Basic Sentence Kinds and Patterns

(adapted from Lanham, Revising Prose and Analyzing Prose, and Stoner and Perkins, Making Sense of Messages)

Four kinds of sentences


Three basic structures


Two notes on structures

Active and passive voice


Basic sentence patterns

In addition to the basic kinds of sentences, and the basic structures of sentences, other terms come on handy for describing sentences.

Periodic Sentence: aka suspended sentence or climactic sentences

A periodic sentence is a long sentence with a number of elements, usually balanced or antithetical, standing in a clear syntactical relationship to each other. Usually, the periodic sentence suspends the conclusion of the sense until the end of the sentence. A periodic sentence shows a pattern of thought that has been fully worked out, whose power relationships of subordination have been carefully determined, and who timing has been climatically ordered. In a periodic sentence, the mind is portrayed as finished working on the thought and has left it fully formed.

Running sentence: aka loose sentence

The opposite kind of sentence to the periodic is called, variously, the running or loose sentence. In this kind of sentence, the elements are loosely related to one another, follow no particular antithetical climactic order, and do not suspend grammatical completion until the close of the sentence. The loose or running style often portrays a mind in the process of thinking rather than having already completely ordered its thinking. A sentence that is so loose as to verge on grammatical or syntactical incoherence is sometimes called a run-on sentence.

Advanced sentence patterns

Parataxis and Hypotaxis


The adjectival forms are paratactic and hypotactic: "Hemingway favors a paratactic syntax while Faulkner prefers a hypotactic one."

Parallelism and Antithesis

Many - if not most - rhetorical figures are based on creating parallel or antithetic arrangements.

Secondary patterns within sentences



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