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closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Chenmunka, tchrist, ScotM, Nicole Jul 6 at 13:46

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Voting to close on the grounds this is not a constructive question. A sentence could be, for example, an answer to someone asking "What's the first [or n'th] letter of the alphabet?" – FumbleFingers Jul 17 '11 at 13:32
@FumbleFingers Well true in an orthographic sense, but not in terms of grammar, where we often distinguish fragments from sentences. A one-word reply such as "cheese" or "two" would normally thus be considered a fragment, not a sentence :) – Araucaria Jul 2 at 14:19
I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not constructive. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 2 at 14:40
Implied subjects, however obvious the context might make them are not a component of the sentence, therefore rendering the sentence incomplete for lack of a subject. Context might make the complete thought obvious and at times, getting the gist of your thought across in a timely manner is preferable to absolute clarity, hence the "imperative". However the purpose of a "complete sentence" as it is usually meant, is that it linguistically conveys an entire thought without ambiguity and that is something imperative sentences do not do by themselves. How would someone measure context anyway? – Tonepoet Jul 2 at 16:27

17 Answers 17

up vote 40 down vote accepted


The understood subject is "You". "[You] go" makes sense to me.

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"Go" (imperative) is in fact the more common form than "You go", so it makes even more sense than "You go". – ShreevatsaR Aug 7 '10 at 16:55
@ShreevatsaR: "You" is the understood subject of imperatives. – moioci Aug 9 '10 at 14:48
@moioci: Yes, I know. I was just pointing out that in actual usage, it's more usual to actually drop the subject "You", and more common forms are more likely to be understood. – ShreevatsaR Aug 9 '10 at 20:23

I would vote for "I am."

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This was actually my first thought, but then I kept thinking. I still like it, though. :) – kitukwfyer Aug 7 '10 at 23:37


The verb "to be" in the imperative mood. Though it's the same number of letters as "Go!", I'd say it wins as it comes first alphabetically. ;)

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Plus it evokes somewhat philosophical associations. ;-) – ShreevatsaR Aug 7 '10 at 18:19
I'm feeling existentially angsty. – Charlie Aug 7 '10 at 18:26
How do you disobey this one? – TimLymington Jun 18 '11 at 20:55

"No!" works perfectly, in my opinion.

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It is a response to another sentence. – Arlen Beiler Aug 20 '10 at 18:50
Not necessarily. What if you see a toddler running towards an open fire (or something really dangerous at any rate)? – kitukwfyer Aug 20 '10 at 19:09
It depends on what one considers a complete sentence. – Kosmonaut Sep 14 '10 at 19:30
Just because it expresses a complete thought doesn't necessarily make it a sentence. – eds Sep 14 '10 at 19:31

One could argue that in certain contexts, the single letter "I" is a sentence (depending on your definition of a sentence):

"Who is it?"


This (one letter) is the shortest possible, unless you count the "empty utterance". ;-)

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Shouldn't it be "Me."? Short for "It is me." – Picturepocket Sep 14 '10 at 18:04
You could also say "I" if someone asks, "what is the ninth letter of the alphabet?" – Kosmonaut Sep 14 '10 at 19:20
@Picturepocket: No, because it's actually short for "It is I." A predicate nominative is grammatically supposed to be the subjective form of the pronoun (e.g. "I", "he") as opposed to the objective form ("me", "him"), despite the fact that casual English often uses the latter. – Maulrus Sep 14 '10 at 19:45
Also a shorter form of "I am", where "am" is understood in response to a question. – tsilb Aug 9 '11 at 16:35
@Picturepocket, one way to check is determine which is correct in a group, and vice versa. So "It is Joe and I" is the correct form, therefore "It is I" is correct. No, as correct as it sounds, you don't say "It is Joe and me". – Arlen Beiler Aug 9 '12 at 23:22

It obviously can't be less than three letters (**.) and still be a complete thought.

  • Go.
  • Hi!
  • Ho! (same as "Hi")

This doesn't include responses since they require other sentences.

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And if we are talking about the shortest spoken complete sentence, then something like Cut. could be the shortest, because [kʊt] just has a single lax vowel and two stops, while "go" [goʊ], "hi" [haɪ], and "ho" [hoʊ] are all diphthongs, which makes them take a fraction of a second longer to say :) – Kosmonaut Sep 14 '10 at 19:29
A period is not a letter, it is a punctuation mark. – Oldcat Mar 1 '14 at 1:33



Q: Which is the fifth letter of the alphabet? A: E.

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That is the shortest, in number of words, complete English sentence that directly answers your question.

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How utterly profound! – Arlen Beiler Aug 9 '12 at 23:18
This is by far the best answer, especially when the number of one-syllable, one-word answers keeps growing. – H Stephen Straight May 6 at 3:47

It is said both the longest and the shortest sentence comes from the wedding ceremony:

I do.

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+1 for the "sentence" pun – Alexander Kosubek Sep 13 '12 at 7:06

The shortest sentence in the entire English Language, is the reply:


It is a reply to the question: "Who is it?" Reply: "I."

That's shorter than "Go!"

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Since you already have many sweet, and short, answers I can only speculate on your intentions and provide, possibly, interesting link to one word sentences.

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I don't know if it even qualifies in this context, but according to the story, an author (variously Oscar Wilde or Victor Hugo), wondering how his new book was selling, sent a single-character telegram to his publisher:


The reply was


that is, well.

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Very famous story, about Oscar Wilde. – The Raven Jul 17 '11 at 13:59
@TheRaven: It's apocryphal. You here it just as often about Victor Hugo, and there's equal evidence to support either version -- none at all. – David Schwartz Jun 9 '12 at 9:39
I've heard it about Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother, season 4 epsiode 1) – Luke Mar 19 '13 at 5:15


Even better than that, contemplate (the pithy, wholly implied) section 7.1 of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (as translated from the original German):

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As a variant of the exclamation "Oh!", an interjection of fear, surprise, admiration, etc.

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"I sentence you to time already served. You are free to go."

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+1 Ha ha ha ha ha! – Araucaria Jul 2 at 12:34


Used to represent a sound made in speech, especially one used to express enquiry, surprise, or to elicit agreement


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It depends on how you define sentence and then how you define shortest. The answer does not appear to be Go, though (although that's quite a good shot at an answer).

The question uses the phrase complete sentence from which we can probably assume that the Original Poster is referring to a fully grammatical utterance headed by a finite verb.

With regards to shortest, there are at least two ways we could measure this. We could do it orthographically, in which case the sentence with the fewest letters would probably be the imperative of the verb 'X' (pronounced /eks/). Although usually used transitively, as in the Mark Twain quote:

  • 'I shell have to x this ere paragrab,' said he to himself, as he read it over.'

... it could easily be used intransitively too:

  • A. What shall I do now?
  • B. X! [meaning "start crossing out"]

However, although 'X' contains only one orthographic symbol, in terms of sound it consists of three segments: /eks/. So, if by shortest sentence, we mean shortest in terms of segments, then this word wouldn't do. The sentence Go has one consonant sound plus a diphthong - /gəʊ/ in Southern standard British English and /goʊ/ in General American. We could regard this as having either two or three segments. However, it is plainly obvious that this could be shorter. The reason is we also have a verb owe which has exactly the same sound without the /g/, namely /əʊ/ or /oʊ/. However, it is quite hard to use this verb without a following complement, and so an imperative sentence might be a bit implausible: Owe!.

A better contender in terms of segments might be the verb OOH meaning to make an ooh sound, as in the audience oohed and aahed. So if you were in the audience at one of those sitcoms where the audience were directed to laugh, clap, ooh and aah, one of the directions you might get, could feasibly be the imperative:

  • Ooh!

This fully complete one word sentence consists only of the one vowel. In phonemic script it looks like this: /u:/. This then might be a contender for the shortest sentence in English. But of course there are others. For example there is always:

  • Aah!

... which looks like this: /a:/!

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You could also have the “ah!” of realisation, which is usually just a short /a/. Or a grunt of non-committal /m/. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 4 at 11:06
@JanusBahsJacquet But would that count as a sentence as opposed to a fragment? – Araucaria Jul 4 at 11:56
If you're ordering the same audience to make a non-committal sound, sure. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 4 at 11:59
@JanusBahsJacquet I see, hmmm, possibly, but I reckon that might have to be give us an 'mm' or something :) – Araucaria Jul 4 at 12:00
@JanusBahsJacquet I was wondering if a word with a short vowel followed by a fortis consonant might be shorter still - i.e. the fortis consonant would clip the length of the vowel considerably. And if it was a stop, the length of the hold phase wouldn't really count as part of the audible word ? What d'you reckong? – Araucaria Jul 4 at 12:14

protected by RegDwigнt May 19 '11 at 8:23

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