7) Sentences

Sentences

We have already had a look at what makes a sentence, and we will deal with this in detail throughout, and at the end. If you want the detailed discussion, it is here. Let’s take a brief tour through this now.

1) Sentence complexity

Briefly, I want to show the four different levels of a sentence, so we don’t get confused later when moving past the simple sentences.

1.1 Simple sentence

A simple sentence consists of just one main/independent clause. As a reminder, the definition of a main clause is a group of two or more words which contain both a subject and a verb combining to form a subject-verb relationship, and which can stand alone as a complete thought, or sentence. Therefore, the definition of a simple sentence is a main clause which begins with a capital letter and ends with a period. For example:

I ate the apples.

Here we have the subject ‘I’ with the verb ‘ate’ and the direct object ‘the apples’ combining to complete a single thought.

1.2 Complex sentence

A complex sentence contains one main clause + one, or more, subordinate clauses. For example:

I loved walking in the mountains until that day I hurt myself.

Here we have the main/independent clause ‘I loved walking in the mountains’ linked to the subordinate/dependent clause ‘until that day I hurt myself’. An example with more than one subordinate clause is:

I loved walking in the mountains until that day I hurt myself when the mist made me slip near the edge.

Here we have the main/independent clause ‘I loved walking in the mountains’ linked to the subordinate/dependent clause ‘until that day I hurt myself’ and the second subordinate/dependent clause ‘when the mist made me slip near the edge’.

2.3 Compound sentence

A compound sentence has two, or more, main/independent clauses in it. Here is an example:

The world rejoiced when the meteor missed, and everyone took the next day off work.

Here the main/independent clause ‘The world rejoiced when the meteor missed’ is linked to the other main/independent clause ‘everyone took the next day off work’. We could extend this again, as in:

The world rejoiced when the meteor missed; everyone took the next day off work, and they all breathed a sigh of relief. 

Here the main/independent clause ‘The world rejoiced when the meteor missed’ is linked to the main/independent clause ‘everyone took the next day off work.’ and the other main/independent clause ‘they all breathed a sigh of relief’.

1.4 Compound-complex sentences

A compound-complex sentence has both two main/independent clauses and one, or more, subordinate/dependent clause/s. For example:

Despite having had many arguments, the brothers had a strong connection; their parents had brought them up to forgive.

Here the subordinate/dependent clause ‘Despite having had many arguments’ is linked to the main/independent clause ‘the brothers had a strong connection’ and the other main/independent clause ‘their parents had brought them up to forgive’.

Don’t worry if this doesn’t all make perfect sense right now; it will hopefully become clearer as the course progresses, and in the detailed discussion at the end.

2) Different types of sentences

Sentences can also be broken down into 3 main types:

2.1 Imperative sentences

Imperative sentences are sentences that articulate a command, and are sometimes ended with an exclamation mark, such as:

Chris, stop running!

These sentences are common in everyday life, fiction and descriptions of real life interactions, but less so in academic writing. I wonder how long it took for words to become commands? I reckon it was about 0.1 seconds after the first semblance of a word was uttered.

2.2 Declarative sentences

Declarative sentences are sentences that make any form of statement such as:

Chris, if you don’t stop running you will fall off that cliff.

Statements can also extend to a denial such as:

I did not say those nasty words because I have only just learnt to speak.

We use these sorts of sentences when telling a story, describing perceived facts and stating an opinion which makes up a large bulk of our conversations, such as in this riveting exchange:

‘It’s been very sunny out.’

‘Yes, it has been very warm.’

‘I don’t think it will last.’

‘No it never does.’

‘The weatherman said it is going to rain.’

‘Yeah, I saw that as well.’

2.3 Interrogative sentences

Interrogative sentences are sentences that ask a question such as:

Chris, when are you going to stop running?

I love asking questions; I think it is one of the most enjoyable activities on the planet. This relates to learning generally: if one isn’t asking questions while learning – at the very least to oneself – then I don’t think one is really engaging with whatever is being learnt (OK, I admit, sometimes those questions have me pulling my hair out!).

3) Questions

1) What are the four different levels of complexity for sentences?

2) What are the three different types of sentences?

Now we are done with the overview, let’s start with word classes, beginning with nouns.

NEXT: 8) Nouns

Posted in English Grammar