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I've heard native English speakers say "You idiot!".

However, is it considered grammatically correct?

If so, what are the grammatical parts?

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There's an implied 'To Be' here, but I think, more accurately, this phrase would not be considered a true sentence, but rather an interjection –  LessPop_MoreFizz Jun 9 '12 at 2:20
I think this is "Not Constructive", but it could be considered a duplicate of Shortest complete sentence in English, since it covers much the same ground (i.e. - "What exactly is a sentence?", which I think is an almost meaningless question). –  FumbleFingers Jun 9 '12 at 2:22
@LessPop: [that is] Brilliant! –  J.R. Jun 9 '12 at 10:16
@FumbleFingers: Whether sentence or fragment or whatever, the question is not which one it is but of whatever it is, what are the rules that govern it's construction. Like, can you say 'You genius' (yes, it's not a stand alone idiom) or 'You smart' (no, an adjective doesn't work) or 'He idiot' (no...but I don't have a reason), etc... Edited to remove the distracting 'sentence'. –  Mitch Jun 9 '12 at 14:54
@Mitch I think it’s a vocative in apposition. The appositive explains why it requires a noun. The vocative explains why it cannot be third person. –  tchrist Jun 9 '12 at 17:49
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1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

I came across this article on the Net and I'm hoping it will yield something.

It talks about a Noun Case, and more specifically the Vocative, which can sometimes appear all by itself as a sentence.


Watch out, John!

John, watch out!

Or simply:


The article can be found here:


The pronoun "you" inserted in the example above is also quite common for vocatives.

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I don't think "or simply 'John!'" has much relevance here. The element frequently omitted from imperatives is You; and the simplest version of your example is "Watch out!". But OP isn't asking about imperatives anyway... –  FumbleFingers Jun 9 '12 at 15:20
Hi FumbleFingers. Couldn't we infer the context the other way around? Like "(Stop it), you idiot!" The Pronoun "You" is omitted from before the Imperative itself, not from the Vocative –  Cool Elf Jun 9 '12 at 15:32
I don't think so. "You idiot!" is short for "You are an idiot!" - to infer an additional "stop it" would always be possible in some circumstances. But by the same token, you could infer "what you just did/said was stupid" - that would probably fit better in most contexts, but such inferences aren't the same as saying that the word "you" is implicit in imperatives where it's not explicitly present. –  FumbleFingers Jun 9 '12 at 15:40
Yes, I get your point that the inference "what you just did was stupid" would be fit in more contexts –  Cool Elf Jun 9 '12 at 15:47
@tchrist: I'm not aware I disagree with anything you're saying, and I don't understand what it is about what I'm saying that you disagree with. Yes, "You idiot!" is "vocative", if you want to use that terminology (though it's a bit irrelevant, since English doesn't have different forms of "you" for different cases). Semantically, there's an implied you are [hereby being equated with the following noun], which is not the same as you are [hereby being described by the following adjective]. So we all say "You idiot!", but only non-native speakers say "You stupid!". –  FumbleFingers Jun 9 '12 at 18:10
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