Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.

         List of guides      

New guides will be added to the list as they become available

Basic Written English
by Bill Ball, Rhea Williams & Tony Scott
Basic Written English (Part 2)
Basic Written English (Part 3)

Business (formal) Writing
by Sidney Callis
Business (formal) Writing Part 2
Business (formal) Writing Part 3
Business (formal) Writing Part 4

Punctuation Guide
by Dr Bernard Lamb

The Double Negative
by Bill Ball and Tony Scott

Grammatical Attraction
by Bill Ball

The Hyphen Puzzle
by Bill Ball
The Hyphen Puzzle Part 2

....'Get off of my cloud'
by Douglas Hitchman

Verbless Sentences
by Bill Ball

My Husband And I
by Ted Bell

Substitute and Replace
by Ted Bell

Causative theme in English
by David Wulstan

Balancing correlative conjunctions 
by Bill Ball

Clause analysis
By Bill Ball

        The QES Helpful Guides To English        

                                        Verbless sentences                                  

By Bill Ball

Although there have always been verbless sentences in English, many grammarians of old insisted that a sentence had to contain at least one 'finite' verb. Examples of finite verbs are 'is', as in 'The weather is fine', and 'plays', as in 'He plays tennis'. The word 'finite' broadly means 'having a subject'. In the above examples, the subjects of the verbs are 'The weather' and 'He'.

So what does a 'verbless' sentence look like? Here are a few examples:

A wonderful achievement.
Of course not.
Now for those other matters.
So far so good.

Verbless sentences are usually preceded by 'normal' sentences, without which the verbless sentences would have no real meaning. Using 'Of course not' as the verbless sentence, here is an example that includes a 'normal' preceding sentence:

Do you know who I am? Of course not.

'Of course not' is short for 'Of course I do not know who you are', which is what many of the grammarians of old would have insisted on. Indeed, there are still some people today who would condemn verbless sentences, even though they are and always have been acceptable English.

It has to be admitted, however, that verbless sentences should never be used in formal writing (legal documents and the like) or by schoolchildren or students in their school or college work. It is often said that it is acceptable for established writers to commit occasional grammatical errors, because they have learnt all the rules and therefore have the right to modify them to suit their purpose if they so wish. That may be so, but there is one 'rule' that says that verbless sentences should be used sparingly and with good taste. Any writers who choose to ignore this rule (for whatever reason) do so at their own risk.

Verbless sentences should not be confused with 'interjections', which are words that are 'thrown' into a sentence without playing any part in its grammatical construction. They are usually single words but can also be phrases. They are normally followed by an exclamation mark (!). Examples are:

My goodness!
Dear me!
Good for you!