Clause types: statements, questions, commands and exclamations

The National Curriculum recognises four clause types (also called ‘sentence types’ ). They are usually used to ‘do different things’:

Each clause type has its own typical pattern (i.e. word order).

In statements, the Subject comes in its typical position before the verb. Here are some examples:

Questions also have a special word order, where the Subject comes after a verb. In other cases words such as whatwho, whenwherewhy or how are used. Here are some examples:

Commands are typically used to tell someone to do something. These clauses have no Subject. Here are some examples. 

To tell someone not to do something, we can put don’t before the main verb: Don’t tell Kate; Don’t be mean. These are negative commands.

Exclamations are used to express surprise, delight, etc. They generally start with a phrase containing what or how. This phrase comes first even when it is not the Subject, which often gives a special word order.

The National Curriculum stipulates that questions must have an question mark after them, and exclamations must have an exclamation mark.

Note: The fact that exclamations must have an exclamation mark does not mean that other kinds of clauses can't have an exclamation mark. For example, if I write It's a lovely day! then the pattern is that of a statement, not an exclamation. The pattern for the latter would be What a nice day it is!

See also: Clause types: advanced.

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