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Verbless two-member sentences are fairly common in many languages. We do not find here only points of coincidence but also specific features characteristic of any given language with its own patterns of formation and its own types of structural units.

The linguistic essence of such sentence-patterns has been differently treated by grammarians. In books devoted to teaching grammar they are often referred to as "non-sentences", "minor" sentences or "phrases" functioning as communicative units in spite of the absence of the finite form of the verb.

According to O. Jespersen and R. Long, here belong also patterns with "nexus of deprecation".

The frequency value of such syntactic units in Modern English is rather high. In terms of IC's analysis, they may be divided into two types: SP and PS, each of them characterised by various structural elements.

Type SP. The predicate (P) may be expressed by nouns, nounal groups, infinitives or participles, e. g.:

Anything the matter, Michael? (Galsworthy)

Next stop the British Museum?

Weather to stay cold?

Your turn to speak.

Both engaged?

Gone! The scent of geranium fading; the little dog snuffling. (Galsworthy)

A tremor of insecurity went through her. The Future, how, how uncharted! (Galsworthy)

Cowperwood, the liar! Cowperwood, the sneak! (Dreiser)

Guard's van now the tail light alt spread a crimson blue setting East going going gone! (Galsworthy)

Way of the world one man's meat, another's poison! (Ibid.)

Type PS. In patterns of this type predicate (P) may be expressed by nouns, nounal groups, and all other non-conjugated elements of the predicate: 1) pronouns, 2) pronominal adverbs, 3) participial phrases. 4) infinitives, infinitival phrases, etc.

Flying a kite, you, a grown man?

Fair gone on each other, those two.

Just to stay here, the two of us.

Bad to stick, sir. Sorry! (Galsworthy)

He hurried along, almost running, his eyes searching for a cab. None to be had! (Galsworthy)

How ridiculous to run and feel happy!

How long until dinner?

What about your own words?

A rather charming garden here!

Why not go?

Why not?

All patterns of this type are two-member sentences. The absence of attributive relations between their adnominal and nominal members may easily be proved by their structural and semantic traits as well as modulation features. The semantic value of the structure is often proved by thematic and rhematic analysis.

In terms of structure, we distinguish the following peculiarities of verbless sentences:

1) the pronominal member is not a possessive pronoun. Indicating persons or things in actual speech, pronouns are most commonly used as substitutes for names and as such generally do not need attributive adjuncts.

Words characterising pronouns are therefore predicative (not attributive) in their function, e. g.:

SP: You looking a baby of a thing this morning! PS: Wonderful civility this! Quite serious all this!

2) the presence of elements irrelevant to attributive relations, such as, for instance, the adverbial adjunct how, e. g.:

How annoying having to stand all the way home in the bus!

3) the presence or interpositional adverbial elements, modal words or negative particles, as in:

Complete Low-Cost Home Training Course now Available. Your cousin, probably, enjoying herself!

4) the use of the article: Rot the stuff!

Why the terrific hurry!


The attributive or non-attributive character of the adnominal member may depend on its position as to the nominal one. Thus, for instance, in patterns like No room ready the relations between room and ready are not attributive, because ready does not go patterning as a post-positional attribute.

Patterns like Nice furs here are also two-member sentences because the adverb here may be replaced by the demonstrative pronoun.

Verbless two-member sentences abound not only in literature but in spoken English as well. As could be seen, they are not necessarily elliptical sentences, for very often no unexpressed part is implied. We often find them in a laconic, exclamatory or otherwise emphatic style.

Writers use them as a means to make ideas stand out in vivid, clear relief.

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