Sentence Patterns & Variation

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

Want to make your writing more appealing to your readers? This lesson discusses how to use sentence patterns and variation in sentences to evoke interest through your writing.

What Is Sentence Pattern?

Whether you know it or not, everything you write has some sort of sentence pattern, which is defined as the order and types of phrases or clauses in sentences. Remember, a phrase is a group of words that function as a meaningful unit and a clause is a unit of words that usually has a subject and a predicate. Varying the phrases and clauses in your sentences prevents monotony and can keep your reader interested in your writing.

Normal sentence pattern follows a typical structure: subject, verb, object or SVO. Remember, the subject of the sentence is the person or object doing the action; the verb is the action word, and the object is the noun receiving the action. As long as you follow grammatical rules, switching this order can allow for interesting variations in sentence pattern to keep your reader intrigued. Look at the following examples.

  • Harry Potter anxiously chased the golden snitch.
  • The golden snitch was chased by an anxious Harry Potter.

Both of these sentences preserve the underlying meaning. In fact, both use mostly the same words. However, the first sentence has the normal SVO pattern, whereas the second is in the reverse. When the patter becomes object, verb, then subject, it is called passive voice. Usually, you want to avoid the passive voice in formal writing, like an essay. This is because it can make it seem like the writer is not as confident. However, in literature, fiction, and even sparingly in essays, the passive voice can be an effective way to vary sentence patterns. Overall, it is always a good idea to try to reposition phrases in the sentences of your writing.

As far as writing pieces that consist of several paragraphs or more, there are some common issues that occur with regards to variation. Let's look at these issues in variation.

Too Many Sentences Beginning the Same Way

The first is having too many sentences beginning the same way. Look at the following group of sentences.

  • Harry Potter overcame the evil Voldemort's spirit.
  • Harry Potter battled a giant snake.
  • Harry Potter stood up to the reincarnated Voldemort.
  • Harry Potter discovered the deathly hallows.
  • Harry Potter finally defeated Voldemort.

What's the first thing you notice about these sentences? They all begin the same exact way! Written like this, the reader will become so overwhelmed with the sentence pattern the information will be totally overlooked. However, if you rearrange some of the phrases and clauses, then the writing becomes much more interesting. Look at how some phrases could be inserted, deleted or rearranged to make this writing less repetitive.

  • Harry Potter overcame the evil Voldemort's spirit. Then a giant snake attacked the Chosen One before a reincarnated Voldemort once again assailed Harry. Finally, after discovering the deathly hallows, Harry was able to defeat the Dark Lord.

In this example, not only were whole phrases moved but also different words were inserted in order to add variation to the sentences.

Too Many Declarative Sentences

A second common issue with variation is having too many declarative sentences. Remember, there are four types a sentences:

  • Declarative sentence - a statement that gives information
  • Interrogative sentence - a question
  • Imperative sentence - a command
  • Exclamatory sentence - shows strong emotions or feelings

If all your sentences are the same kind, your reader will become distracted by the sentence patterns. Most forms of writing consist of mostly declarative sentences, but adding in a different type of sentence here and there adds intrigue to your writing. Look at the following examples.

  • Go search for the Sorcerer's Stone.
  • Can Harry Potter find all three deathly hallows?
  • Harry Potter finally defeated Voldemort!

These are examples of an imperative, interrogative and an exclamatory sentence that could be included in a piece of writing. Remember, vary your sentence type but be careful not to go overboard. For instance, using a question sparingly can stress a specific point; however, too many questions will annoy your reader.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account