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My wife, who is a native speaker of AmE, tells me that I am talking like Yoda whenever I utter a sentence like

What a great day it is!

that is, an exclamatory sentence that begins with "how" or "what" which is followed by the subject and then the verb. Her accusation of me being like Yoda is only partially correct, I believe, because that is the normal word order for exclamatory sentences like the displayed one. (Yoda, on the other hand, utters declarative sentences with anastrophe.)

This makes me wonder how common exclamatory sentence like the said one are in AmE. People use sentences that consist solely of what- and how-phrases all the time, but I do not remember the last time I heard the variant with verbs.

How common in AmE are exclamatory sentences like "What a great day it is!"?

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    Most people would probably just say, "What a great day!" (though more likely, "I'm having a great day!") – ScottM Jul 2 '18 at 20:50
  • Great day! : idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Great+day! – user240918 Jul 2 '18 at 20:54
  • "But Grandmother! What big ears you have," said Little Red Riding Hood as she edged closer to the bed. "The better to hear you with, my dear," replied the wolf. "But Grandmother! What big eyes you have," said Little Red Riding Hood. "The better to see you with, my dear," replied the wolf. "But Grandmother! What big teeth you have," said Little Red Riding Hood her voice quivering slightly. "The better to eat you with, my dear," roared the wolf and he leapt out of the bed and began to chase the little girl. – tchrist Jul 3 '18 at 0:01
  • See “An Unusual Way of Speaking, Yoda Has. Hmmm?”, an article from The Atlantic that cites linguist Geoff Pullum a bunch explaining how Yoda really speaks (OSV/CSV/XSV order). People scream “YODA!!!!!!!” as a some sort of ill-considered catch-phrase to mean any possible word order that isn’t the one they for whatever reason appear to have been expecting. See also “Why so strangely Yoda speaks” from The Week for many examples more. – tchrist Jul 3 '18 at 0:17
  • In today’s news: "America doesn’t have much to celebrate as it turns 242 years old, but celebrate we shall." – tchrist Jul 4 '18 at 0:30
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In a way, both of you are correct. The dialect of American English has changed a lot over the years, and will continue to change. Heck, the dialect is different just from one state to the next sometimes.

I would say that that specific exclamatory sentence is not as common today as it was back in the day. (Maybe around the 1950's or so?) This is just my own personal opinion though. I have known a couple people over the years that talk just like that though. At the end of the day, I believe it to be a matter of preference than anything else. As long as your point is being understood by the masses then use whatever wording is most comfortable for you.

Good luck to you in your journey through American English. English is my native tongue but I have heard and read a lot about the varies difficulties in learning English as a 2nd/3rd language. If you take the time to really think about it you'll come to the conclusion that American English is ridiculous. Just the phonology, homonyms, and homograms alone will made my brain hurt. I never really took notice of, or focused on the little details that make up the language. It become so second nature to me that I was unable to understand how someone could live here, and speak the language, for years and still manage to have strange or confusing sentence structure. My stepmom, for example, would say "The shoes of your father" instead of "Your father's shoes". And she has been living here for over 12 years.

I commend you and all other non-native English speakers. I am glad that it is my first language, if not I would fail miserably trying to learn it. I often joke around about my lack of language learning skills by telling people that "the only language I know is English and half the time I can't even speak that correctly"

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In my experience, such exclamations - "What (subject) (verb)!" - are neither common in American English vernacular, nor Yoda-like.

Yoda speaks in this fashion: (verb), (pronoun) (verb). For example, "Study, you must."

Exclamations such as "What the hell!" (and, if you live in Texas, "What a burger!"), while they may be common, lack a verb.

The "What (subject) (verb)!" exclamation is rare, but it does occur. An example is, "What lovely eyes you have."

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • I relied upon no sources. Please clarify. – Bradley Ellison Jul 3 '18 at 13:52
  • You assert that things are not common or rare. That requires documentation. – tchrist Jul 4 '18 at 0:31
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  • "What the hell!" is a popular expression.

  • "wtf" is an acronym for the potentially even more popular "What the #%$@!"

I think your wife's critique comes from the "it is"; where I might say "It is a great day", Yoda would say "A great day it is."

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    DukeZhou, that may be so, but the wife is inaccurate in saying that "What a great day it is!" is Yoda-ish. That is how we arrange such a construction, which is perfectly normal and unremarkable. What a nice cake this is. What a deep river that is. What a pretty cat you have. – Michael Harvey Jul 2 '18 at 21:38
  • @MichaelHarvey just trying to give the OP context on his wife's assertion. She's pretty far out in the weeds, nevertheless, she has a rationale. I also thing ppl here are a bit in the weeds on Yoda. Yoda would not say "it is a great day", but, rather, "a great day it is." (Admittedly, the most recent Star Wars films have mangled Yoda's grammar, apparently "phoning it in" on Yoda's terrible, most recent dialogues/) – DukeZhou Jul 3 '18 at 16:19
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    Yoda is a fictional character in a movie series, speaking a made-up variant of English; the English language is a real one spoken by real people. – Michael Harvey Jul 3 '18 at 17:49
  • @MichaelHarvey you have a very limited view of English usage! English is also spoken by fictional characters, it seems to me, and there are many forms of English besides proper. :) – DukeZhou Jul 3 '18 at 17:57

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