10 Sentence Structure Types You Should Recognize With Examples

1. Simple Sentence Structure:

  • Definition:
  • A simple sentence with just a subject and verb (independent clause)
  • Examples:
  • The boy is hungry.
  • I went to school.
  • The subject likes to verb.
  • How to analyze it:
  • Simple sentence structure can signify a clarity of thought, an acceptance of things the way they are, or a simplemindedness that focuses only on one specific fact

2. Periodic/Interruptive Sentence Structure:

  • Definition:
  • A sentence with the main point (independent clause) at the end of it, often after a couple side points leading up to it (subordinating clauses)
  • Examples:
  • “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • After shopping at the mall, walking the dogs and washing the car, I finally got to stay in and relax.
  • By the smell of barbecuing and the fireworks in the sky, I knew it was Independence Day.
  • How to analyze it:
  • Periodic sentence structure often brings a dramatic tension and suspense to the climax at the end of the sentence, stressing its importance and the many dependent clauses that lead up to it

3. Cumulative/Loose Sentence Structure:

  • Definition:
  • A sentence with the main point (independent clause) at the beginning of it, followed by some side points (subordinating clauses)
  • Examples:
  • Wolves are important in a habitat because they control the numbers of elk, which in turn allows trees to mature so they can offer shelter to birds and insects.
  • Lewis and Clark finally made it to the Pacific coast, after bitter winters and a close call with the Sioux Indians.
  • The subject likes to verb.
  • How to analyze it:
  • Cumulative sentence structure often makes a sentence more conversational and clear instead of building up suspense, by putting the main part of the sentence at the beginning and then providing details to add to that main idea

4. Inverted Sentence Structure:

  • Definition:
  • Basically a yoda-style sentence where the subject comes after the verb (even though yoda sentences usually just flip the subject and direct object/subject complement)
  • Examples:
  • “To me alone there came a thought of grief” -William Wordsworth
  • Down that dark path sits the haunted house.
  • So high is Mount Everest that climbers can take only a couple of steps per minute as they near the summit.
  • How to analyze it:
  • Inverted sentences are meant to sound weird; they can highlight a speaker’s conflict or emphasize a thought by throwing off the reader’s rhythm

5. Parallel/Balanced Sentence Structure:

  • Definition:
  • Using the same pattern of words in similar, or parallel, forms
  • Examples:
  • Mary likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling.
  • “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessing; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” -Winston Churchill
  • “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
  • How to analyze it:
  • Parallelism is often used when a speaker is trying to frame an argument in a balanced and consistent structure to draw attention to it

6. Tricolon/Triadic Sentence:

  • Definition:
  • A specific type of parallelism/parallel structure where there are three main clauses (tri = three)
  • Examples:
  • “I came; I saw; I conquered”/”Veni vidi vici” -Julius Caesar
  • “You are talking to a man who has laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe.” -The Wizard of Oz
  • “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
  • How to analyze it:
  • Simple sentence structure can signify a clarity of thought, an acceptance of things the way they are, or a simplemindedness that focuses only on one specific fact

7. Anaphora:

  • Definition:
  • Repeating a word at the beginning of successive clauses
  • Examples:
  • “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right…” -Abraham Lincoln
  • “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day…” -Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? have you reckon’d the earth much?
    Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
    Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?” -Walt Whitman
  • How to analyze it:
  • Anaphora often is used in speeches or proclamations and can provide the same structure and balance as parallelism, though anaphora is often accompanied by high-minded language to bring in a greater sense of idealism

8. Rhetorical Question:

  • Definition:
  • A question that doesn’t expect an answer
  • Examples:
  • What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore — 
    And then run? -Langston Hughes
  • “What’s love got to do with it?” -Tina Turner
  • “Who do you think you are?” -Spice Girls
  • How to analyze it:
  • Rhetorical questions are often used as part of an argument and to make the reader or listener question his or her views as the speaker points out some perceived issue or contradiction

9. Chiasmus:

  • Definition:
  • A sentence with an ABBA structure
  • Examples:
  • “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” -John F. Kennedy
  • “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” -Shakespeare
  • “Bad men live that they may eat and drink,whereas good men eat and drink that they may live.” -Socrates
  • How to analyze it:
  • Chiasmus is used a lot in classic texts as a way to catch the reader’s attention with a clever rephrasing of a simple statement for dramatic effect

10. Antithesis:

  • Definition:
  • When parallelism is used to contrast words that are opposites of each other
  • Examples:
  • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” –Abraham Lincoln
  • Speech is silver, but silence is gold.
  • How to analyze it:
  • Antithesis can express ideas more vividly than through simple speech, using stark contrast to examine the pros and cons of an argument and emphasize a point