Language can be rather complex. In order to communicate with the written word, you have to take into account all the nuances, intonations, and feelings associated with spoken language. And as you probably know, all spoken sentences do not have the same intent or purpose.
Do you ever need to ask a question? Of course you do! Do you ever need to make a request or give a command? Certainly! Do you ever need to show emotion? Emphatically! Do you ever need to give information? Without a doubt.
That’s why you need to understand and master these important concepts in writing, too. Your words become much more engaging and interesting.
Just as you ask questions, deliver information, make exclamations, or make a request in daily communications, the written word needs to reflect the same goals. For this reason the structural aspect of languages – the types of sentences – are divided into categories based on the purpose and form of the sentence.
The Fabulous Four
No, we’re not talking about a popular British rock band here. Nothing as exciting, but fundamentally much more important when it comes to your writing. We’re talking about the 4 fundamental sentence types. So, let’s get to it.
Four Sentence Types
- Declarative Sentences
- Imperative Sentences
- Exclamatory Sentences
- Interrogative Sentences
Not sure what they mean? Here’s a brief rundown on the purpose of each.
Declarative sentences make a statement to relay information or ideas. They are punctuated with a simple period. Formal essays or reports are composed almost entirely of declarative sentences.
Examples of Declarative Sentences:
- The concert begins in two hours.
- July 4th is Independence Day.
- Declarative sentences make a statement.
- You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.
- Green is my favorite color.
- Hawaii is a tropical climate.
(more information about declarative sentences)
Imperative sentences issue commands or requests or they can express a desire or wish. They are punctuated with a simple period or they can be exclamations requiring an exclamation mark. It all depends on the strength of emotion you want to express. Exclamatory sentences can consist of a single verb or they can be more lengthy and complex.
Examples of Imperative Sentences:
- Watch for oncoming traffic.
- Respond immediately.
- Please lower your voice.
- Meet me at the town square.
- Drop what you’re doing and come celebrate with us!
(more information about imperative sentences)
Exclamatory sentences express strong emotion. It doesn’t really matter what the emotion is, an exclamatory sentence is the type of sentence needed to express it. Exclamatory sentences always end in an exclamation mark, so it’s pretty easy to spot them. Use exclamatory sentences to portray emotion but take care to use them sparingly. Otherwise, your writing will lack sincerity.
Examples of Exclamatory Sentences
- The river is rising!
- I can’t wait for the party!
- I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t pass this test!
- Oh, my goodness, I won!
- Suddenly, a bear appeared in my path!
- This is the best day of my life!
- Please don’t go!
(more information about exclamatory sentences)
Interrogative sentences are also easy to spot. That’s because they always ask a question and end in a question mark.
Examples of Interrogative Sentences:
- Is it snowing?
- Have you had breakfast?
- Do you want Coke or Pepsi?
- Who are you taking to the prom?
- You like Mexican food, don’t you?
Notice that the interrogatives may require a simple yes/no response or are more open ended, each end in a question mark. (more information about interrogative sentences)
Understand The 4 Sentence Types?
Below you’ll find a list of sentences. Test your understanding of the four types of sentences by deciding which kind of sentence is portrayed.
1. Are you ready to go?
2. Atlanta is the capitol of Georgia.
3. I can’t believe the Falcons lost the game!
4. Take me out to the ballgame.
5. Where did I leave my wallet?
6. I lost my wallet at the concert.
7. Oh, my gosh, I lost my wallet at the concert!
8. Please leave your boots at the door.
9. Hurray, I passed the math test!
10. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.
How did you do? Check your answers below.
The important thing to take away from this is that when you use the four different sentence types in your writing, your writing is automatically more interesting.
Not convinced? Okay, read the paragraph right below.
My favorite sport is baseball. I’d be happy watching baseball 24 hours a day. If I had to pick one sport from all the rest, I’d choose baseball hands down. I wish I could watch a game tonight, even though baseball season is months away.
Not too exciting, right? That’s because the paragraph is written entirely with declarative sentences. That means boring. We can fix that. Just use the different sentence types and you’re message becomes much more engaging for your reader. Like this…
Do you have a favorite sport? I do and it’s baseball. There is a reason baseball is America’s favorite past time. It’s on-the- edge-of- your- seat, biting your fingernails exciting! If I could watch baseball 24 hours a day, life would be complete. Actually, I have “Memorable Moments in Baseball” recorded on my DVR. I think I’ll watch it right now and get in the baseball spirit, even though baseball season is months away!
Quite a difference, right? In the above example you see each of the four sentence types in action. Did that make a difference? Compare the paragraph above to the first paragraph. I think you’ll find the emotion, level of excitement, and punch in the second paragraph is obviously more engaging.
So, by now it should be obvious that an understanding of the four distinct types of sentences is crucial to engaging writing. You’ve seen the difference for yourself! Practice using the four different kinds of sentences in your writing and your words will sing!
View all our articles about sentence types.