How can I recognise English exclamatory sentences?
This is the fifth and final lesson about Sentence Functions. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the concept of exclamative sentences
– Provide academic examples of exclamative functions
– Discuss strategies for recognising exclamatives
The final, least common and most different of the four sentence functions is the exclamatory sentence. While still communicative in nature, unlike imperatives an exclamation does not require a listener to be present when spoken – or for that listener to react in any way. Also unlike all other sentence functions, an exclamatory sentence is unable to describe any tense other than the present. Exclamations, then, are simply the expression of strong emotions or reactions to a sudden realisation or event. By demonstrating emphasis, exclamatory sentences are commonly used as a primal outlet for emotions such as fear, anger, excitement or surprise on the part of the speaker, and may consist of the following examples:
Don’t talk back!
The school’s on fire!
Was that an earthquake!?
What these five examples clearly show is that there are very few instances of when exclamations would be needed in an academic setting. Perhaps when a teacher’s chair breaks you might hear an ‘ouch!’, or when a student has been incredibly rude a ‘get out!’. However, these types of sentences would never be used during formal assessments, such as essays or presentations – unless of course the assessment was creative in nature.
Pure exclamations of emotional response such as ‘ouch!’ are easily recognised as these expressions do not form complete sentences (with a subject and a verb) and are merely sentence fragments. However, you may have also noticed that exclamatory sentences may be very similar in form to declaratives, interrogatives or imperatives, such as is shown below:
Don’t talk back! (imperative)
The school’s on fire! (declarative)
Was that an earthquake!? (interrogative)
What’s important to remember with exclamations is that all of them end with an exclamation mark (!) and all are reactionary, with the speaker responding to a situation because of intense emotion. A punctuation mark that’s sometimes used in sentences which function as both an exclamation and an interrogative – and therefore require both the exclamation mark and the question mark – is the interrobang (‽), such as in ‘Was that an earthquake‽’. However, though perhaps increasing in popularity, we don’t yet advise using this punctuation mark in a piece of academic writing.
Now that you’ve learned about when, why and how to use all four of the sentence types in English, the final step is to check your understanding of these concepts by completing our beginner-, intermediate- and advanced-level worksheets.
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