What’s a Sentence: The Key to Writing Interesting Ideas

What’s a sentence? That’s the first question that comes to mind when you’re taking an English lesson. This is especially true for non-native speakers trying to hone their communication skills.

Every day, we rely on sentences to express ideas, feelings, and opinions. While the English language has different types of sentences, they all have one thing in common. Sentences always express a complete thought.

That brings us to the original question:

The term “sentence” describes a set of words that is complete in itself. In other words, it conveys a statement, command, question, or exclamation. As a result, sentences often contain of a subject and predicate.

For example:

  • John passed the ball to Luca.
  • Mark was late to work again.

Typically, sentences consist of a main clause — meaning it can stand by itself. However, it could also have several subordinate clauses.

So, how do we use sentences.

We use sentences to express the following:

  • An idea or a thought — “Let’s go on a road trip.”
  • An emotion — “I’m angry”
  • A command — “Stop!”
  • A question — “When is the test?”
  • An exclamation — “Great!”
  • An explanation —”This is the reason for the sentence.”

Sentences often begin with capital letters and end with some form of punctuation — period, question mark, or an exclamation.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s delve a little deeper.

There are four types of sentences — simple sentence, compound sentence, complex sentence, and complex-compound sentence.

Here are some examples of these types.

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Simple Sentence

A simple sentence has one independent variable and one clause.

That means you have a person or thing performing an action and a verb or verbal phrase that describes the action. Again, a simple sentence expresses a complete thought. For example:

  • Jack is running.

Note that simple sentences don’t contain subordinate or dependent clauses.

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is a sentence that is made up of two subjects and two verbs, with any additional information to be found in the nouns. They are typically written as subjects, verb, subjects, verb.

These type of sentences usually work with coordinating conjunctions to connect two independent clauses. For example:

  • Jack is running, but John is sleeping.

Note that the conjunction, but, joins the two independent clauses.

Complex Sentence

Complex sentences usually have one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. It offers a quick way to explain or provide more information about your sentences’ primary point.

For example:

  • The duck, which is swimming in the pond, is happy.

Note that “which is swimming in the pond” provides additional information about the duck.

Compound-complex Sentence

Like a complex sentence, a compound-complex sentence contains two or more independent clauses. However, it also contains at least one dependent clause.

For example:

  • The duck, which is swimming in the pond, is happy, but John is unhappy.

Note that this sentence type combines elements of the compound and complex sentence. As such, it’s the most advanced sentence type.

Here are other things to know about sentences.

1. Sentences May Appear Simple

A simple sentence contains only one clause and one variable independent of the main sentence.

Simple sentences consist of only one independent clause without any dependent clauses.

The subjects usually consist of a noun or pronoun, and can include modifications of words, phrases, or clauses.

To expand simple sentences, adding elements are necessary.

Among these elements are the following

  • Direct objects
  • Indirect objects
  • Subject complements

The elements are all combined into simple, complex, or compound/complex sentences.

2. Sentences May Appear Declarative

Let us head back to the question of what’s a sentence. Speaking of simple sentences, there are other types of sentences.

The most common type of sentence is a declarative one. A declarative sentence refers to facts or beliefs. This kind of sentence may describe, explain, or report facts, thoughts, or events.

A declarative sentence can also be a question. These are sentences that request opinions from the listener.

Declarative sentences also attempt to impose an opinion or idea.

3. Sentences have Meaning

Sentences are words or groups of words that convey meaning to the listener, can be reacted to, and are punctuated.

At some instances, we use phrases or clauses which would not make a complete sentence, known as sentence fragments.

Examples of sentences that have meaning include

  • “The airplane will travel from San Francisco to New York City”.
  • “The sky is dark today”.

In complex-compound sentences, pay attention to putting commas so that the reader will not have a difficult time grasping the intended meaning.

If you do not use correct grammar and punctuation, the sentence will be unclear or ambiguous. Which is why you should watch out for grammar errors when writing a sentence or sentences.

Your unclear writing might get readers lost from its message and meaning. In writing good sentences, it is crucial to know how to put them together using correct grammar.

Based on the information listed above, these are some of the things you should remember about sentences:

  • Sentences have both a subject and a predicate
  • The subject of a sentence is what the sentence talks about.
  • Predicate complements with the subject.
  • A sentence must begin with a capital letter
  • Between the subject and predicate, a sentence must have at least one word.

These five pointers will help you remember what’s a sentence.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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