Definition of a sentence:
If only it were that easy! By and large, sentences are grammatical constructions which everybody uses and recognises without difficulty but which are notoriously difficult to define. Most definitions have some shortcomings. However, the following criteria generally apply to a sentence:
There are many examples of sentences in writing which taken in isolation may appear incomplete, but in context are complete, particularly when they refer to a previous statement or question. For example.
'Where's my dinner?'
'In the oven.'
Here the second sentence makes sense and is complete because it concludes the process initiated by the question. Without the preceding question 'In the oven' makes little sense.
In similar vein, many authors use verbless sentences, sentences without a main verb, or freestanding subordinate clauses deliberately for effect. Out of context, these too could appear incomplete, but their impact lies in this 'incompleteness'.
- She went home reluctantly that night. Expecting the worst.
Dickens' famous opening to Bleak House, using sentences with no main clause
- She still tried to revive the creature. Even though she knew it was too late.
Freestanding subordinate clause
Types of sentence
Sentences can be divided into two types: regular and irregular (or major and minor).
|NO SMOKING||Eh!||"Once a thief, always a thief!"||Happy Birthday.|
|THIS WAY PLEASE||Yuk!||"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings"||Good morning.|
|Cool!||Pleased to meet you|
Read the extract below from 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'. It is a fine example of how effective writing makes use of short, simple sentences and longer multiple sentences. Look at the sentences and how they are structured - decide which are simple and multiple sentences and think about the literary effects achieved.
|He came to the point where the trench had been, and stopped. There was nothing. It was all obliterated and unrecognisable. He raised his arms as though reproaching God, and was about to start pounding at his own temples when there was a movement at the corner of his eye. Corelli was indistinguishable from the wet sand because he was perfectly covered in it. The blast had concussed him, and the updraught had sucked him high into the air and then flung him down upon the back.|