Nondeclarative Sentence Types

As in all other Germanic languages, word order is the most important device for distinguishing interrogative from declarative sentences in English. All polar interrogatives (yes/no questions) exhibit inversion and so do constituent interrogatives unless the subject is questioned: what do you think? vs who cares? There are separate morphologically simplex interrogative pronouns for animate (human) and inanimate subjects and objects (who, whose, who(m) vs which) as well as for temporal (when), local (where), causal (why) and manner adverbials (how). These pronouns introduce interrogative sentences used as normal questions or requests. If the noun phrase of a prepositional phrase or of a genitive construction is questioned, either the whole prepositional phrase or complex noun phrase is moved to the front or only the questioned noun phrase itself. In the latter case the preposition is left behind (Preposition Stranding): about what did you talk? - what did you talk about?, the daughter of which professor did she marry? - which professor did he marry the daughter of? A questioned constituent does not necessarily belong to the highest clause in some complex sentence, but can also fulfil some function in an embedded clause: which mountain did they say they tried to climb to the top of? Such unbounded dependencies can also be found in relative clauses. It is a specific feature of English that reduced interrogative clauses can be added as so-called 'question tags' to declarative and imperative sentences: you know this, don't you?, sit down, won't you?, keep on the pavement, will you? Such question tags consist of an auxiliary verb and a pronominal copy of the (understood) subject given in the main clause. Reversed-polarity tags, i.e. tags which reverse the polarity of the preceding clause (she is very happy, isn 't she? - she isn 't very happy, is she?) are found in all varieties of English. Constant-polarity tags, by contrast, only occur in British English and all related varieties: you know him, do you? it's cold outside, is it? Such utterances are used to express inferences, based on the hearer's current verbal or non-verbal behaviour.

Exclamative sentences, if they can be distinguished at all from interrogatives as a separate sentence type, are closely related to the latter. Negative polar interrogatives with gradable expressions can be used as exclamations (isn't this marvellous!) and constituent interrogatives with declarative word order are also used in this function (what a wonderful memory you have!). Imperatives typically lack an overt subject, which may, however, show up in the interrogative tags: go to the door!, fill up my glass, would you? Imperatives addressed to hearer(s) and the speaker himself are introduced by let's: let's sit over there, shall we?; and negative imperatives are introduced by don't: don't trust that guy!, don't you look at my girlfriend! Affirmative imperatives introduced by do are emphatic and presuppose a preceding failure of the addressee to perform the relevant action: do come over tomorrow, do tell your wife and make my excuses. In contrast to other Germanic languages, there are passive imperatives in English. The auxiliary verb in such sentences is always get rather than be: get lost!, don't get run over by a car! Another peculiarity of English is the possibility of having a constituent before the verb, either a subject or a manner adverbial: you take the left side!, Quickly change into lower gear, Never say 'never'!, thoroughly mix the sand, cement and gravel together.

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