Sentence Functions

  • Sometimes it's helpful to think about the function sentences perform, rather than just thinking about their clause structure. Broadly speaking, it is possible to classify sentences as fitting into one of four categories: statement; question; imperative; exclamation.

    The simplest way to explain these four functions of the sentence is by looking at one sentence rearranged to exemplify them:

    Sentences can be classified in four ways. STATEMENT
    Sentences can be classified in four ways! EXCLAMATION
    Can sentences be classified in four ways? QUESTION
    Classify sentences in four ways. IMPERATIVE

    Look at what happens to the verb in these four sentence types, and look also at the punctuation marks.

  • These four sentence types are broad categories and modern grammars often look closely at the differences which might exist within categories; for example, between rhetorical questions (What did you expect me to do?) and exclamatory questions (Wasn't it awful?); or between imperative sentences which command (Be quiet!) and those which advise (Take care).

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