One way to classify sentences is by function such as declarative, imperative, interrogative, and exclamatory sentences. In this lesson, you will learn about declarative and imperative sentences.
You will learn the definitions and how to tell the difference.
The Role of a Sentence
Different workers in a company have different jobs to perform. Similarly, in written communication, different types of sentences have different jobs to perform. There are four different functions a sentence can have in English: declarative, imperative, interrogative, and exclamatory.
Interrogative sentences are easy to understand – they ask a question and end in a question mark (?). Exclamatory sentences are also easy – they express strong emotion and end in an exclamation point (!). Declarative and imperative sentences are harder to distinguish. Because they both can end with a period ( . ), punctuation doesn’t provide a good clue. Let’s take a closer look at these sentence types.
A declarative sentence makes a statement and ends with a period.
You’ll find in English that the vast majority of sentences are declarative, especially in written English. Declarative sentences can describe facts, express opinions, make arguments, or otherwise give information. For example:
- Ramona exercises every day.
- Exercise is healthy.
- Ramona’s favorite exercise is biking.
Each of these sentences makes a statement that gives us information.Most declarative sentences follow normal word order – that is, the subject comes before the verb.
Remember, the subject is a noun or pronoun showing who or what the sentence is about. The verb is the word showing action or state of being.
- Tania hates biking.
- The subject in this sentence is ”Tania”; the verb is ”hates”.
- She runs once a week instead.
- In this sentence, our subject is a pronoun, the word ”she”; the action word is ”runs”.
An imperative sentence gives a command, gives instructions, or makes a request. It often ends in a period, and occasionally it will end in an exclamation point if the command is very strong. For instance:
- Measure two cups of flour.
- Add a teaspoon of baking soda and stir.
Each of these sentences gives an instruction.
Imperative sentences are unique in that there is usually not a subject written in the sentence. Rather, the subject is the hearer or reader; the subject of the sentence is implied to be ”you.” The entire imperative sentence is the predicate part of the sentence – the verb and its object and modifiers.
- Please wash the car.
- This sentence would be categorized as a request.
- Get out of here now!
- Because of its tone and the corresponding exclamation point, this sentence would be considered a command.
Distinguishing Between the Two
There are two questions we can ask when trying to decide if a sentence is declarative or imperative.
- What is the word order? If the sentence has the subject before the verb, it is probably declarative.
If the sentence seems to have only a verb and its modifiers, but it makes sense to add ”you” at the beginning, it’s probably imperative.
- What is the sentence doing? If it is giving a direction, request, or command, it is imperative. If it is for your information, it is declarative.
Let’s try a few sentences.”The temperature dropped fifteen degrees overnight.”
- What is the word order? The sentence is arranged with the subject, then the verb (temperature + dropped).
- What is the sentence doing? It tells a fact for your information.
- This sentence is declarative.
”Put away your laundry before dinner.”
- What is the word order? The whole sentence is a verb with modifiers and objects. It could be prefaced by ”you”: (You) put away your laundry before dinner.
- What is the sentence doing? It’s giving an instruction.
- This sentence is imperative.
Declarative sentences state information, and the word order is usually subject then verb.
Imperative sentences give a command, give instructions, or make a request and have a subject that is implied to be ”you.” To distinguish between the two, ask: What is the word order, and what is the function of the sentence?