There is a debate going on in the lingual sphere as to what defines the shortest sentence in the English language and which sentence deserves the honor. By definition, a sentence needs a subject and a predicate to make sense. With you as an understood subject, we can easily make a one-word sentence with a one-word predicate:
The omission of you from the sentence is known as an ellipsis and is the preferred form for the imperative mood. With this idea in mind, using two words is the shortest sentence you can make in English. However, it’s argued that “you go” by letter count is not the shortest sentence.
Therefore, the shortest non-elliptical sentence would be:
I’d be negligent to the topic if I didn’t mention a joke from the legendary comedian, George Carlin, who said, “I am is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that I do is the longest sentence?”
As for non-elliptical complete sentences, you could also make the argument, depending on how you measure sentence length, that the contraction ‘Tis is just as short or shorter than I am. Unfortunately, this word is often excluded from the competition given its archaic status.
Whether or not the single word no constitutes a complete sentence depends on how one defines a sentence. Most people understand a sentence to mean:
“…a word, clause, or phrase or a group of clauses or phrases forming a syntactic unit which expresses an assertion, a question, a command, a wish, an exclamation, or the performance of an action, that in writing usually begins with a capital letter and concludes with appropriate end punctuation, and that in speaking is distinguished by characteristic patterns of stress, pitch, and pauses.”
Yes and no, when used as answers, belong to the parts of speech known as interjections and pro-sentences. An interjection includes exclamations such as ouch and wow. A pro-sentence is a function word or expression “that substitutes for a whole sentence whose content is recoverable from the context.” In English, yes, no, and okay are common pro-sentences. It is argued that no is not a complete sentence as there is no subject or predicate.
Jenny stole the candy from her brother.
He screamed, “Noooooo!”
Are you tired?
No. (I’m not tired.)
What time is it?
So, there you have it. Now you have to decide! Which word or words do you think deserves the medal for the shortest sentence in the English language? Let me know in the comments below!
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