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What is a sentence?

Definition: A sentence is a complete and independent statement. A sentence consists of something taking an action. Even a single word command, such as "Go!" is a sentence. Although the subject (you) is not included, it is implied.

The main parts of the sentence are the subject and the predicate. Usually the subject is the name of something taking action and the predicate is all the rest, including the object. The most commom sentence faults are sentence fragments and run-on sentences. See "How to Fix Run-on Sentences."

Sentence Parts

Every sentence must have a verb, an action word. The object is the thing which the subject acts upon. The subject is the person or thing taking the action.

Try it!

Can you identify the verb in the following sentences. Test yourself by writing the verb in the field beside the sentence.

For dinner we ate cookies and cake.

After the zombie apocalypse movie, George took me to dinner.

In all kinds of weather I walk my dog every morning in the park.

After a long day with the children, Jean dreamed of giant purple dinosaurs.

In his yoga pose Sanjay was serene.

Try more quizzes on the parts of speech!

The predicate may also contain some clauses and other stuff, but the most important thing if you are having trouble with your writing is to keep it simple. Don't put in too much stuff in your sentences. According to WhiteSmoke, the grammar fixing software, an ideal sentence should have nine to seventeen words.

A clause also contains a subject and a predicate, but it is contained within the sentence. A clause may also be a complete sentence. Clauses may be dependent or independent. A dependent clause is dependent on the rest of the sentence for its meaning. An independent clause could stand alone as a sentence.

A phrase is a part of a sentence that does not have both a subject and a predicate.

Sentence Types

One way to view sentence types is by how the sentences are structured. Sentences may be simple (subject-verb) or compound (subject-verb-conjunction-subject-verb). Sentences may also be complex (subject-verb-subordinate clause). And, for mind-boggling difficulty, sentences may be compound-complex. Let's see some examples.

Sentence Type



The boy travels.


The boy flew and the girl drove.


The boy flew to Europe, because he wanted to see the Eifel Tower.


The boy flew to Mexico, because it was spring break, and the girl ran to her mother to ask to go too.

A simple sentence simply has a subject and verb. The verb may or may not require an object.
A compound sentence has two related actions joined by a conjunction.
A complex sentence has a subordinate clause.
A compound-complex sentence has all of the above: two related actions joined by a conjunction as well as one or more subordinate clauses.

Another way to view sentence types is by the function of the sentence. In this view of classifying sentences, there are four types of sentences.

Sentence Type




Makes a statement.

Mr. Francis smiled. The students relaxed.


Asks a question.

Where is your homework? Why are you late?


Makes a command.

Come here. Don’t do that. Please stop talking.


Expresses strong emotion.

I refuse to do homework on weekends!

Note: the subject of an imperative type of sentence is always the person who is supposed to hear the sentence ("you"), and therefore is often left out.

Next: review Sentence Terms, like subject, and object.