to mean 'as much as we need or want'.
Some common synonyms of enough are adequate, competent, and sufficient. While all these words mean "being what is necessary or desirable," enough is less exact in suggestion than sufficient. do you have enough food?What is a sentence and examples? ›
The sentence is generally defined as a word or a group of words that expresses a thorough idea by giving a statement/order, or asking a question, or exclaiming. Example: He is a good boy (statement), Is he a good boy? (question), What a nice weather!What are the 7 types of sentences? ›
Q5: What are the 8-types of sentences? Answer: There are 8-types of sentences on the basis of function and structure are Declarative Sentence, Interrogative Sentence, Exclamatory Sentence, Imperative Sentence, Simple sentence, Compound Sentence, Complex sentence, and Compound -Complex sentence.How many main types of sentences are there answer? ›
There are three main types of sentence. A simple sentence. A compound sentence. A complex sentence.What are the 3 main types of sentences? ›
Three essential types of sentence are declarative sentences (which are statements), interrogative sentences (which are questions), and imperative sentences (which are orders). Join us as we give examples of each!How do you identify a sentence type? ›
Different sentence structures are determined by the number of independent and dependent clauses. One independent clause is a simple sentence. Two independent clauses is a compound sentence. One independent clause and at least one dependent clause make a complex sentence.Would you be kind enough example? ›
"Would you be so kind as to help me cross the road?" "Of course. May I take your hand?" "Would you be kind enough to bring me a pot of tea, please?"
Would you be kind enough to show me the way?When enough is enough meaning? ›
used to say that one wants something to stop because one can no longer accept or deal with it. I don't mind lending her a bit of money now and then, but enough is enough!Can get enough of you meaning? ›
I can't get enough (of something/someone)!: I really love, I want to keep experiencing/seeing (something/someone)!
The time for that has now gone; and enough is enough. They have high bills for heat, light and power and when the rate demands arrive they say that enough is enough. I have to say firmly that enough is enough. After seven years of membership, enough is enough.Was good enough meaning? ›
adequately good for the circumstances. “if it's good enough for you it's good enough for me” Synonyms: good. having desirable or positive qualities especially those suitable for a thing specified.Is not Enough example? ›
The phrase “not enough” is obviously a negative form of that – and it shows that things are not satisfactory! For example: “There is not enough bread for the entire group to eat.” It is usually used to indicate that the level is less than satisfactory – it would not be used if it was in excess.What is a sentence 4th grade? ›
A sentence is a group of words that forms a complete thought. It has both a subject and a verb. My friends walk along the path. A sentence fragment is a group of words that does not express a complete thought.Can you use definition in a sentence? ›
Her book aims to define acceptable social behavior. She believes that success should be defined in terms of health and happiness. That fence defines the far edge of the property.
How Many Sentences Is 100 Words? 100 words is about 5-7 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.Where are simple sentences examples? ›
[M] [T] She asked him if he knew where I lived. [M] [T] She told him where to put the suitcase. [M] [T] This is the house where she used to live. [M] [T] Can you still remember where we first met?Where is sentence example? ›
[M] [T] Where did you find that strange thing? [M] [T] She asked him if he knew where I lived. [M] [T] She told him where to put the suitcase. [M] [T] This is the house where she used to live.What is a sentence give example for kids? ›
He reads a book. The dog barks. The cat sits on the mat. I hop on one foot.How can we make a sentence? ›
A sentence follows Subject + Verb + Object word order.
Why as a question word. We can use why to ask about reasons and explanations: Why did he leave home when he was 16? Why didn't you tell Gemma?What is sentence and types? ›
The different types of sentences in English are: Declarative Sentence. Imperative Sentence. Interrogative Sentence. Exclamatory Sentence.What is a 50 word sentence? ›
How Many Sentences Is 50 Words? 50 words is about 2-4 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.What are the 4 types of sentence? ›
There are four types of sentences in the English language: declarative, exclamatory, imperative, and interrogatory. Each sentence type serves a different purpose. Understanding the different sentence types and how to use them will help improve your writing skills.