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Exclamatives

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English

An exclamative is one of the four main sentence functions in English. Exclamative sentences do just what they say on the tin, make exclamations.

What is an Exclamative?

We make exclamations all of the time; however, the type of phrase or clause associated with an exclamation makes an exclamative sentence. Exclamations typically express strong feelings, like anger, excitement, and happiness, or they help express opinions, such as likes and dislikes. Exclamations come in many forms, from interjections ( Wow! ) to complete sentences ( That cake was so tasty! ). However, an exclamative sentence must contain the words What or How. For example, ' What a cute puppy!'. Although not necessary, most exclamative sentences end with an exclamation mark (!). Even though we make exclamations all the time, we generally use exclamative sentences less than the other sentence functions.

Be careful not to confuse sentence functions with sentence structures. Sentence functions describe the purpose of the sentence, whereas a sentence structure is how the sentence is formed, ie. simple sentences, complex sentences, compound sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

When should I use an exclamative?

Exclamative sentences make exclamations; we use them when we want to express strong feelings or emotions, or express our personal assessments or opinions about a situation. Exclamative sentences are most common in everyday speech; however, you will also find them in literature and poetry.

Exclamative sentences are always exclamations, but not all exclamations are exclamative sentences; this is because exclamative sentences always contain the words What or How. Feeling confused? Don't worry; we will cover this in more detail soon.

What are some examples of exclamative sentences?

Let's take a look at some examples of exclamative sentences:

  • Oh Granny, what big eyes you have! (from Little Red Riding Hood)

  • How I love you!

  • What a mess you've made!

  • What a wonderful world.

  • Lord, what fools these mortals be! (William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream)

  • Oh, how she wished he didn't have to leave.

Examples of exclamative in Literature

Although exclamative sentences are most commonly used in everyday speech, plenty of examples are used in literature and poetry. When used effectively, they can help emphasize the characters' feelings and emotions.

How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.

- The Merchant of Venice , William Shakespeare (1600)

Shakespeare was quite a fan of exclamatives. This quote from The Merchant of Venice is an excellent example of an exclamative sentence, as it begins with how and ending with an exclamation mark! The speaker (Portia) is expressing her personal view about the light of candle.

Alas! (thought I, and my heart beat loud) How fast she nears and nears!

- The Rime of Ancient Mariner , ST Coleridge (1798)

This line from Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has an interjection ( Alas! ) before the exclamative sentence; this technique is quite common in poetry as it can grab the reader's attention. Here, the speaker uses an exclamative to express emotion (perhaps shock, surprise, or happiness - you decide) at the speed the boat is approaching. Just like Shakespeare's quote, this exclamative also begins with how and ends with an exclamation mark.

How do I form an exclamative sentence?

Typically, exclamative sentences are formed using either What or How . Let's take a look at some of the forms (structures) of exclamative sentences.

What
Whata mess (noun)you've made!
Whata beautiful place (adjective + noun)this is!
How
Howamazing (adjective)it what!
Howquickly (adverb)hey!
Howshe (subject)sing!

Although not necessary, exclamative sentences usually end with an exclamation mark (!).

Exclamations vs exclamative

By now, I'm sure you're probably wondering about exclamations so let's try and clear up some confusion and answer any questions you may have.

All exclamative sentences are exclamations, but not all exclamations are exclamative sentences. In fact, more often than not, sentences that end with an exclamation mark are simply different sentence functions made with emotion and given an exclamation mark to highlight that emotion; we call these exclamations. Declarative sentences made with emotion and ending with exclamation marks are called exclamatory sentences. Exclamative sentences must contain the words What or How , whereas exclamations come in all shapes and sizes.

Is every sentence that ends with an exclamation mark an exclamative sentence? The simple answer is no, but you may be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

Let's take a look at some comparative examples.

Exclamation examples:

  • Wow! ( Interjection )
  • It's alive! ( Exclamatory ) (Did you know this exclamation appeared in the 1931 film adaptation of Frankenstein but never actually appeared in Mary Shelly's original novel)
  • Look out! ( Imperatives )
  • What on earth is that ?! ( Interrogative )

All of these examples are exclamations but are not exclamative sentences. They do, however, express emotion and end with an exclamation mark.

Exclusive examples:

  • What a mess you've made!

  • How I've missed you!

  • How lovely!

  • What a beautiful place!

All of these examples contain the exclamative words What and How and are, therefore, exclamative.

What are the different types of exclamative sentences?

We already know that exclamative sentences must contain the words What or How , but there are a few different types of exclamative sentences. Let's take a look at them.

Elliptical exclamative sentences

It's common, especially in everyday speech, to shorten exclamative sentences. This usually involves cutting the verb from the end of the sentence.

For example :

What an amazing place this is! → What an amazing place!

How fantastic that film was! → How fantastic!

Although these are not technically complete sentences, they are used all of the time.

A common form of elliptical exclamative sentences is

How + Adjective. For example ' How lovely! '

Adjectives on their own that express emotions are called interjections. Remember, these are exclamations but not exclamative sentences.

  • Fantastic!

  • Lovely!

  • Strange!

Exclamative sentences with interjections

We often begin exclamative sentences with an interjection, such as wow, hey, or oh . Doing this reinforces the exclamative and can add emphasis or demand more of the listeners' attention.

  • Wow, what an enormous cake!

  • Oh how lovely!

  • Gosh, what a mess!

Interjections on their own, such as Wow! Ouch! and hey! are exclamations but not exclamative sentences.

Exclamative sentences with a subject

We can also begin exclamative sentences with a subject. Doing this can make it clearer who we are talking to. Even amongst those who are not religious, it is also quite common to begin an exclamative with Lord or God.

  • Oh Grandma, what big teeth you have!

  • Oh Lord, what a mess!

  • God, how I hate this subject!

What is an exclamation?

Now you know what an exclamative sentence is, it should be pretty easy to spot an exclamation. An exclamation can be a sound, word, or sentence that expresses emotion, such as surprise, excitement, admiration, or anger. Exclamations are typically things we say suddenly and end with an exclamation mark to express urgency.

  • Ouch!

  • Nice car!

  • What's that ?!

  • Look out!

  • Quick! The dog is on the run!

When should I use an exclamation mark?

Exclamation marks, or exclamation points, are used at the end of a sentence to help us express our emotions or emphasize a point. When used effectively, they can help bring our writing to life and add emphasis to our writing. After all, doesn't ' I love it! ' pack more of a punch than' I love it. '. However, we must be cautious not to overuse exclamation marks as this can reduce their impact and eventually, your reader might become disengaged from their meaning entirely.

Can I use an exclamation mark in formal writing?

There is a bit of a debate as to whether exclamation marks belong in formal writing. Some people will argue that they have no place at all, whereas others will say that, if used sparingly, they're not a problem. What we will say is, make sure you only ever use one exclamation mark at a time, use them only where they belong, and it's probably best to keep them out of any academic writing.

!

Exclamatives - key takeaways

  • Exclamative sentences must contain the words What or How . Remember, all exclamative sentences are exclamations but not all exclamations are exclamative sentences.
  • Exclamative sentences are used to express strong thoughts, feelings, emotions, and personal assessments.
  • Exclamative sentences typically end with an exclamation mark. Be careful not to overuse these.
  • Exclamative sentences are often shortened and don't contain a verb, ie, ' What a nice approx r! '
  • We often put interjections at the beginning of exclamative sentences to add emphasis, ie ' Wow! What a nice car! '

Exclamatives

An exclamative sentence is a sentence that makes an exclamation. They express strong feelings, emotions, or assessments using the words What or How.

An exclamation can be a sound, word, or sentence that expresses emotion, such as surprise, excitement, admiration, or anger.

Here are some examples of exclamative sentences:

  • Oh grandma, what big teeth you have!

  • What a surprise!

  • Oh, how I love you!

Here are some examples of exclamations:

  • Ouch!

  • I can't believe it's not butter!

  • Amazing!

Exclamation marks can be used to help us express emotions or to emphasize a point. Be careful not to overuse exclamation marks and keep them out of academic or very formal writing.

Final Exclamatives Quiz

Question

Why do we use exclamative sentences?

Show answer

Answer

We use exclusive sentences to express strong emotions and feelings or our opinions and assessments of a situation.

Show question

Question

Which two words must appear in an exclamative sentence?

Show answer

Answer

What and How 

Show question

Question

What punctuation usually comes at the end of an exclamative sentence?


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Answer

An exclamation mark.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between an exclamation and an exclamative?


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Answer

Exclamations can be sounds, words, or sentences, whereas an exclamative sentence must contain the words What or How.

Show question

Question

What type of word often goes at the beginning of an exclamative sentence?


Show answer

Answer

An interjection.

Show question

Question

What type of word can follow How to form an elliptical exclamative?

Show answer

Answer

An adjective.

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Question

Which of the following is an example of an exclamative?

  1. Wow!

  2. What a surprise!

  3. I can't believe it!

Show answer

Answer

B. What a surprise!

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not an example of an exclamative?

  1. How lovely she is!

  2. What a delicious cake!

  3. It's nice to see you!

Show answer

Answer

C. It's nice to see you!

Show question

Question

True or False, interjections alone are exclamative sentences?

Show answer

Answer

False.

Show question

Question

True or False, all exclamations are exclamative sentences?


Show answer

Answer

False.

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