8 Types of Sentences Based on Function and Structure

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A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. It is the largest grammatical unit, as discussed in grammar and linguistics. A sentence may contain one or more clauses depending on its type. It is important to note that English sentences can be classified into different types based on both their functions (meaning) and structures (forms).   

Based on functions, there are five types of sentences: Assertive, Interrogative, Imperative, Optative, and Exclamatory. Based on structures, sentences are of four types: Simple, Complex, Compound, and Compound-complex.

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Now, let’s discuss these five functional types and four structural varieties of English sentences in detail with relevant examples. I’ll start with the functional category of the sentences and then move to the structural category.

Types of Sentences Based on Their Function

Types of English Sentences based on Functions and Structures

In our everyday life, we need various kinds of sentences to serve the different purposes of communication. Therefore, based on the different functions of sentences, there are five types of sentences in English.

  1. Assertive Sentence
  2. Interrogative Sentence
  3. Imperative Sentence
  4. Optative Sentence
  5. Exclamatory Sentence
  Sentence Types    Examples
Assertive Sentences (Statement)  Rishita is a good singer.
Interrogative Sentences (Question)  Are you a student?
Imperative Sentences (Command, request, proposal, encouragement)  Please open the door.
Optative Sentences (Desire, wish)  May God bless you.
Exclamatory Sentences (Sudden feeling, strong emotion)  How cute the baby is!
Types of Sentences Based on Their Function

What is an Assertive Sentence?

Assertive sentences are used to make statements or comments. It describes a state of affairs, action, feeling, or belief. As assertive sentences make statements by declaration, they are also called declarative sentences.

  • This is a fascinating game.
  • This is not an exciting game at all.  

Note: Assertive sentences end with a full stop/period (.).

If you observe the above examples closely, you will notice that both of them are statements. But did you notice that the first example is different from the second one according to its meaning or function? The first one gives us an affirmative statement, while the second example gives us a negative comment.

There are two kinds of assertive sentences: affirmative and negative.

Affirmative Sentences

Sentences that give neutral or affirmative statements are called affirmative sentences. This kind of sentence says or means “yes” and doesn’t contain any negator.

  • He always helps me.
  • I am eager to play cricket.

Negative Sentences

Sentences that give negative statements or information are called negative sentences. This kind of sentence says or means “no” or “none” and always contains negators: no, not, never, hardly, seldom, nothing, neither, etc.

  • He never helps me.
  • I’m not eager to play cricket.  

Let’s look at some examples of affirmative and negative sentences to make the idea clearer. 

Assertive sentences (declaration/statement)  Examples
Affirmative sentences
[Gives neutral or affirmative statements]
Rohan is a good player.
The coffee is too sweet.
She is beautiful.
He is a brilliant student.
My friend, Rajiv, is sincere about his study.
Negative sentences
[Gives negative statements]
Rohan is not a good player.
The coffee is not that sweet.
She is not beautiful.
He is not a brilliant student.
My friend, Rajiv, is not sincere about his study.
Figure 2: Examples of Affirmative and Negative Sentences

What Is an Interrogative Sentence or a Question?

Sentences that are usually used to ask questions are called interrogative sentences. Interrogative sentences are always followed by a question mark (?) or note of interrogation.

  • Is it a good idea?
  • Are you not a member of the club?

The above examples confirm that, like assertive sentences, interrogatives also can be of two types according to their function—affirmative and negative. Example 1 is an affirmative question, whereas example 2 is a negative question.

The main difference between affirmative and negative questions is in the use of negators. An affirmative question doesn’t contain any negator, while a negative question must have a negator.

What Is an Imperative Sentence?

Sentences that are used to ask someone to do something are called imperative sentences. We can express commands, requests, proposals, and encouragement with imperative sentences. In such sentences, the subject remains understood or invisible.

  • Please shut the window. (Request)
  • Sit down right here. (Command)
  • Come on, kick the ball! (Encouragement)

Remember! An imperative sentence usually ends with a full stop/period (.), but it often ends with an exclamation mark when it expresses encouragement.

What Is an Optative Sentence?

Optative sentences are used to express formal desire or wish. This kind of sentence usually begins with the word “May,” and a full stop (.) or exclamatory sign (!) is used at the end of the sentence. 

  • May Allah bless you.
  • May you enjoy a happy life!

Remember! In modern grammar, optatives are not considered individual sentence types. Instead, many modern grammarians consider optative sentences as part of imperatives.

What Is an Exclamatory Sentence?

Sentences that express a sudden feeling or strong emotion of the speaker are known as exclamatory sentences. This kind of sentence usually starts with “what” or “how” and ends with a note of exclamation(!). They are also called exclamative sentences.  

  • How beautiful the garden is!
  • What a tragic play Shakespeare’s Hamlet is!

Remember! Some exclamatory sentences may not have a complete sentence structure, but they are still considered sentences.

  • Oh my God!
  • How strange!

But before we begin to understand different types of sentences based on their structures, we need to know about clauses. Here is a quick guide on clauses. 

A Quick Guide on Clauses: Definition, Classification with Examples

A clause is a grammatical unit that contains at least one subject and a finite/main verb. A clause itself can be a simple sentence, or it can be a part of a sentence.

  • He came late.  (One clause sentence)
  • He came late because his bus had an accident on the way. (Two-clause sentence)

In example 1, the clause “He came late” forms a complete sentence, while in example 2, the same clause is a part of a bigger sentence.

There are two types of clauses:

  1. Independent Clause
  2. Dependent Clause

A clause that can stand independently and doesn’t depend on any other clause is called an independent clause. An Independent clause is also known as the main clause or principal clause.

On the other hand, a clause that cannot stand on its own and depends on an independent clause is called a dependent clause. A dependent clause is also known as a collateral or subordinate clause. A subordinate clause can function as a noun, adjective or adverbial. That’s why it can also be called a noun clause, adjective clause, or adverbial clause.  

Example:  He wanted to go home when everyone left.

In this example, “He wanted to go home” is an independent clause as it doesn’t need to depend on any other clause and has complete meaning and function of its own. On the contrary, the other clause, “when everyone left,” is a dependent clause since it depends on the other clause to function correctly.

Types of Sentences Based on Their Structure

Types of Sentences Based on Their Structure

There are four types of sentences in English, according to their different structures. This structural classification is determined by the number and nature of clauses within a sentence. The four types of sentences are:

  1. Simple Sentence
  2. Complex Sentence
  3. Compound Sentence
  4. Compound-complex Sentence

  Sentence Types    Examples
Simple Sentences  Rohan is a student.
Complex Sentences  Allah helps those who help themselves.
Compound Sentences Rohan is a student, but he earns for his family.
Compound-complex Sentences  Since Rohan is ill, he cannot join the team today, but we hope that he can join as soon as possible.
Figure 3: Types of Sentences Based on Their Structure

What Is a Simple Sentence?

Sentences with only one independent clause are called simple sentences. That means a simple sentence is a one-clause sentence that contains one subject and one finite verb.

  • He is a boy.
  • He is the oldest person in the family.
  • The oldest person in the family will decide the date of the program.

Remember! A simple sentence is not necessarily a short sentence. It can even be longer than a complex or compound sentence. No matter how many words there are in a simple sentence, there must be only one subject and a finite verb. The examples given above will help to make the idea clear.

What Is a Complex Sentence?

Complex sentences are formed with only one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Independent clauses are also called principal clauses, and dependent clauses are also called subordinate clauses.

Example: This is the boy who hit the longest six today.    

In this sentence, “This is the boy” is an independent clause, and “who hit the longest six today” is a dependent clause. The independent clause “This is the boy” has an independent meaning of its own, but the other clause is added to this clause to extend its meaning.

On the other hand, the dependent clause “who hit the longest six today” doesn’t have any independent meaning of its own and is dependent on the independent clause “This is the boy.”

What Is a Compound Sentence?

Sentences with two or more independent clauses having no dependent clauses are called compound sentences. The clauses of a compound sentence are usually connected through coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “but,” “or” etc. A compound sentence is also called a coordinate sentence as its clauses are joined by coordinating conjunctions.

  • He is penniless, but he doesn’t beg.
  • I will come on my own or I will send someone with the parcel.       

Each of the sentences has two independent clauses. In the first sentence, the clauses are joined with the coordinating conjunction “but,” and in the second sentence, the coordinating conjunction is “or.” 

What Is a Compound-complex Sentence?

When a compound sentence has one or more dependent clauses, this is called a compound-complex sentence. As the name suggests, this kind of sentence combines features of complex and compound sentences. That means a compound-complex sentence must have at least two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.   

Example: When my teacher scolded me, I felt sad, and I left the exam hall.

In this sentence, there are two independent clauses: “I felt sad” and “I left the exam hall.” These two clauses are connected through the coordinating conjunction “and.” Thus these two independent clauses together form a compound sentence.

Besides, “When my teacher scolded me” is the dependent clause in this sentence. It is evident that there are two independent and one dependent clause in the sentence, and together they form a compound-complex sentence.    

Importance of Learning the Use of a Variety of Sentences

The use of a variety of sentences enhances the overall quality of one’s writing. It helps to avoid monotony and adds the right amount of emphasis. Thus, the importance of learning the different functions and structure of sentences is very important.    

Nowadays, many writers think they can get help from different grammar checkers or online editing tools for sentence variety. But, educator and author Diana Hacker says,

“Grammar checkers are of little help with sentence variety. It takes a human ear to know when and why sentence variety is needed,”

(Rules for Writers, 2009)

However, there are several grammar and spelling checkers that can help you perfect your writing regarding spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, grammar, etc. But is there any tool that can help you with a variety of sentence structures? Probably not. I believe this write-up has helped you get a clear idea about different types of sentences regarding their function and stricture.  

Final Words

Let me finish this article by sharing an exciting thing. We already have discussed the use of three punctuation marks—period (.), question sign (?), and exclamatory mark (!).

Are you familiar with the interrobang?

Interrobang (‽) is a punctuation mark used to express a question in an exciting or exclamatory manner. Martin K. Speckter, a journalist in 1962, first used this non-standard punctuation mark in rhetorical questions to contribute nuance and clarity.    

I hope the above discussion will help you to understand different types of sentences.

Thanks for reading.

Happy learning!

FAQ: Sentences Based on Function and Structure

1. What are the primary functions of sentences in English?

Sentences primarily serve four functions: declarative (making a statement), interrogative (asking a question), imperative (giving a command or instruction), and exclamatory (expressing strong emotion).

2. How do declarative sentences function?

Declarative sentences make statements or express opinions. They provide information and end with a period. For example, “The sun rises in the east.”

3. What characterizes an interrogative sentence?

Interrogative sentences ask questions and typically begin with “wh-” words or auxiliary verbs. They end with a question mark. For instance, “What time is it?” or “Are you coming to the party?”

4. How are imperative sentences structured?

Imperative sentences give commands, requests, or instructions. They often begin with a verb and can end with a period or exclamation point, depending on the intensity. For example, “Close the door.” or “Be quiet!”

5. What is the purpose of exclamatory sentences?

Exclamatory sentences express strong emotion or surprise. They begin with a “wh-” word or “how” and end with an exclamation mark. For instance, “What a beautiful sunset!” or “How exciting!”

6. Can you explain the structural classifications of sentences?

Yes, sentences can be classified based on structure into four types: simple (one independent clause), compound (two independent clauses joined by a conjunction), complex (one independent clause and at least one dependent clause), and compound-complex (two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause).

7. How do simple and compound sentences differ?

A simple sentence consists of just one independent clause, e.g., “I love reading.” A compound sentence has two independent clauses joined by a conjunction, e.g., “I wanted to go for a walk, but it started raining.”

8. What are complex and compound-complex sentences?

A complex sentence has one independent clause and at least one dependent clause, e.g., “When the rain stopped, I went for a walk.” A compound-complex sentence combines the features of compound and complex sentences, e.g., “I love the rain, but when it stopped, I went outside.”

9. Why is it important to understand and use different types of sentences?

Understanding and utilizing various sentence types allows for more dynamic and engaging writing or speech. It helps in effectively conveying thoughts, setting the tone, and guiding the reader’s or listener’s response.

10. How can varying sentence types improve communication?

Varying sentence types can prevent monotony in written or spoken communication. It helps in emphasizing important points, asking relevant questions, and expressing emotions, leading to clearer and more impactful communication.

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 8 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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