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Exclamative Sentence (exclamation)

Oh Granny, what big teeth you have!Little Red Riding Hood

Exclamative sentences are one of the four sentence types (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamative).

Exclamative sentences make exclamations. They express strong feelings or opinion in one of two forms:

form function example
How! make an exclamation How silly I am.
What! What a great car you have!
exclamative sentence = exclamation
Note that exclamation can ALSO mean any expression of strong emotion including one-word interjections like ouch! hey! wow! Sentence examples are:

But the above sentences are NOT "exclamative sentence types". They are simply various sentence types made with emotion and given an exclamation mark/point to show that emotion.

On the current page we consider only the real exclamative sentence, which begins with What or How and usually ends with an exclamation mark, for example:

  • What a liar he is! (exclamative—exclamation)
  • How he lies! (exclamative—exclamation)

What is the form of an exclamative sentence?

The typical form (structure) of an exclamative sentence is:

What
What a noise [noun] they made!
What a silly man [adjective + noun] he is!
How
How sad [adjective] it was!
How softly [adverb] she spoke!
How he [subject] lies!

The final punctuation is usually, but not necessarily, an exclamation mark (!).

Exclamative sentences can be in any tense.

What is the function of an exclamative sentence?

The usual function (job) of an exclamative sentence is to help the speaker express a strong (often extreme) opinion about a situation—an "exclamatory statement" . It expresses our personal and magnified assessment of the situation.

Look at these examples:

exclamative sentence The speaker believes:
What a mess you've made! You've made one hell of a mess!
What a handsome man he is! He is an extremely handsome man.
How disgusting it was! It was totally disgusting.

How do we use exclamative sentences?

Generally, we use exclamative sentences less than the other sentence types (declarative, interrogative, imperative). Certainly, we use exclamative sentences more in speaking than in writing. Look at these examples:

Exclamative sentences with interjections

Sometimes we may reinforce an exclamative sentence with an interjection in front of it (example: God, Oh, Wow). See these examples:

Elliptical exclamatives

Very often we "cut" exclamative sentences to make short versions of them, usually without a verb. If they don't have a verb, technically they are not sentences, but they are certainly common expressions in English.

short form long form (sentence)
What a brilliant idea! What a brilliant idea that is!
What a cool car! What a cool car you've got!
How lovely! How lovely those flowers are!

Mini Quiz

1. An exclamative sentence starts with

How or Who
Who or Why
What or How
a) How or Who b) Who or Why c) What or How

2. We use the exclamative form to

express strong opinions
ask questions
make statements
a) express strong opinion b) ask questions c) make statements

3. Exclamatives usually end with

a question mark
a comma
an exclamation mark
a) a question mark b) a comma c) an exclamation mark

Your score is:

Correct answers:

Contributor: Josef Essberger

References: