In simple terms, a sentence is a set of words which contains:
Look at this simple example:
The above example sentence is very short. Of course, a sentence can be longer and more complicated, but basically there is always a subject and a predicate. Look at this longer example:
|Ram and Tara||speak||English when they are working.|
Note that the predicate always contains a verb. Sometimes, in fact, the predicate is only a verb:
So we can say that a sentence must contain at least a subject and verb.
There is one apparent exception to this—the imperative. When someone gives a command (the imperative), they usually do not use a subject. They don't say the subject because it is obvious—the subject is YOU! Look at these examples of the imperative, with and without a subject:
Note that a sentence is structurally complete. Here are some examples of complete and incomplete structures:
|sentence||He opened the door.||YES|
|Come in, please.|
|Do you like coffee?|
|not a sentence||people who work hard||NO|
|a fast-moving animal with big ears|
Some grammar textbooks (and teachers) say that a sentence expresses a "complete thought." That notion will get you into trouble because the question is not whether you can understand it; the question is whether the pieces are all there.
This is not a sentence, but you can figure it out:
|Lasagna||(no verb)||my favorite food.|
You cannot figure this sentence out because the pronouns refer to things outside the sentence itself, but it is a complete structure:
|Each||wants||the other one.|
Note also that a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period or a question mark or an exclamation point. Look at these examples:
For the purposes of introduction, this page describes rather simple sentences. Of course, sentences can be much longer and more complex, and these will be covered later in the course.
This page was adapted from:
"What Is a Sentence?" EnglishClub: Learn or Teach English, 2018, www.englishclub.com/grammar/sentence/what-is-a-sentence.htm. Accessed 15 May 2018.
The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.
Revised 8/14/18 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.