What Is a Periodic Sentence? (with Examples)

by Craig Shrives

Periodic Sentence

A periodic sentence is a sentence that has been deliberately structured to place the main point at the end. Therefore, a periodic sentence will have its main clause or predicate as the last part.

Usually, a periodic sentence will be a busy sentence. Often, the very last word in the sentence will be the point the writer wants to emphasize.
periodic sentence example

Examples of Periodic Sentences

Here are some examples of periodic sentences:
  • Despite the blinding snow, the freezing temperatures, and the heightened threat of attack from polar bears, the team continued.
  • (In this example, the main independent clause (shaded) is at the end.)
  • When I was shopping in the town yesterday, I saw Mike!
  • (Here, the main clause is at the end and the key word is the last word. This is deliberate as it creates impact.)
Compare the last example above to this:
  • I saw Mike when I was shopping in the town yesterday!
  • (This is not a periodic sentence. It is far less impactful and has far less shock value. The main point is not delivered like a punchline.)

    Periodic Sentences Are a Form of Anastrophe

    Periodic sentences are a form of anastrophe, which is the deliberate changing of normal word order, usually to create emphasis or another rhetorical effect. (A rhetorical effect is any effect that elicits a response from the reader, e.g., causes the reader to pause for thought.)

    Here is an example of anastrophe:
    • She stared into the dog's eyes deep and menacing.
    • (The normal word order would be "deep and menacing eyes.")
    Read more about anastrophe.

    Why Should I Care about Periodic Sentences?

    Periodic sentences are mostly used to emphasize, to shock, or to create suspense. Periodic sentences can also be more persuasive than normal sentences as they allow a writer to put all the reasoning or evidence up front before making the final point.
    • The winner of best city, with a mile-long modern shopping mall, cycle paths hugging every road, and a network of canals, is Milton Keynes.
    • (Here, all the reasoning is put up front before the main information is given.)
    • With two raw blisters and now unable to carry my pack due to two broken ribs and broken collar bone, I stared at my dead phone pleadingly.
    • (This example ends not only with the idea (shaded) the writer wants to emphasize but also with the most important word (bold).)
    • Because she knows the filing system, has more experience than the rest of the team, and can get into work at a moment's notice, Sarah will be charge next week.
    • (This is another example of putting the reasoning up front before stating the main idea (shaded). This is an attempt at being persuasive.)
    Interactive Exercise
    Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

    See Also

    What is a sentence? What is a predicate? What is an independent clause? What is a dependent clause? Glossary of grammatical terms