Sentences – types and categories

SentenceWhat is a sentence?

A sentence is an ordering of language.  This ordering of components of a sentence is called ‘Syntax.’  A sentence is a grammatically correct idea or words that say one complete thing.  All sentences have a subject, which is a noun or pronoun component, and a verb part which is the predicate.  In other words, a sentence has to have something that sentence is about (subject) and something that it is doing (predicate).  For example ‘The big dog chased the ball.’  ‘The big dog’ is the subject and ‘chased the ball is the predicate.

A sentence can have an inferred subject.  for example, in narrative writing a sentence can be “Run!.”  The reader will know to whom the command “Run” is being given.

Types of sentences

  • Declarative – states a fact or opinion. For example, ‘It is a big peach.’
  • Interrogative – a question. For example, ‘Where is the fishbowl?’
  • Imperative – is a command.  For example, ‘Remember to put out the washing!’

Four categories of sentences

  • Simple sentences
  • Compound sentences
  • Complex sentences
  • Compound-complex sentences

Simple Sentences

A simple sentence consists of one subject and one predicate.  Sometimes the subject is inferred, for example, a sentence where the subject is implied, for example ‘Run!’  it is assumed the subject is known. The subject is what or who the sentence is about, for example ‘I bought some fruit’, the subject is ‘I’, the predicate is ‘bought some fruit.’  When you have a subject and a predicate together you have an independent clause.  If a sentence had two subjects then it would still be a simple sentence.  For example, ‘Anne and I bought some fruit’.  The subjects are ‘Anne’ and ‘I’.  If the sentence had two subjects and two predicates it would still be a simple sentence, so long as the second predicate did not have its own subject.

Compound Sentences

A compound sentence is two or more simple sentences joined together. For example, ‘I bought some fruit, and Julio joined me for lunch.’  Both ‘I bought some fruit’ and ‘Julio joined me for lunch are complete simple sentences and could stand alone.  These two sentences are joined with a comma and the word ‘and’ making it a compound sentence.  If the sentence did not have a subject in the second clause it would not be a compound sentence, for example, ‘I bought some fruit and had lunch’ is a simple sentence.  The predicate ‘bought some fruit and had lunch’ is compound.

Complex Sentences

A complex sentence has an independent clause and a dependent clause. An independent clause would stand alone as a sentence and a dependent clause rely on an independent clause to have meaning.

If a clause begins with a subordinating conjunction, for example ‘When we go to the beach, we will take a swim.’  The clause ‘when we go to the beach’ depends on the clause ‘we will go for a swim to have meaning. Examples of subordinating conjunctions include ‘After, Although, As, Because, Before, When, While.’

Compound-complex Sentences

A compound-complex sentence is a combination of a compound and a complex sentence; they have more than one independent clause and one or more dependent clause.  An example would be: ‘After the gold rush, the town was empty, and the people moved back to the city.’  The first clause ‘After the gold rush’ is not a complete sentence and depends on the rest of the sentence to have meaning.  The clauses ‘the town was empty’ and ‘The people moved back to the city’, are both independent clauses and can stand alone as sentences.

Test your knowledge of sentences

These books provide both study and reference material for English Grammar

Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar understandingEnglishGrammar
Grammarly. Correct your grammar as you type. Grammarly logo
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy English Grammar in Use
The Bluebook of Grammar and punctuation – An easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes. thebluebookofgrammar


Aaron Skudder


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  2. Hello there! This is highly educational, I’ll like to add some few contribution about sentence structure; 

    sentence structure depends on the language in which you’re writing or speaking. It’s common in English for a simple sentence to look like this: “She throws the ball.” In this case, the sentence structure is “Subject, verb, object.” There are many ways to make the sentence structure much more complicated while still providing a framework for the information you’re conveying and being grammatically correct. 


    • You are correct.  Starting a sentence with a transition word (complex sentences) makes a sentence more interesting.  An object is not always necessary for a sentence to be grammatically correct.

      Spanish tends to put the subject and object at the beginning of a sentence, and the adjective after the noun.

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