In simple terms, a sentence is a set of words that contain:
- a subject (what the sentence is about, the topic of the sentence), and
- a predicate (what is said about the subject)
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 expresses a complete thought. Here are some examples of complete and incomplete thoughts:
|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|
Note also that a sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop (AmE period) or a question mark or an exclamation mark (AmE exclamation point). Look at these examples:
- People need food.
- How are you?
- Look out!
Actually, it is not easy to define a sentence. Grammarians do not all agree on what is or is not a sentence. 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 on other pages.