All sentences are classified according to their purpose in a sentence. Imperative and exclamatory sentences are two of the four types of sentences. Both are different from the other two types, which are interrogative and declarative sentences.
Imperative sentences are used to give commands or make requests, while exclamatory sentences are used to convey strong emotion.
Four Types of Sentences
Sentences are classified according to their discourse function – that is, the sentence's purpose in a conversation or text. There are four types of sentences: declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory. Each of these has a different function and often requires different punctuation. You're most likely already familiar with all of these types without being aware of it. Learning to recognize the different types of sentences will allow you to use them more effectively in your writing.
Exclamatory vs. Imperative Sentences
Exclamatory sentences may also convey information like declarative sentences, but their main purpose is to convey strong emotion. Exclamatory sentences end with an exclamation mark instead of a period. For instance, compare the two sentences below.
Mandy is going to have a baby.
Mandy is going to have a baby!
Both of them convey the same fact, but the purpose in each sentence is completely different. The first sentence simply states the fact without any clear emotion behind it. Perhaps it is used in a context where the speaker explains why Mandy won’t be able to work next year: because she is going to have a baby. The primary purpose of the second sentence, which is an exclamatory sentence, is to convey emotion.
Exclamatory sentences often begin with the word “what” or “how,” but that’s not always the case. These are some more examples of exclamatory sentences:
What wonderful weather!
You’re the best!
I can’t do this!
Exclamatory sentences are not used in academic writing but are common in creative writing that aims to convey emotion.
Imperative sentences are used to give commands or make requests. They may also include negation and can sometimes end with an exclamation mark. Examples of imperative sentences include:
Don’t do that!
Please leave the door open.
Close the door.
Leave the cat alone!
Imperative sentences may sometimes be formed as interrogatives or end with a tag question. This makes the request sound more polite, such as:
Shut the door, will you?
Would you mind shutting the door, please?
Declarative and Interrogative Sentences
Declarative sentences are the majority of the sentences that you see in a text. They are statements that are used to convey information, state facts, provide descriptions and so on. Some examples of simple declarative sentences include:
Johnny likes pizza.
I am looking forward to Christmas.
Mickey Mouse is my favorite Disney character.
I hope you can come visit again next year.
Declarative sentences are the ones used most often in academic writing. For instance:
This dissertation contributes to the growing body of research on the relationship between a dog’s emotional well being and political instability in their country of birth.
Smith (2015) correctly points out that Richardson’s (2013) reasoning is faulty.
Declarative sentences can also be a denial of a fact, in which case they use negation:
Johnny does not like pizza.
I am not looking forward to Christmas.
I haven’t done my homework.
My dog hasn’t been following commands lately.
Interrogative sentences, on the other hand, are used to ask questions. They end with a question mark. For example:
What time is it?
What’s your name?
Is it your book?
There are several types of interrogative sentences. Yes/no interrogatives begin with an auxiliary and require a “yes” or “no” response:
Are you hungry?
Should we see a movie?
Do you like popcorn?
"Wh" interrogatives are open-ended questions that begin with a "wh" word (one of the question words: “who,” “when,” “where,” etc.). Examples include:
What time is it?
Who won the game?
How do you make pancakes?
What’s your favorite movie?
Remember that interrogative, imperative and exclamatory sentences are not used in academic writing. However, if you are writing creatively, feel free to sprinkle your text with questions, emotions and commands.
Tanya Mozias Slavin is a former academic and language teacher. She writes articles about education and linguistic technology, and has published in the Washington Post, Fast Company, CBC and other places. Find her at www.tanyamoziasslavin.com