The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Sentence (linguistics)

In linguistics, the sentence is a unit of language, characterised in most languages by the presence of a finite verb. For example, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." The shortest legal sentences in the English language are "I am" and "I do" - although with some bending of the rules, the imperative "Go!" can be considered a sentence, as could the word "I", carrying an unspoken verb "am" in response to a question such as "Who's in charge here?"

Traditionally, each sentence is regarded as having a subject, an object and a verb, even if one of these is implied. See grammar for more details. The objects that modify the noun phrase collectively form the predicate of a sentence.

In the English language, linguists classify sentences into one of four types based on their structure:

  1. Simple sentence
  2. Compound sentence
  3. Complex sentence
  4. Compound-complex sentence

Sentences can also be classified based on their purpose:

Declarative sentences (Declarations)
Used to state a fact or argument that does not require a response from the listener. For example:
I am going home.
Interrogative sentences
Used to ask a question that expects an answer from the listener. For example:
When are you going to work?
Rhetorical questions
Appears in the form of a question that is not expected to be answered by the listener and generally used emphasize a statement or argument. For example:
Who am I to question his authority?
Exclamatory sentences (Exclamations)
Used to make a forceful or emphatic statement or argument. Can also be an interjection. For example:
This is such a wonderful day!
Imperative sentences (Imperatives)
Used to give a direct command or request to the listener. Can also appear in the form of a question. For example:
Go do your homework.
Would you please pass the bread?

An incomplete sentence is called a sentence fragment.

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