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A sentence is a group of words that form a complete unit of meaning. Sentences can be as short as a single word or as long as the Seine; the minimum criterion is that they contain a subject and verb.*
* I know you’re thinking, "But that means they need at least two words!" Don’t worry, I explain why that’s not true in #4, below.
Characteristics of sentences
- May be any length
- Must contain a subject and verb
- May include one or more other parts of speech
- Can be divided into two parts: subject and predicate
Parts of sentences
Subject | Sujet
- May be a name, noun, or pronoun
- May be singular or plural
- May be modified by an adjective or other determiner
- May be stated or implied
Predicate | Prédicat
- Must include a verb
- Usually begins with the verb
- Contains everything that is not part of the subject
|Aline est prête.||Aline is ready.|
|Le restaurant italien s’ouvre à midi.||The Italian restaurant opens at noon.|
|Lui et moi avons trois chats.||He and I have three cats.|
Types of sentences
There are four different kinds of sentences.
1) Statements | Phrases assertives / déclaratives
Statements, aka assertive sentences or declarative sentences, are the most common type of sentence. They make a statement, whether fact or opinion, and almost always end in a period.
|Elle est médecin.||She’s a doctor.|
|Nous n’aimons pas le chocolat.||We don’t like chocolat.|
|Je pense que non.||I don’t think so.|
|Tu dois arrêter de courir.||You have to stop running.|
2) Exclamatives | Phrases exclamatives
Exclamative sentences are the excited siblings of statements: they express a strong feeling like joy, surprise, or anger, and usually end in an exclamation point.
|Nous allons déménager en France !||We’re going to move to France!|
|Ils ne sont pas encore prêts !||They’re not ready yet!|
|J’espère que non !||I hope not!|
3) Interrogatives | Phrases interrogatives
Interrogative sentences, aka questions, ask for information, a service, or something tangible. They always end in a question mark.
|Pouvez-vous m’aider ?||Can you help me?|
|Ils sont dans la voiture ?||Are they in the car?|
Unlike statements and exclamatives, which usually begin with the subject, interrogatives often begin with a question word.
|Quand allez-vous y déménager ?||When are you going to move there?|
|Pourquoi n’aimes-tu pas mon idée ?||Why don’t you like my idea?|
When the question word is an interrogative pronoun, it is the subject.
|Qui veut aller au ciné ?||Who wants to go to the movies?|
|Qu’est-ce que tu veux faire ?||What do you want to do?|
4) Commands | Phrases impératives
Commands are statements in the imperative, which means they don’t have an explicit subject: the subject is indicated by the grammatical person the verb is conjugated for. They may end in a period or exclamation point, depending on how urgent the command is.
|Raconte-moi une histoire.||Tell me a story.|
|Allons à la plage.||Let’s go to the beach.|
* As promised, the final example is a sentence consisting of a single word that includes both subject and verb: it’s the vous imperative.
In addition to word order and punctuation marks as explained above, types of sentences can sometimes also be distinguished by their rhythm.
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