English Grammar Review
Sentences and Choices

Sentence Purpose and Structure

Two common ways to describe sentences have to do with purpose and structure.

Sentence purpose

There are four categories of purpose for our sentences.

purpose : official description

state something : declarative

Our office in Tanzania is expanding.

ask something : interrogative

Where is our office in Dodoma?

shout something : exclamatory

A monsoon has hit Tanga!

demand something : imperative

Tell Kilontsi to order the parts.
[direct or command]

Call Hazara if you have a question.
[suggest or request]

Note: Imperative sentences often have no subject. The writer is talking to the reader, so the unwritten subject is you.

Sentence structure

There are five ways that sentences can be structured.

1. A simple sentence consists of a single independent clause.

Ms. Kimbita invited me to the meeting.

2. A compound sentence consists of two or more independent clauses.

Ms. Kimbita invited me to the meeting, but I was not able to attend.

3. A complex sentence consists of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

I was not able to attend because of travel commitments.

4. A compound-complex sentence consists of two independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.

Ms. Kimbita invited me to the meeting that was rescheduled, but I was not able to attend because of travel commitments.

5. An elliptical sentence consists of a small group of words that are treated as a complete sentence, even though the subject and verb may not be included.

Yes. More later.

Subjects and verbs are implied:

(My answer is) Yes. (I will tell you) More later.

Compound sentences

There are three ways that compound sentences can be constructed.

IC = independent clause
cc = coordinating conjunction
te = transitional expression

(1) IC1, cc IC2

I invited all supervisors to the meeting, and Mr. Mzee accepted right away.

(2) IC1; IC2

Salim left the meeting early; he had to catch a flight.

(3) IC1; te, IC2

Not many people showed up to the meeting; nevertheless, Kidawa kept it lively.

Transitional expressions include: furthermore, however, nevertheless, on the contrary, otherwise, that is, then, therefore, thus.

Note: You can use (3) without the comma when using then, thus, or the coordinating conjunctions so and yet.

Let's wait five more minutes; then Kidawa can start her presentation.

If you do want the reader to pause, you can include the comma.

Question: When should I use (1) versus (2)?

Answer: If the ICs are closely related and there is a smooth flow from one to the other, use (1). If the ICs are complicated or if you want to make the reader pause, use (2).

Note: When you are not quite sure which construction is appropriate, always consider separating it into two sentences.

Lesson: Sentence Purpose and Structure
Module: Sentences and Choices
Course: English Grammar Review