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Declarative

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English

You are learning about declaratives.

The funny thing is, the sentence you just read is an example of a declarative sentence! But do you know what a declarative actually is and why it is used? Don’t worry if not … In this explanation we will look at declaratives in relation to speech acts, and the effects they have, and look at declarative sentences and the different ways you can form them.

What is a speech act?

A speech act is an utterance that has a purpose in communication. Whenever we speak, we are also carrying out an action. These actions are called illocutionary acts, which are broken down into five categories: assertive, directive, commissive, expressive and declarative.

What is a declarative speech act?

In relation to Searle's speech acts, a declarative is an utterance used by a speaker with the purpose of changing a situation in some way once the speech act has been uttered. Declarations can bring about a change in the world. For example, "I now declare you husband and wife."

There are two types of declaratory act: verdictives and effectives.

According to Herbert Clark (1996), verdictives refer to the judgments that are ruled and decisions that are made in institutions. The person giving these verdicts will do so based on the actions of the addressee.1

Judgement, pixabay.com

  • A referee giving a yellow card in a football match.
  • A judge saying "I find this person to be guilty"

Effectives refer to situations that happen due to an utterance being made.

Person getting 'fired', pixabay.com

  • A teacher saying "Class has finished"
  • An employer saying "You're fired"

Direct vs indirect declaratives

A direct speech act refers to when the structure of an utterance has a direct relationship to the function. So let's break down the declarative:

Example utterance: "You opened a book."

Structure: Declarative.

Function: Statement.

This declarative is an example of direct speech as it conveys information that is easily understood and has a straightforward meaning. It simply does what it says it will!

BUT there are exceptions... Not all declaratives are direct. It is possible for a declarative to be said as a request. For example, if we take the utterance:

"You haven't done the dusting yet."

This could be seen as a request, as although it expresses a fact, it is an indirect way of letting someone know that they should do the dusting! So in this case, it is an 'indirect' request.

What is a declarative sentence?

A declarative sentence is a sentence that makes a statement to convey information.

A declarative sentence is the most common sentence type in English!

When is a declarative sentence used?

A declarative sentence is used when someone wants to express a fact, give some information, or explain something.

It is also important to remember that a declarative sentence:

  • Ends with a full stop.

  • Can be written in the past, present or future tense.

  • Can be a simple, compound or complex sentence.

How is a declarative sentence structured?

A declarative sentence always consists of (at least) a subject and a verb.

  • The subject of a sentence refers to the noun (such as a person or a thing) that is doing an action.

  • A verb could refer to the main verb, an auxiliary verb, a modal verb, or a combination of these.

In the following declarative sentences, the subject is highlighted in red and the verb phrase is highlighted in green.

Jack is swimming

I will write

She was laughing

These are all examples of direct declarative sentences because they make a statement that gives someone information in a clear way. However, as previously mentioned, not all declaratives need to be direct; some are indirect!

Can you think of any examples?

How about declarative sentences with different types of objects and modifiers?

The following are some examples of declarative sentences that contain direct objects.

A direct object is a noun that is the receiver of the action of a verb.

Subject

Verb phrase

Direct object

David

is drinking

a beer.

Polly

dislikes

dogs.

She

wants

a pizza.

The dog

is watching

television.

Below are some examples of declarative sentences that contain both a direct object and an indirect object.

An indirect object is a noun that is the recipient of the direct object.

This can be done in two ways, the first like this:

Subject

Verb

Indirect object

Direct object

Hannah

gave

Betty

a present.

Paul

passed

me

the ball.

She

offered

him

a lift.

He

handed

her

a rose.

The second way involves putting the direct object first, followed by a preposition (such as ‘to’ or ‘for’), and then an indirect object:

Subject

Verb

Direct object

Preposition

Indirect object

Jessica

passed

an apple

to

Hallie.

Andrew

bought

a watch

for

Richard.

He

buys

chocolates

for

him.

She

offers

a drink

to

the cat.

Declarative sentences can also include other modifiers after a verb phrase, such as adverbials. These are used to provide more information about the verb. For example:

Subject

Verb phrase

Adverbial

I

am walking

slowly.

Mary

was sleeping

in her bed.

George

reads

quickly.

My dog

was waiting

in the car.

Adverbials in a declarative sentence can also be added after a direct object, for example:

Subject

Verb Phrase

Direct object

Adverbial

Betty

is holding

an egg

carefully.

My cat

bites

the mouse

viciously.

I

place

a pillow

on my bed.

He

will eat

his dinner

in an hour.

In some instances, either the object or adverbial can be removed, as the sentence will still make grammatical sense. For example, if we take the sentence:

“He will eat his dinner in an hour”

We can remove the object, which is his dinner:

“He will eat in an hour”

This still makes sense!

Or, we can remove the adverbial, which is in an hour:

“He will eat his dinner”

This also makes sense.

Further, objects can be replaced by complements, which are used to complete the meaning of a sentence. For example:

Subject

Verb phrase

Complement

The food

was

delicious.

The car

is

red.

My homework

is

boring.

I

will start

first.

Whenever complements are used, the sentence cannot make sense without them as they are used to complete it. For example, if we take the following sentence:

“The food was delicious”

Removing the complement will lead to:

“The food was”

This is not a declarative sentence as it does not make a statement that makes sense grammatically and so does not express a completed thought!

Declarative - Key takeaways

  • A declarative speech act refers to utterances that directly change a situation once it has been uttered.
  • Declaratives can be divided into verdictives (judgements made within institutions) and effectives (situations brought about because of an utterance).

  • A declarative usually uses direct speech, but can also use indirect speech.

  • A declarative sentence is a statement that expresses information in a direct way.

  • At the least, a declarative sentence consists of a subject and a verb.


1H. Clark. Using language. 1996.

Declarative

A declarative sentence is a sentence that makes a statement.

A declarative sentence ends with a full stop.

Verdictives refer to the judgments that are ruled and decisions that are made in institutions.

Effectives refer to situations that happen due to an utterance being made. 

Final Declarative Quiz

Question

What punctuation does a declarative sentence end with?

Show answer

Answer

A full stop.

Show question

Question

A declarative is a type of:

A. Locutionary act

B. Illocutionary act

C: Perlocutionary act

Show answer

Answer

B. Illocutionary act

Show question

Question

A declarative sentence is the most common type of sentence in the English langauge.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True!

Show question

Question

What are the two types of declaratives?

Show answer

Answer

Verdictives and effectives.

Show question

Question

What is the meaning of a direct speech act?

Show answer

Answer

A direct speech act refers to when the structure of an utterance has a direct relationship to its function.

Show question

Question

Delivering a guilty verdict is an example of:


A. A verdictive declarative

B. An effective declarative

C: An interrogative

Show answer

Answer

A. A verdictive declarative.

Show question

Question

Declaratives can be direct speech acts OR indirect speech acts.


True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.


Declaratives can be either direct or indirect, depending on what can be implied.

Show question

Question

At the very least, what does a declarative sentence consist of?


A. A subject and a verb.

B. Just a verb.

C. A subject and an object.

Show answer

Answer

A. A subject and a verb.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an example of a declarative?


A. Do the washing up.

B. I'd love to help you out next time.

C. Sarah goes swimming every weekend.

Show answer

Answer

C. Sarah goes swimming every weekend.

Show question

Question

What is the meaning of an indirect speech act?

Show answer

Answer

An indirect speech act refers to when the structure of an utterance does not have a direct relationship to its function.

Show question

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