Glossary: sentence

Explanation

The sentence is the largest unit of grammar, which in the written language begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.

A sentence is a group of words which are grammatically connected to each other but not to any words outside the sentence.

The form of a sentence’s main clause shows whether it is being used as a statement, a question, a command or an exclamation.

A sentence may consist of a single clause or it may contain several clauses held together by subordination or co-ordination. Classifying a sentence as a simple sentence, complex sentence or compound sentence can be confusing, because a ‘simple’ sentence may be complicated, and a ‘complex’ one may be straightforward. The terms single-clause sentence and multi-clause sentence may be more helpful.

  • John went to his friend’s house. He stayed there till tea-time.
  • John went to his friend’s house, he stayed there till tea-time. [comma splice]
    • This is a ‘comma splice’, a common error in which a comma is used where either a full stop or a semi-colon is needed to indicate the lack of any grammatical connection between the two clauses.
  • You are my friend. [statement]
  • Are you my friend? [question]
  • Be my friend! [command]
  • What a good friend you are! [exclamation]
  • Ali went home on his bike to his goldfish and his current library book about pets. [single-clause sentence]
  • She went shopping but took back everything she had bought because she didn’t like any of it. [multi-clause sentence]

See also clause type, command, exclamation, question, statement.

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