The Structural Types of Sentence



§ 6. The sentence is a minimal unit of communication. From the viewpoint of their role in the process of communication sentences are divided into four types, grammatically marked: declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory sentences. These types differ in the aim of communication and express statements, questions, commands and exclamations respectively.

Dickens was born in 1812. Do you know Italian? Come up and sit down. What a quiet evening!

These types are usually applied to simple sentences. In a complex sentence the communicative type depends upon that of the main clause, as in:

I waited till the light turned to green. (statement)

Do you always wait till the light turns to green? (question)

Wait till the light turns to green. (command)

How thoughtless of you not to have waited till the light turned to green! (exclamation)

In a compound sentence, coordinate clauses may as well belong to different communicative types.

Look out, or you may meet with an accident. (command statement)

I obeyed, for what else could I do? (statement-question)

Declarative sentences

§ 7. A declarative sentence contains a statement which gives the reader or the listener some information about various events, activities or attitudes, thoughts and feelings. Statements form the bulk of monological speech, and the greater part of conversation. A statement may be positive (affirmative) or negative, as in:

I have just come back from a business trip.

I haven’t seen my sister yet.

Grammatically, statements are characterized by the subject-predicate structure with the direct order of words. They are mostly two-member sentences, although they may be one-member sentences, as in:

Very early morning.

No curtain. no painting.

Statements usually have a falling tone; they are marked by a pause in speaking and by a full stop in writing.

In conversation, statements are often structurally incomplete, especially when they serve as a response to a question asking for some information, and the response conveys the most important idea.

Where are you going? – To the library.

Thanks to their structure and lexical content, declarative sentences are communicatively polyfunctional. Thus, besides their main function as information-carriers, statements may be used with the force of questions, commands and exclamations, as in:

I wonder why he is so late.

You mustn’t talk back to your parents.

Interrogative sentences

§ 8. Interrogative sentences contain questions. Their communicative function consists in asking for information. They belong to the sphere of conversation and only occasionally occur in monological speech.

All varieties of questions may be structurally reduced to two main types, general questions (also called “yes-no” questions) and pronominal questions (otherwise called “special” or “wh” – questions). Both are graphically identified by a question mark. The two main types have a number of structural and communicative modifications.

General questions

§ 9. In general questions the speaker is interested to know whether some event or phenomenon asked about exists or does not exist; accordingly the answer may be positive or negative, thus containing or implying “yes” or “no”.

A general question opens with a verb operator, that is, an auxiliary, modal, or link verb followed by the subject. Such questions are characterized by the rising tone.

Does your sister go figure-skating?

Is that girl a friend of yours?

Can you speak French?

“Yes-no” questions may be incomplete and reduced to two words only: Can you? Does he?

A negative “yes-no” question usually adds some emotional coloring of surprise or disappointment.

Haven’t you posted the letter yet? (Why?)

General questions opening with will/would may be considered as commands and requests according to their communicative role (see § 17).

Owing to their occasional emotional colouring, “ yes-no” questions may function as exclamations (see § 22).

Tag questions

§ 10. A tag question is a short “yes-no” question added to a statement. It consists only of an operator prompted by the predicate verb of the statement and a pronoun prompted by the subject. Generally the tag has a rising tone.

You know French, don’t you? – Yes, a bit.

George is a football fan, isn’t he? – He certainly is.

A tag question is added to a statement for confirmation and therefore is sometimes called aconfirmative question. It corresponds to such Russian tag questions as He does? Is not it? It is so? The speaker expects the listener to share his view of some situation rather than to give him some new information. The most usual patterns of sentences with tag questions are as follows.

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