In Polish language there is a strict meaning to sentence - it requires a predicate to be used explicitly. Any "sentence" without a predicate is called a sentence equivalent. However as I learned sentence does not have a strict meaning in English.

If that's the case, is there an English word that means "sentence with predicate" or "sentence without predicate"?

  • Can you give an example of a 'sentence equivalent'? I'm not sure what a 'sentence' would look like without a predicate.
    – Dusty
    Dec 3 '14 at 0:10
  • @Dusty "Good morning!" would be such a 'sentence equivalent'. Or "Hi". Hopefully I used the word "predicate" correctly?
    – Deltharis
    Dec 3 '14 at 0:14
  • I believe those are generally referred to as 'sentence fragments'.
    – Dusty
    Dec 3 '14 at 0:33
  • @Dusty Quick google tells me that it's slightly different - "Go!" is full sentence in Polish-sense with predicate being the only word, however it's (I think) still a sentence fragment due to lack of subject. Similarly "He went" while satisfying my predicate condition still is a sentence fragment due to lack of complete thought.
    – Deltharis
    Dec 3 '14 at 0:50
  • Actually, Hello and Good morning are called Utterances; so are prototype sentences, which, in English, must contain an inflected verb (present or past or modal) with an identifiable noun phrase as its subject. Dec 3 '14 at 1:17

From Wikipedia:

There are two competing notions of the predicate in theories of grammar.

The first concerns traditional grammar, which tends to view a predicate as one of two main parts of a sentence, the other part being the subject; the purpose of the predicate is to complete an idea about the subject.

The second derives from work in predicate calculus (predicate logic, first order logic) and is prominent in modern theories of syntax and grammar. In this approach, the predicate of a sentence corresponds mainly to the main verb and any auxiliaries that accompany the main verb, whereas the arguments of that predicate (e.g. the subject and object noun phrases) are outside the predicate.

English sentences at a minimum must contain at least one word which is a subject and one word which is a verb, unless it's imperative, in which case the subject is understood if it's "you". The verb and everything attached to it is the predicate.

So if it doesn't have a predicate, and it's not imperative, it's not a sentence. If you have a standalone group of words with a missing subject or predicate, that would be a sentence fragment.

Now, sentences can consist of one or multiple subject-predicate pairs - if they have more than one, typically (but not always) they are separated by "linker" words such as that, but, etc. These are called clauses.

You also can have a group of related words without a subject or predicate that's part of a bigger sentence--that would be a phrase. Prepositional phrases are common - to the window, to the wall, etc.

Google's definition of phrase (and clause) is pretty good:

A phrase is a group of related words that does not include a subject and verb. (If the group of related words does contain a subject and verb, it is considered a clause.) There are several different kinds of phrases.


I don't speak Polish, so I can't give you any help with equivalences. Sorry.

However, Predicate is a valid concept in logic, and it has made its way into semantics.
A Predicate is a necessary part of a Proposition. Propositions and Predicates have their own calculi.

In English, a sentence is prototypically representable by a logical proposition.
Every English sentence must contain a predicate, usually a verb phrase,
which must begin with either a tensed verb or a modal auxiliary.
If the predicate is an adjective or a noun, it requires an auxiliary be.
If the predicate is a count noun, it requires an indefinite article a as well.

  • Jack is tired. Tired (Jack)
  • Jack is a doctor. Doctor (Jack)
  • Jack ran. Run (Jack)
  • Jack owns the house. Own (Jack, House)
  • Jack sold the house to Bill. Sell (Jack, House, Bill)

Transformations of these sentences (names of transformations)

  • Is Jack tired? (Question Formation)
  • Jack, he's a doctor. (Left Dislocation)
  • What Jack did was run. (Wh-Cleft Formation)
  • The house is owned by Jack. (Passive)
  • Jack sold Bill the house. (Dative Shift)

mean the same thing as the original sentence; i.e, transformations don't change meaning.
Just syntax. But you do have to have that predicate. The Verb Phrase Study Guide may help.

  • I think they are just looking for something with an independent clause in it versus something without one: so the S := NP VP type of thing.
    – tchrist
    Dec 3 '14 at 2:38
  • Too bad for them, then. Dec 3 '14 at 2:41
  • "Every English sentence must contain a predicate" - could I get a source on that statement? My question was mainly driven by the fact that no source I found (as well as a comment on different question I lost a link to) suggested that there was no such strict condition, and in fact predicate-lacking statements were still sentences.
    – Deltharis
    Dec 3 '14 at 2:59
  • Just about any grammar book on English.
    – pazzo
    Dec 3 '14 at 3:09
  • 2
    Who do you think writes these grammar books? How concrete do you wanna get? Dec 3 '14 at 3:20

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