8

I've seen this at many places, that people who know very good English (even native speakers of English) write "Hello" followed by a full stop. My confusion is that the use of the full stop indicates that it is a sentence, but a sentence must have a verb in order to be called a sentence.

Hello.

doesn't have any verb in it but has a full stop. So, is it a sentence or not? If it is a sentence, why does it not have a verb in it, which a sentence must have according to the definition of a sentence? If it is not a sentence, why is it ending with a full stop?

Examples That I Have Observed

  • Hello. How are you?
  • Hello, Johnny.
  • Hello? Who is there?
  • 20
    "Hello." "Yes?" "I've learned that a sentence must have a verb. " "Nope." "Are you telling me that what I've learned is wrong?" "Precisely so." "Okay, but how can I explain that 'Hello' is a complete sentence?" "Check this out: Major and minor sentences." ;-) – Damkerng T. Feb 27 '15 at 11:57
  • 5
    As a native speaker and even one who studies grammar and linguistics a bit, I had never heard of those particular terms, major and minor sentences. In elementary school we were all also taught the oversimplified "truth" that a sentence must have a subject and a verb. Just think of the period as a separator between thoughts and not get hung up on a technical definition. – shawnt00 Feb 27 '15 at 16:23
  • 3
    I agree with @shawnt00 that it's unwise to get "hung up on a technical definition," but in some cases (for instance, when being specifically asked to write or speak in complete sentences) it's important to be capable of distinguishing between all valid solitary utterances and "complete sentences" as such. – Kyle Strand Feb 27 '15 at 17:32
  • 2
    My name is Inigo Montoya. – Andrew Grimm Feb 28 '15 at 10:28
7

Is "hello." a sentence?

Yes.

What do you want for dinner?

Vegetable curry.

Hello! You surprised me.

Since you define a sentence as needing a verb, please realize that a sentence does not always have to express its verb. Also note that full stops are necessary in written language only. One does not punctuate spoken sentences the same way we do written sentences.

Additionally, hello is a greeting, which has a special function. When you greet people using spoken English, do you say Hello or do you only say something that has a verb, such as I bring you my greeting, which is hello or perhaps I greet you hello? Do you see what I mean? We don't always speak in fully expressed sentences. And since writing sometimes seeks to copy or represent spoken language, there will be times when something we write does not have an expressed verb, yet it will still be a sentence.

"Hello." is a good example of that. And if you want to know where the verb is, you can consider "hello" to be short for I greet you hello.

Likewise, hello! can also be an exclamation of surprise. See definition 3.

Other exclamations include

Bingo!
Dang!
Hogwash.

To me, these are sentences. If you need a verb for them to be a sentence, you can think of the sentence as

"(I say) 'Hello!'"
"(I say) 'Hogwash'."

The second line of this answer is one word: yes.

I condider "yes" in that context to be a sentence. It is answering the question that is in the first line. If you need a verb for it to be a sentence, you can consider the sentence to be

Yes, I say.

Okay? (Are you "okay" with that?)

Recommended additional reading:

Sentence Well-formedness

  • I think this is the best way to think of it. You don't need to state an action while you are doing it. You may have to write "I am running to first base," but when you actually do it, you generally don't say anything. – DoubleDouble Feb 27 '15 at 23:15
  • "What's up" is a common greeting with a subject and predicate. – Kyle Strand Feb 28 '15 at 0:36
10

Yes it is a full sentence. "Hello" is an interjection (like an exclamation, but it might or might not have an exclamation point.)

Other examples of this form are "Good morning." "Good night". "Thanks." "Yes." "No." "Hey!" "Damn!" "Ouch!" "Voila!"

  • 1
    Yes, "hello." is a valid utterance on its own. No, interjections do not constitute "full sentences" or "complete sentences" in the sense in which those phrases are typically used. For instance, when a teacher asks one to write in "complete sentences," I do not believe "Hello." would be an acceptable sentence. – Kyle Strand Feb 27 '15 at 17:30
  • @KyleStrand That is just it. It all comes down to definitions. If one answers the question from a grammar teacher's viewpoint, or from a linguist's viewpoint, we're going get entirety different answers to many questions. – user6951 Feb 27 '15 at 18:24
  • 1
    @δοῦλος That's why it's useful to distinguish between "valid English utterances" and "full sentences." – Kyle Strand Feb 27 '15 at 18:31
  • 1
    @δοῦλος I don't see how your position can possibly be helpful to an ELL. You're not "defining [your] terms," you're just asserting that "Hello." is a valid sentence without clarifying that this assertion depends on one of several possible definitions of the term "full sentence." – Kyle Strand Feb 27 '15 at 19:18
  • 1
    @δοῦλος I upvoted Soke's and Steve Jessop's, both of which I'm in general agreement with (thus making it unnecessary to add another answer). – Kyle Strand Feb 27 '15 at 23:22
6

according to the definition of a sentence?

For the sake of a peaceful life you should accept the definition of "sentence" offered by your teacher, that will allow you to pass any exams you might be taking in English. However, "Hello." or "Hello!" (or even "Hello?") are all accepted as correct and complete utterances by speakers of English, and presumably by your English teacher. So you shouldn't let any definition of "sentence" get in the way of learning how to speak and write the actual language.

It's just a label used by those who study grammar to describe what they're talking about, and as you can see from the answers, not everyone is agreed what should qualify as a "sentence". Brian Hitchcock says it's a sentence (and therefore it's not true that every sentence has a verb). Soke says it's not a sentence (or anyway not a "complete sentence"), but is in the minority here.

So, your inclination might be to accept that "Hello." is a sentence, and reject the claim that in English every sentence has a verb. If you leave things there, though, there's a risk you'll conclude that any part-sentence is OK, and get things wrong. The rule that you need a verb is usually a good one, and that's why you're taught it.

If you learn that a sentence must have a main verb, then a full stop does not always indicate that what goes before it is a sentence. In that case the full stop is used to separate sentences, and also is used to separate some things that are not sentences. Fragments, for example.

Analysis and labels are not inherent properties of the thing they describe:

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,

(William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II)

  • One of the best ELL answers I've ever read! The sentiment here would be applicable to related questions as well, like: Is ‘zoot suit’ a single word? and How many syllables in ‘hour’? It's all about what's in a name (or, in this case, what's in a definition). – J.R. Feb 28 '15 at 10:48
2

Can an interjection count as a sentence? Is it a kind of verb? Is there an implied verb? Let's see what the ancients say…

From The Mirror of Grammar, by Louis G. Kelly, pp. 135–137:

Priscian [fl. 500 CE] classed interjections as adverbs because his Greek authorities believed they were either adjuncts to the verb, or implied a verb. But the Roman tradition had separated the two on the grounds that the interjection signified emotion, and lay outside the structure of the sentence: Interiectio est pars orationis interiecta aliis partibus orationis ad exprimendos animi affectus (Donatus 391.26 [fl. 4th century CE]). In Quintilian's [ca. 35–100 CE] usage interiectio was a figure of rhetoric which interrupted the flow of the sentence by thrusting a word or phrase into it:

Etiam interiectione, qua et oratores et historici frequenter utuntur, ut medium sensum aliquem inserant sensum, impediri solet intellectus, nisi qui interponitur breve est. (Quintilian, Institutes 8.2.15)

The assumed etymology is clearly the … verb interiacĕre (to throw between) [with a short ĕ], and it is this one that appears in Donatus and his commentators. On the other hand, the etymology favored by Priscian is the … verb interiacēre [to lie between, with a long ē]: interiectio, quae his [partibus] interiacet. Interjections being products of affect are voces inconditae (words without order) (Donatus 392.2), whose production and pragmatics are marked by violent intonation (accentus). In the hands of later copyists Donatus's voces inconditae became the revealing voces incognitae or voces absconditae, both equally damning.

The negative senses of affectus were more influential than the positive in the development of the interjection. For that zealous Stoic, Seneca the Younger [4 BCE–65 CE], emotions are irrational movements of the mind that suddenly appear, which if frequent and not properly dealt with lead to illness. The Stoic view of emotion as a reprehensible departure from reason lies behind Augustine's [354–430 CE] exposition of the interjections racha and fatue in the Sermon on the Mount:

But I say to you: anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be brought to judgement. If he says, 'Stupid!' (racha) to his brother, he will appear before the court. If he says 'You fool!' (fatue) to his brother, he will answer for it in the fires of Hell.

In De sermone Domini in monte I.24 Augustine grades the sins entailed by these [interjections] according to three levels of punishment…

Medieval discussion of the interjection combined Seneca's Stoic moralism, the Christian disapproval of losing self-control …, Aristotle's distinction between the rational and irrational elements in the soul… [and more]. Petrus Helias [ca. 1100–after 1166] … argues that [adverbs and interjections] are disparate parts of speech. … In construction, interjections signify the affectivity of the verb, while adverbs signify modalities of acting or being acted upon. Finally, adverbs must be constructed with verb or participle, while interjections can be constructed absolutely.

Well, as you can see, people have been disagreeing about the grammar of interjections for a long, long time. Some seem to think that the stakes are very high indeed.

I can't believe that even Seneca would consider it an unseemly expression of emotion to say "Hello", though.


 My amateur translation: “Even the interjection, which public speakers and historians frequently use in order to stick one thought in the middle of some other thought, usually hinders understanding, unless what’s inserted is short.”

1

The period in "Hello." expresses how the speaker's tone changes while saying "Hello." Basically, the speaker says "Hello." the same way he (or she) would end a sentence. In effect, this version of "Hello." is a statement -- even if it is not a sentence. It means, "I greet you."

The question mark in "Hello?" expresses that the speaker's tone changes the same way that the speaker would end a question. Because the listener can be expected to react to "Hello?" as if they had been asked a question, "Hello?" is a question.

The exclamation mark in "Hello!" expresses that the speaker has exclaimed "Hello!" This version of "Hello!" is a statement, but said more forcefully and with a different tone change than in either "Hello." or "Hello?"

The comma in "Hello, how are you?" expresses a brief pause after "Hello", but does not indicate the tone change that occurs at the end of a sentence. This usage is a transcription of a run-on sentence.

All four of these usages are perfectly natural in American English. From least formal to most formal, they are:

  • Hello!
  • Hello? (except that this is a common semi-formal way to answer a telephone call.)
  • Hello.
  • Hello, how are you?
0

Well hopefully this makes sense, because I will unleash my English skills, but anyway I'll show you why and how hello is a complete sentence. Let's start with the body of the sentence. " Hello" is obviously an imperative sentence or an interjection, for it to be imperative it would need an implied you ,which is basically the person you are talking to taking place as the subject of the sentence. That means that we still need a verb and I'm pretty sure that hello is a verb, because it's not a noun, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, or pronoun. The five parts of a sentence, which is basically what makes up a proper sentence are subject, verb, endmark, capitol letter, and complete sense. Since The sentences "Hi" and "Hello" both have everything required, they classify as sentences.

-1

According to wikipedia, interjections like "Hello!" are a "non-sentence phrase" and "do not represent a complete sentence in conventional English writing. Thus, in formal writing, the interjection will be incorporated into a larger sentence clause."

Of course, it is not grammatically wrong by any means to say something like "Hello!" but, strictly speaking, it is not a sentence, even though it ends with a period (or exclamation point).

Technically one should not use a period and rather a comma and write "Hello, how are you?" but I would guess that the language has evolved to be "Hello. How are you?" based on actual natural speaking patterns.

  • 2
    "A sentence word (also called a one-word sentence) is a single word that forms a full sentence." Wikipedia: Sentence word – Jim Reynolds Feb 27 '15 at 18:46
  • 1
    @JimReynolds So you're contradicting my wikipedia with your wikipedia. What's your point? – MCT Feb 27 '15 at 22:25
  • Soke - I don't think @Jim has contradicted your answer – I think he has complemented it with additional information. – J.R. Feb 28 '15 at 10:37
  • @J.R.A complement would be better served if it offered more than just a quote - in it's current form, it's intended purpose is certainly to counter my first paragraph. – MCT Feb 28 '15 at 16:53
-2

No, 'Hallo' alone does not make a sentence. Newspapers and books of facts and education should not permit it to be. A poet, script or fictional writer, may well use it as such to enhance familiarity with characters and story-lines.

CT, poet, writer and workshop facilitator

  • 1
    I'd agree that you're more likely to encounter single-word sentences (like 'Hello.') in conversation or works of fiction than in a textbook or newspaper article – unless, of course, the article happens to be quoting someone who answers a reporter's question with a one-word answer. In that case, though, what's an editor do? Berate his reporters, and instruct them to request "full-sentence" answers from now on? – J.R. Feb 28 '15 at 10:52

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