English Grammar: Types of Sentences

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Sentences are categorized in two ways: by structure and by purpose.

Types of Sentences by Structure

  • Compound Sentence - "I love chocolate, and I love eating chocolate." Two or more independent clauses.
  • Complex Sentence - "I love chocolate because it's decadent." One independent clause and one or more dependent clauses (italicized). Note: according to Wikipedia, a sentence like "The dog chewed up the shoes that I just bought" is a simple sentence, not a complex sentence, because the relative clause "that I just bought" simply modifies the noun without performing any other function. I'm not sure how accurate this is, however.
  • Complex-Compound Sentence - "I love chocolate because it's decadent, and I love eating chocolate because it's delicious." Two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

Those four categories apply to normal, grammatical sentences. However, some of our most common expressions are sentences that don’t follow the rules – see Major and Minor Sentences.

Note: obsessive syntacticians (is there any other kind?) have also named more specific types of sentences, which I’ll address when I start learning about the finer points of writing style.

Types of Sentences by Purpose

  • Declarative Sentence - "I love chocolate." Used to make a simple statement. Most sentences are declarative.
  • Imperative Sentence - "Please buy me some chocolate." Used for commands, with the pronoun you always implied.