How to Identify the Four Types of Sentences

Nov 23, 2008Updated 1 month ago

Sentences can be identified as having one of four purposes:

  • Declarative
  • Imperative
  • Interrogative
  • Exclamatory
While these four types of sentences have similarities, they are more easily identified by their differences. Each type of sentence serves a different purpose.

Declarative Sentences

Declarative sentences are the most common type of sentence in English literature. A declarative sentence states a fact. (Interestingly, the preceding sentence, and this sentence also, are declarative sentences.)

In addition to making a statement or sharing a fact, declaratives always end with a period.

Examples of declarative sentences:

  • The bus arrived late.
  • My pink sweater needs to be washed.
  • The book, while thought-provoking, was challenging to read because of its advanced vocabulary.
As the examples above show, declarative sentences can be simple, compound or complex sentences. Sentence structure does not effect the basic purpose of the sentence. Although it should be noted that using a variety of sentence structures increases reader engagement and decreases reader boredom.

Declarative sentences may be short and simple, getting straight to the point, or declarative sentences may be lengthier and include prepositions, objects of prepositions, direct objects, and indirect objects.

Don't let a sentence's structure or length fool you! A declarative sentence states something. A declarative sentence does not command, question, or proclaim. A declarative sentence states a fact.

Imperative Sentences

Like the declarative sentences discussed above, imperative sentences also end with a period. Imperative sentences give a command or ask someone to do so something.

Imperative sentences may appear to lack a subject:

  • Shut the door.
  • Clear the table.
  • Stop right this instant.
It is common for imperative sentences to have an implied subject. In all three examples of imperative sentences above, the implied subject is "you." Each imperative sentence above is commanding or requesting that "you" do something.

Imperative sentences, like declarative sentences, may be short and simple or long and complex, however, imperative sentences are typically short simple sentences. Again however, don't be fooled by the sentence structure. An imperative sentence can have any style of sentence structure and still be an imperative sentence.

An imperative sentence commands, requests, or orders someone to do something.

Interrogative Sentences

Interrogative sentences have different terminal punctuation than declarative sentences and imperative sentences. Interrogative sentences always end with a questions mark.

  • Where are you going today?
  • Will you hand me the red paintbrush, please?
  • I don't know; which train do you think we should take?
An interrogative sentence asks a question or requests information and ends with a question mark.

Exclamatory Sentences

Exclamatory sentences have different terminal punctuation than declarative sentences, imperative sentences, and interrogative sentences. Exclamatory sentences always end with an exclamation mark.

  • I'm so angry!
  • Get away from me!
  • It's so beautiful; I love it!
It is important to note that simply placing an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence does not automatically create an exclamatory sentence. An exclamatory sentence must also convey strong emotion(s).

An exclamatory sentence uses strong emotion and ends with an exclamation mark.

Identifying the Four Types of Sentences

There are four types of sentences when classifying sentences by purpose: declarative, imperative, interrogative, and exclamatory. When identifying sentence types ask yourself, "What is the sentence doing?"

If the sentence is stating a fact or describing something and ends with a period then it is a declarative sentence.

If the sentence is giving a command or requesting someone to do something and ends with a period then it is an imperative sentence.

If the sentence requests information or asks a question and ends with a question mark then it is an interrogative sentence.

If the sentence proclaims something or uses very strong emotions and ends with an exclamation mark then it is an exclamatory sentence.

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