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Linguistics

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What Is a Declarative Sentence?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated: May 23, 2024

A declarative sentence is a sentence that simply announces something to a listener or group of listeners. The declarative sentence is one of four main sentence types in the English language: the other three are imperative, interrogative, and exclamative sentences. Considering these basic types of sentences can help beginners understand more about how English speakers use the language to communicate.

One easy way to identify declarative sentences is through punctuation. A period is used to end a declarative sentence. By way of contrast, the interrogative sentence ends with a question mark, and an exclamation point is used to end an exclamative sentence. The imperative sentence may employ either a period or an exclamation point. Beginners will need another way to distinguish this sentence type.

Where an imperative sentence is one that includes a command or suggestion, the declarative sentence is simply telling someone something. One characteristic of the declarative sentence is that the subject is usually very prominent. For example, if an English speaker says “I went to the store today” this is an example of a declarative sentence. In this simple sentence, the subject “I” is the first word, followed by the verb and predicate part of the sentence.

In addition to these simple types of sentences, there are others that may be more complex. These are common to older English usage. For example, historic English speakers might have started a sentence with “I declare to you…” where the declarative sentence is clearly labeled. Over time, as the English language changed, these types of formal declarations have mostly been erased from the language.

A declarative type of sentence has a construction that often allows readers to get a good view of the classic subject-verb relationship present in the majority of English constructions. The shortest declarative types of sentences are good examples of this. If an English speaker says “Birds fly.” as a whole sentence, this declaration is composed of only the subject, “bird” and the corresponding verb “fly.” This is not usually how English speakers talk, but it does present a model to expand for a better understanding of how English words fit together in sentences. For example, adding the word “well” as an adverb represents one of the most common expansions of this type of sentence; these sorts of words, along with clauses and extra constructions, help English speakers to create full declarative sentences that tell more about what they are trying to express.

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Discussion Comments
By MissDaphne — On Aug 03, 2011

@EdRick - Here are some tricks I use with my students when we do our declarative and imperative sentences worksheets.

First, cross out any phrases or clauses that you can and still have a sentence that makes sense, like anything at the beginning of the sentence that has a comma after it, any prepositional phrases, etc.

Then, try added the clause "It is a fact that" to the beginning of the sentence. It will make sense with a declarative sentence, but with an imperative sentence, you'll be left with nonsense. "It is a fact that 'After dinner my mother suggested a walk in the park.'" Declarative sentence. "It is a fact that 'Before you come to the table, wash your hands please.'" You can reduce that to, "It is a fact that wash your hands please." Doesn't make sense, so it's an imperative sentence.

By EdRick — On Aug 03, 2011

The declarative sentence definition above is helpful, but I'm still having trouble helping my son with his homework. The sticking point is how to tell a declarative sentence from an imperative sentence that ends in a period. We know that a declarative sentence will include the subject but that in an imperative sentence the subject is an understood you, but as the sentences get longer and more complex, we have trouble telling whether it has a subject or not.

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