Declarative sentences in English

(Using positive and negative declarative sentences)

Table of contents – declarative sentences

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Declarative sentences
  2. Deviation from the word order SVO
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What are declarative sentences and how are they used in English?

The declarative sentence is the standard utterance in English and is, therefore, the most frequent one of all types (imperative, interrogative, etc.). It can be positive or negative (negation) and, sometimes, may also appear with an unusual, that is outside the ordinary or common, sentence structure. An English declaration always contains at least two constituents that are a subject and a verb or predicate, which must also appear in this order. Additional parts, such as objects or adverbials, may also occur. Compare in detail:

  • Note that in English statements (declarations), the subject must always precede the verb:
    • Some birds can’t fly.”
      • This negative sentence is short and merely contains the subject and two verbs (predicate).
    • My mother is reading at the moment.”
      • This declaration includes three constituents (subject, verbs and adverbial).
    • We’re going to have dinner at 6 o’clock.”
      • Here, the declaration consists of four constituents (subject, verbs, object, and adverbial or time).

Is it possible to deviate from the normal word order SVO?

Although the English word order is very rigid, it is indeed possible to deviate from the rule subject–verb–object (SVO) in individual cases. When this happens, the speaker may want to emphasize specific elements of the statement. For the same reason, an adverbial (time, place, etc.) can be moved to the beginning of the sentence. Compare the following examples, which show particular emphasis:

  1. Adverbials of time, place, and manner are at the beginning of the sentence – although their usual position is at the end:
    • Today, I’m walking to work because my car has broken down.”
      • In this statement, ‘today’ comes before the subject, as the person is only walking to work that day. Therefore, the speaker emphasizes this information.
    • In the United States, almost everybody has a car.”
      • Here, the place (adverbial) begins the clause and, thus, expresses higher importance.
  2. Occasionally, other elements such as adverbs or similar may appear together with an auxiliary verb before the subject in declarations. Note that such a constellation is usually reserved for interrogative sentences. This word order sounds more like sophisticated and formal language and is, accordingly, almost exclusively found in written form:
    • Not only did the assistant come much too late but also with a dirty suit.”
      • Here, the adverbial ‘not only’ stands together with the auxiliary verb ‘didbefore the subject for emphasis.
    • Not only were we waiting the whole time but also we were very hungry.”
      • In this case, ‘not only’ in conjunction with the auxiliary verb ‘were’ is located before the subject ‘we’.
    • Hardly had I arrived when the show began.”
      • This statement has an unusual word order, as the adverb ‘hardly’ stands together with ‘had’ in front of the subject.

Further explanations related to the ‘Declarative sentences’

The following explanations are related to the topic ‘Using positive and negative declarative sentences in English’ and could also be interesting: