Beginner's Guide to Declarative Sentences

Tips for successfully structuring declarative sentences

This Declarative Sentence Is Spoken by Don Corleone (Played by Marlon Brando) in the Movie the Godfather (1972)

In English grammar, a declarative sentence (also known as a declarative clause) is a statement that—true to its name—declares something. Declarative statements consist of a subject and a predicate and are the most common type of sentence in the English language. In contrast to a command (imperative), a question (interrogative), or an exclamation (exclamatory), a declarative sentence expresses an active state of being in the present tense. In a declarative sentence, the subject generally precedes the verb, and it almost always ends with a period.

Types of Declarative Sentences

As with other types of sentences, a declarative sentence can be either simple or compound. A simple declaratory sentence is the union of a subject and a predicate, as simple as a subject and verb in the present tense. A compound declarative joins two related phrases together with a conjunction and a comma.

Simple declarative: Lilly loves gardening.

Compound declarative: Lilly loves gardening, but her husband hates weeding.

Compound declaratives can be joined with a semicolon rather than a comma. Such sentences carry the same meaning and are equally correct grammatically. For example, in the above sentence, you would swap out the comma for a semicolon and delete the conjunction to arrive at this sentence:

Lilly loves gardening; her husband hates weeding.

Declarative vs. Interrogative Sentences

Declarative sentences usually end with a period, however, they can also be phrased in the form of a question. The difference is that an interrogative sentence is asked in order to obtain information, while a declarative question is asked in order to clarify information. 

Interrogative: Did she leave a message?

Declarative: She did leave a message?

Note that in a declarative sentence, the subject comes before the verb. Another easy way to tell the two sentences apart is to substitute a period for the question mark in each example. A declarative sentence would still make sense if you punctated it with a period; an interrogative would not.

Incorrect: Did she leave a message.

Correct: She did leave a message.

Imperative and Exclamative Sentences

It can be fairly easy to confuse declarative sentences with imperative or exclamative ones. Sometimes when a sentence expresses a statement of fact, what looks like an exclamative may actually be an imperative (also known as a directive). Though it's a less common form, an imperative gives advice or instructions, or it may express a request or command. While it's unlikely you'll come across an instance where an imperative is confused with a declarative, it all depends on the context:

Imperative: Please come to dinner tonight.

Exclamative: "Come to dinner!" my boss demanded.

Declarative: You're coming to dinner tonight! That makes me so happy!

Modifying a Declarative

As with other types of sentences, declaratives can be expressed in either a positive or negative form, depending on the verb. To distinguish them from imperatives, remember to look for a visible subject.

Declarative: You aren't needed.

Interrogative: Don't be impolite.

If you're still having difficulty distinguishing the two types of sentences, try expressing both with a tag question added for clarification. A declarative sentence will still make sense; an imperative won't.

Correct: You aren't needed, are you?

Incorrect: Don't be impolite, will you?