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Understanding the Structure of a Periodic Sentence With Examples

Understanding the Structure of a Periodic Sentence With Examples
Periodic sentences add emphasis and structural variety by presenting the central thought in the form of a main clause at the end of the sentence. Penlighten presents the structure, definition, and examples of periodic sentences to help you understand this concept.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
Periodic Interruptive Sentence
Example: Jason, who always stood first in the class, failed the test.

In this example, the central thought, Jason failed the test, is interrupted by the additional detail (who always stood first in the class), after which the thought is completed at the end of the sentence.
A sentence is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate, and expresses a complete thought. When such a group of words doesn't express a complete thought, it is called a sentence fragment or a dependent clause. A dependent clause needs an independent clause to be meaningful. Sentences are broadly classified into three types: simple, complex, and compound. A simple sentence comprises one independent clause that conveys meaning, whereas a complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. In a compound sentence, dependent clauses are joined by conjunctions. A complex-compound sentence has at least one dependent clause and more than one dependent clause.

Besides this classification, one should have a basic idea about the concept of periodic and loose sentences. A periodic sentence is defined as a sentence in which the writer holds back the central idea till the very end. Thus, it begins with the dependent clause and ends with the independent clause. On the other hand, a loose sentence (also called cumulative sentence) is a type of sentence wherein the main or the independent clause appears at the beginning, and the dependent clause or any other information follows the main clause.

What Effect Does a Periodic Sentence Have?

Every grammar book emphasizes on striking a balance when it comes to the length of a sentence. Neither a series of short, choppy sentences, nor long sentences that don't seem to end are considered to be reader-friendly. A combination of short and long sentences is what will keep the reader interested. Short sentences are simple sentences that cannot put emphasis on information that is more important. This is where complex sentences come into the picture. Complex sentences are mostly used when the writer wants to arrange the information in an order of importance. A periodic sentence is mostly a convex sentence. It creates a dramatic effect, as it keeps the reader in suspense about what is going to happen. On the flip side, it forces the reader to search for the delayed main idea. The reader could sometimes lose interest midway, especially in case of periodic interruptive sentences that are long.
Examples of Periodic Sentences
In the following examples, the central idea that is presented by the main/independent clause has been highlighted:
✤ Unable to read due to myopia, the child was asked to wear glasses.

✤ Spending time on the pristine beach, listening to the waves, gazing at the clear sky, he surely was enjoying his vacation.
Woman on beach
✤ Encouraged by the success of the female candidates, several women have decided to run for office.

✤ Rapt in his thoughts, thinking about the moments they spent together, she waited for him to come back to her.

✤ If you look at her once, you will never be able to forget her.

✤ As long as he comes for work on time, finishes the tasks assigned to him, and treats everyone with respect, I don't have a problem with him.
✤ With no one to look after him, no one to listen to how he felt, he died a lonely man.

✤ If you are the kind of person who cares for others, puts the interests of others before your own, she will never refuse your proposal.

✤ Although he has lost all his money to gambling, he is still asking his friends to loan him money.

✤ In spite of the icy winds and the heavy rain, the players continued to play.
Woman having fun in rain
✤ After coming back from work, cooking dinner, and cleaning dishes, she still managed to find time to read.
Woman reading book
✤ When I looked at her face, I completely forgot about what I needed to tell her.

✤ Whatever be the reason, whether it's her pride or shyness, she is not likely to come to the party.

✤ Never leaving her house, come what may, she's like a prisoner in her own house.

✤ Though she practices her singing lessons on a daily basis, religiously follows the instructions given by her teacher, she is not likely to be a successful singer.
✤ Considering the low crime rate, scenic beauty, simplicity of the people, and the good weather, I am more than willing to live here for the rest of my life.

✤ If you had been affront with him from the beginning, you wouldn't be facing this problem.
Another type of periodic sentence is the one where the main clause is introduced towards the beginning of the sentence, but other information or modifiers are used to delay the completion of the main clause. Here are a few examples:
Love, as everyone knows except those who are in love, is blind.

The class, usually inattentive and bored, paid attention to what the professor was saying.
Examples of Loose/Cumulative Sentences
While reading a sentence, check whether the subject is followed by an action (the verb) and additional details. In case of a loose sentence, the central thought is provided at the beginning of the sentence. It is followed by additional details. Here are a few examples:
The bell rang at night, waking everyone at home, even the neighbors.

Rob spends most of his time at his aunt's home, running errands and taking care of her.

He sent his novel to the publisher, after spending two years in writing, and three months for editing.

The teacher listened to the child's woes, feeling extremely sorry about him.
Teacher listening to child woe
She didn't attend the party, even though all her friends were going.

She ignored him completely, when everyone else was completely mesmerized by his talent.

She is having the time of her life, doing all that she has been wanting to do for years.

He was unable to concentrate on his work, as he had a terrible headache.
Man having terrible headache
His popularity increased significantly, after he hired her.

The dog barked loudly, as soon as the thief tried to enter the house.
Examples of Periodic Sentences in Literature
❑ And pulseless and cold, with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart, though still calm as in life, beneath the snow lay he who was at once the strongest and yet the weakest of the outcasts of Poker Flat.
― Bret Harte, The Outcasts of Poker Flat
❑ Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
❑ Why is it that a man riding a good commuter train from Larchmont to New York, whose needs and drives are satisfied, who has a good home, loving wife and family, good job, who enjoys unprecedented 'cultural and recreational facilities,' often feels bad without knowing why?
― Walker Percy, The Message in the Bottle
❑ Out of the bosom of the air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garment shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent and soft, and slow,
Descends the snow.
― Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life
❑ While he was declaring the ardour of his passion in such terms, as but too often make vehemence pass for sincerity, Adeline, to whom this declaration, if honourable, was distressing, and if dishonourable, was shocking, interrupted him and thanked him for the offer of a distinction, which, with a modest, but determined air, she said she must refuse.
― Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest
❑ Halfway between West Egg and New York City sprawls a desolate plain, a gray valley where New York's ashes are dumped.
― Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
❑ In the almost incredibly brief time which it took the small but sturdy porter to roll a milk-can across the platform and bump it, with a clang, against other milk-cans similarly treated a moment before, Ashe fell in love.
― P.G. Wodehouse, Something Fresh
❑ In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.
― Frank Herbert, Dune
❑ If Elizabeth, when Mr. Darcy gave her the letter, did not expect it to contain a renewal of his offers, she had formed no expectation at all of its contents.
― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
❑ If behind the erratic gunfire of the press the author felt that there was another kind of criticism, the opinion of people reading for the love of reading, slowly and unprofessionally, and judging with great sympathy and yet with great severity, might not this improve the quality of his work?
― Virginia Woolf
❑ Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills, when we sang and wallowed all night and day in caves that smelt like Sunday afternoons in damp front farmhouse parlors, and we chased, with the jawbones of deacons, the English and the bears, before the motor car, before the wheel, before the duchess-faced horse, when we rode the daft and happy hills bareback, it snowed and it snowed.
― Dylan Thomas, A Child's Christmas in Wales
On a concluding note, to be able to differentiate a loose sentence from a periodic sentence, you need to identify and locate the main/independent clause. In case of a loose sentence, the central thought appears at or near the beginning of the sentence, whereas the central thought comes at the end in a periodic sentence. Loose sentences are straightforward as the main idea is at the beginning, followed by phrases, additional words, or clauses that expand the main idea. Periodic sentences keep the reader wrapped in suspense, delaying the main idea by presenting it after the additional details and modifying phrases. Periodic sentences are not used very often these days. So, use them in moderation whenever you wish to build up suspense.