Saturday, December 07, 2013
The Rules of Writing-Syntax-The Sentence-Sentence Classes
By OFW chief editor:
Carlos J Cortes And Renée Miller
Published: June 19, 2013
We have now reviewed how we construct sentences and have analyzed them in terms of structure. Another sentence classification describes why we wrote the sentences in the first place.
We craft sentences to describe things, people, or situations; we make statements or requests and we issue orders and exclamations to convey strong emotions. Since we have countless uses for them, it seems there should be hundreds of sentence types.
Yet, every sentence we write can only have one of four purposes: to state, command, question, or exclaim.
According to their uses, sentences can be:
While it’s true that sentences have similarities—all convey information—they are more easily recognized by their differences.
To identify a sentence’s role, we only have to question the sentence with, “what are you doing?”
If the sentence describes, illustrates, declares, or explains something, it’s a declarative sentence and will end with a period.
The dog ate the newspaper.
If the sentence poses a question or requests information, it’s an interrogative sentence and will end with a question mark.
Where did the paper go?
If the sentence states something, more or less forcefully, or proclaims shock, or a strong emotion, it’s an exclamatory sentence and will end on an exclamation mark.
The newspaper is gone!
If the sentence gives an order or instructs someone to do something, it’s an imperative sentence and as the declarative type, it will end with a period.
Catch that dog.
Of course, nothing in English syntax could be so straightforward. Take the following exchange:
Man: “Excuse me, madam; is there a long way to Tipperary?”
Woman: “Go to hell.”
The first sentence is clearly interrogative (it ends in a question mark.)
But, what about the second one? In theory, it’s an imperative sentence since it gives a directive. We issue directives for someone to act a given way, and we don’t think “madam” intended for the man to carry her recommendation to the letter.
Mary comes home after a night out on the tiles. John is waiting. As she enters the house, he barrels down the stairs hefting a baseball bat. Mary trains a large revolver on her beloved’s chest and flutters her eyelashes.
“Go on. Hit me.”
Though “Hit me,” is an imperative sentence, we doubt Mary expects John to follow instructions.
And the moral behind these examples is? Though their classification is clear, sometimes the sentence’s purpose doesn’t fully adjust to its discourse function.
We will review this classification’s syntactic forms in the following sections.
Renee Miller & Carlos Cortes
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