The English language provides considerable flexibility in sentence construction. Using various sentence patterns produces speech and writing that are lively and interesting. Also, variety in sentence construction contributes to well-organized messages.
A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. It begins with a capital letter and closes with an end mark, either a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. Sentences are classified as declarative (a statement), interrogative (a question), imperative (command or request), or exclamatory (for emphasis).
- Declarative: We reached the final level of Doom.
- Interrogative: How did you get past the Valley of Fire?
- Imperative: Click on the dragon. Watch out for the Black Guard.
- Exclamatory: I’m in the Secret Chamber!
Not every group of words is a sentence. A fragment is a phrase or clause that looks like a sentence but does not express a complete thought.
down by the river where the fish bite
if he would just think
By themselves, fragments make little sense and leave important questions unanswered. Who or what is down by the river where the fish bite? What would happen if he would just think? Fragments must be joined with other sentence parts to form a complete thought.
- We were down by the river where the fish bite.
- He could save himself so much trouble if he would just think.
Unlike fragments, which haven’t enough parts to make a complete sentence, run-ons have too many parts. They are two or more complete thoughts—at times only vaguely related—strung together without punctuation.
Run-On: We have only three days until the trip starts I don’t have my jacket repaired yet and that will take at least a day or so to do don’t you think?
Run-on sentences can be corrected in a number of ways: by inserting the proper punctuation, by breaking the sentence into two or more smaller sentences, or by rewriting the sentence to eliminate the run-on.
- We have only three days until the trip starts, and I forgot to have my jacket repaired. Do you think the repairs will take more than a day or so?
- We have only three days to get ready for the trip. I forgot to have my jacket repaired. Do you think the repairs will take more than a day or so?