© 2017 Steve Campsall

sentence structure and function (2)

We'll examine the three most common sentence structures in a little more detail.

The declarative sentence
A declarative sentence is the first grammatical structure that a child will learn. It makes a straightforward statement.

SUBJECT (S)

VERB (V)

[OBJECT (O)]

Noun phrase

Verb / verb chain

Noun phrase

the 'actor'

the 'action'

the 'acted upon'

The cat

slept  

The cat

ate

the mouse

 

The interrogative sentence
An interrogative sentence uses an auxiliary verb before the subject. This acts to splits the verb chain. Interrogative sentences are most often used to create a question.

AUX. VERB (V)

SUBJECT (S)

MAIN VERB (V)

OBJECT

auxiliary verb

noun

main verb

Noun phrase

Do

you

want

any?

Have I found him?

 

The imperative sentence
An imperative sentence lacks a grammatical subject, although the implication is 'you'. This has the effect of adding an insistent quality to the meaning of the sentence:

VERB (V)

OBJECT (O)

verb

noun

Sit

down.

 

We have said that grammar sets the rules for structure to allow clear meaning. But language is a very flexible thing. We can use grammatical structures to create more than one kind of meaning, for example, an interrogative structure, which is usually used for making a question, can also form of command: 'Will you stop talking!'. This is cast in a grammatically interrogative form but has the meaning of an imperative or command: 'Stop talking!' Similarly a declarative structure such as, 'You need a coffee.' can be made to function as a question.

We are able to work out the meaning inferred because of the context in which the sentence is used. This is in the realm of pragmatics (as well as by applying phonology: the words at the end of the sentence will be given a rising intonation to suggest a question is intended).

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