Sentence: Definition and Types with Examples

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What is a Sentence?

A sentence is a word or a combination of words. The sentence is the last on the hierarchical order of the structure of grammar. The order includes morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, and lastly, sentences.

Words are formed with morphemes, which are the smallest meaningful elements of speech or writing. Since phrases are also made up of words, they may sometimes be mistaken for sentences. Clauses are generally regarded as sentences. Nevertheless, some differences may apply.

A sentence may be defined as a group of words that contains a finite verb, expresses a complete thought, feeling or idea, and is performing a specific function. It usually contains an explicit or implied subject and predicate.

Sentences can largely be divided into two: The Simple Sentence and The Non-simple Sentence.

What is a simple sentence?

A simple sentence is a type of sentence that is made up of one clause. And this clause consists of only a verb, meaningful, and can stand on its own. The simple sentence does not depend on any other clause to make a full meaning.

Examples of simple sentences:
1. She ran out.
2. They have a match.
3. Get out!
4. He departed for Ghana last week.
5. Chelsea is a useless team.

The simple sentence can be divided into two: The basic simple sentence and The Non-basic Simple Sentence.

A basic simple sentence is a simple sentence that can be made to realize another sentence through rearrangement, alteration, and insertion.
For example: He slapped his wife.

This sentence can be changed to “His wife was slapped by him,” through alteration and insertion.

When a simple sentence is changed like this, it becomes a non-basic simple sentence.

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Therefore, by alteration, reordering and insertion, a basic simple sentence is converted to Non-basic. Basic simple sentences are mostly active sentences.

There are five types of Non-basic Simple Sentences:

1. Passive Sentences: Consider the following examples.
a. He put the cat on the table. (Basic simple sentence)
The cat was put on the table by him (Non-basic passive simple sentence)
b. He bought the lady some gifts. (Basic)
The lady was bought some gifts by him (Non-basic)

As said above, active sentence are reorder and restructured to realize passive sentences. In this process, the object becomes the subject, and the subject becomes an adverbial.

Take a look at this example:
* The man (subject) kicked the ball (object) – Active Basic Sentence
* The ball (subject) was kicked by the man (adverbial)

More on Simple Sentences

2. Negative Sentences: These are sentences that express denial of a fact, feeling, or idea.

Here are some examples:
a. He is coming. (Basic)
He is not coming. (Non-Basic Negative Sentence)
b. She has broken the mirror. (Basic)
She has not broken the mirror. (Non-Basic Negative Sentence)

Each of the two negative sentences above contains the word ‘not’, which makes it negative.

A word like ‘Not’ that makes a sentence negative is called a Negator. When it is combined with another word and is reduced as in ‘Isn’t (is not)’, it is called a Reduced Negator.

However, there are some negative sentences that do not include ‘Not’ at all. For example:
a. She got no assistance.
b. Nothing moves you.
c. They hardly greet each other.
d. Tola barely comes here.
e. Arsenal seldom beat any good team.

3. Interrogative Sentences (Questions)
Interrogative sentences are sentences that are used to get information. They are questions. In writing, interrogative sentences end with question mark (?).
E.g. Are you the man?
These could be a Yes/No (polar) question, or WH question.

4. Imperative Sentences (Commands)
Commands are sentences primarily used to do (or not to do) something.
E.g. Shut that door.
We can identify at least three types of commands. These include:
a. Commands without a Subject.
b. Commands with a subject.
c. Command with LET.

5. Exclamations
We use exclamations to express emotions and feelings.
E.g. Oh, what a good idea!


There are basically three types of non-simple sentences in English, namely:

1. The Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a sentence that consists of two or more independent clauses, joined together with the use of coordinate conjunctions, connecting conjunctions (eitheror, neithernor), or appropriate punctuations such as comma, colon, dash, semi-colon, etc.

There are seven coordinate conjunctions in English. These include and, or, but, nor, for, so, and yet.

Examples are as follows:
a. I saw him yesterday, but I did not greet him.
b. He doesn’t drink beer, neither do I.
c. You can either surrender or face the fight.
d. He came, he saw, he conquer.
e. She ran into the house, raced into the kitchen, switched off the socket, watched the smoke fade out, and continued to gasp.

2. The Complex Sentence

A complex sentence is formed when two or more sentences are joined together using subordinate conjunctions such as because, that, who, if, etc.

For example:
a. She loves me because I love her.
b. That I know everything about your case is the fact.
c. Slapped by the man, she ran home.
d. The man who is standing by the car is quite tall.

3. The Compound-complex sentence

This is a type of non-basic simple sentence the combines the features of both the compound sentence and the complex sentence.

The compound-complex sentence consists of at least two coordinated independent clauses, and a subordinated clause. The subordinated clause is joined to one main clause.

So, the Compound-complex sentence therefore consists of at least three separate clauses. Two of these are coordinated, while the third is subordinated to either of the two main coordinated ones.

1. You should act fast while you still can, and stop murmuring.
2. I will punish you and teach you a lesson if you steal.

Formation of a Compound-complex sentence

A Compound-complex sentence can be formed by the following:
1. Compound sentence + subordinated simple sentence.
2. Complex sentence + coordinated simple sentence.
3. Three simple sentences, of which two are coordinated, and one is subordinated.


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