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Understanding the 4 Types of Sentences

Posted by Christine Sarikas | Dec 2, 2019 7:00:00 PM

General Education

 

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If you’re worrying about learning the different types of sentences, you may be relieved to hear that there are only four main types of sentences you need to know. Plus, once you know the rules behind them, they’re pretty easy to tell apart. This guide gives you all the info you need on the 4 types of sentences, along with plenty of examples and a quiz for you to test your knowledge.

 

The 4 Types of Sentences

There are four types of sentences: declarative, imperative, interrogative, and exclamatory. We go over each of the different types of sentences in this section, explaining what the purpose of the sentence type is, how to use it, and what examples of it look like.

 

Declarative Sentence

Declarative sentences are the most common of the four types of sentences. They’re used when you want to make a statement (which can be a fact or an opinion). These sentences end with a period. Many pieces of writing contain numerous declarative sentences in a row (or are made up nearly entirely of declarative sentences) since they’re the best sentence type for laying out a story in a clear and understandable way.

Examples:

  • Ella was late to the dance.
  • Songbird populations have decreased dramatically in the past decade.
  • I would rather have vanilla ice cream than chocolate ice cream.
  • Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775.

 

Imperative Sentence

Imperative sentences give a command or an instruction. They can range from a single verb to a much longer sentence, and they typically end with a period. However, imperative sentences can sometimes end with an exclamation mark if the order is given with a lot of feeling. As long as the sentence is a command, it’s an imperative sentence, not an exclamatory sentence (see below), even if it ends with an exclamation mark.

Examples:

  • Shut the door!
  • Don’t eat the cake until it has cooled.
  • Please pass the gravy.
  • Be there by 3:00.

 

Interrogative Sentence

All interrogative sentences ask a question and therefore end with a question mark (which makes them easy to identify!). This sentence type often begins with words such as “do” “how” “who” “what” “where” “when” and “why”. The question may be a yes/no question or one that is more open ended.

Examples:

  • Are you still hungry?
  • Why do you think Arthur is mad at me?
  • Did Taylor remember to let the dog out?
  • Was Abraham Lincoln the 16th president?

 

Exclamatory Sentence

Exclamatory sentences are used to express especially strong emotions such as anger, happiness, disbelief, etc. They all end with an exclamation point, however; if the sentence gives a command and ends with an exclamation mark, then it is an imperative, not exclamatory, sentence. This sentence type is only rarely used in professional writing (such as in newspapers or academic journals) where it is important for the author to remain objective and stick to the facts, rather than emotions.

However, for other types of writing, exclamatory sentences can be an effective way to show emotion in your writing and/or evoke a strong emotion in your readers. They can help readers understand when a character is feeling particularly strongly about something, or when something comes as a surprise in the story.

Examples:

  • I can’t believe we lost!
  • My sister just won the lottery!
  • Happy birthday!
  • That man just robbed a bank!

 

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4 Types of Sentences Quiz

Ready to test your knowledge on the four types of sentences? Then try out our quiz! Decide which sentence type each of the ten sentences below is, then check your answers against the answer key beneath the quiz.

  1. How was school today?
  2. I’m so worried about this science test.
  3. The fireworks lasted over an hour!
  4. I told you to sit down.
  5. Agnes won the spelling bee!
  6. Turn to page 152 in your textbook.
  7. Wait for me!
  8. It’s impossible for kangaroos to jump backwards.
  9. Do rose plants need to be watered often?
  10. Please hand me the smallest scalpel. 

 

ANSWER KEY

  1. Interrogative
  2. Declarative
  3. Exclamatory
  4. Declarative
  5. Exclamatory
  6. Imperative
  7. Imperative
  8. Declarative
  9. Interrogative
  10. Imperative



How to Use Sentence Variety in Writing

Mixing the four types of sentences can be a great way to make your writing more dynamic and interesting to read. Compare these two pieces of writing:

Kaila ran down the street. As she turned a corner, a man suddenly appeared. She ran into him and tumbled to the ground. The man helped her up and asked why she was running. He told her to be more careful next time. Kaila nodded and went on her way, this time at a slower pace.

 

Kaila ran down the street. As she turned a corner, a man suddenly appeared! She ran into him and tumbled to the ground.

 

“Why are you running?” the man asked as he helped her up. “Please be more careful next time.”

Kaila nodded and went on her way, this time at a slower pace.

The first example isn’t that interesting, right? It’s made only of declarative sentences, which explain what happened but in a pretty boring way. The second example includes all four sentence types and is more interesting to read. It shows how sentence variety can improve the quality of your writing. However, you don’t want to overdo it. 

Any piece of writing whose main purpose is to deliver facts (such as a research paper or newspaper article) should be written almost exclusively with declarative sentences. Declarative sentences will be the most common sentence type you use for almost any piece of writing, but for these fact-based pieces, you may not even use the other types of sentences. This is because declarative sentences are what deliver facts most objectively and move writing along most coherently. 

In other pieces of writing, such as fiction or opinion pieces, you’ll likely use different types of sentences more often. Dialogue can be a great place to use the other sentence types, as characters ask each other questions, make exclamations, or give commands. 

One thing to always be aware of is to use exclamatory sentences sparingly. Including an exclamation point every once in a while can add drama and excitement to your writing, but if you use them too often, they’ll lose their effectiveness, and your writing may appear overly dramatic and unprofessional.

 

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What's Next?

Compound sentences are another importance sentence type to know. Read our guide on compound sentences for everything you need to know about compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.

Need ideas for a research paper topic? Our guide to research paper topics has over 100 topics in ten categories so you can be sure to find the perfect topic for you. 

Thinking about taking an AP English class? Read our guide on AP English classes to learn whether you should take AP English Language or AP English Literature (or both!)

 

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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.



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