In linguistics, a sentence is a grammatical unit of one or more words, bearing minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it, often preceded and followed in speech by pauses, having one of a small number of characteristic intonation patterns, and typically expressing an independent statement, question, request, command, etc. Sentences are generally characterized in most languages by the presence of a finite verb, e.g. "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog".
Components of a sentence
A simple complete sentence
consists of a subject
and a predicate
. The subject is typically a noun phrase
, though other kinds of phrases (such as gerund
phrases) work as well, and some languages allow subjects to be omitted. The predicate is a finite verb phrase
: it's a finite verb together with zero or more objects
, zero or more complements
, and zero or more adverbials
. See also copula
for the consequences of this verb on the theory of sentence structure.
consists of a subject and a verb. There are two types of clauses: independent and subordinate (dependent). An independent clause consists of a subject verb and also demonstrates a complete thought: for example, "I am sad." A subordinate clause consists of a subject and a verb, but demonstrates an incomplete thought: for example, "Because I had to move."
One traditional scheme for classifying English
sentences is by the number and types of finite clauses
Sentences can also be classified based on their purpose:
- A declarative sentence or declaration, the most common type, commonly makes a statement: I am going home.
- A negative sentence or negation denies that a statement is true: I am not going home.
- An interrogative sentence or question is commonly used to request information — When are you going to work? — but sometimes not; see rhetorical question.
- An exclamatory sentence or exclamation is generally a more emphatic form of statement: What a wonderful day this is!
- An imperative sentence or command tells someone to do something: Go to work at 7:30 tomorrow morning.
Major and minor sentences
A major sentence is a regular
sentence; it has a subject
and a predicate
For example: I have a ball.
In this sentence one can change the persons: We have a ball.
However, a minor sentence is an irregular type of sentence. It does not contain a finite verb. For example, "Mary!" "Yes." "Coffee." etc. Other examples of minor sentences are headings (e.g. the heading of this entry), stereotyped expressions (Hello!
), emotional expressions (Wow!
), proverbs, etc. This can also include sentences which do not contain verbs (e.g. The more, the merrier.
) in order to intensify the meaning around the nouns (normally found in poetry and catchphrases).