Pro-sentences are short words or expressions that are used instead of a full sentence. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

What Are Pro-sentences?

Pro-sentences are short words or expressions that take the place of a whole sentence. The content of it can be perceived from the previous context.

A pro-sentence is a type of pro-form and is, therefore, anaphoric, which means that they refer back to other elements of the sentence.

Why Do We Use Pro-sentences?

Pro-sentences are extremely helpful. They help us make communications quicker without losing any meaning.

Common Pro-senteces in English

In English, 'yes,' 'no' and 'okay' are common pro-sentences. The answer to the question 'Do you work at the museum?, the sentence 'Yes' is a short form of the full sentence 'I work at the museum.' Let's take a look at some of the pro-sentences in English:

  1. Yes and No as Pro-sentences
  2. Sentence Adverbs as Pro-sentences
  3. Discourse Markers as Pro-sentences
  4. So as Pro-sentence
  5. Not as Pro-sentence
  6. This and That as Pro-sentences

Yes and No as Pro-sentences

The most basic forms of pro-sentence in English are the words, 'yes' and 'no.'
For example, you might have heard about 'yes/no questions,' which are questions that only need a yes or a no as an answer. However, these single words imply a fully larger sentence.

A : Are you single?

B : Yes. (I am single.)

A : Did he star in the movie 'The Last Summer'?

B : No. (He didn't star in the movie 'The Last Summer.'

Sentence Adverbs as Pro-sentences

We can use viewpoint sentence adverbs to answer a question. They are considered pro-senteces, because they substitute the whole sentence. These types of adverbs can be used as pro-sentence:

  • Adverbs of Probability
  • Adverbs of Degree

A : Can you lend me your pen?

B : Absolutely. (I can lend you my pen.)

A : Do you think he's a nice guy?

B : Definitely. (I think he is a nice guy.)

A : She is an intelligent girl, isn't she?

B : Oh, very.

A : Is it OK if I try these on?

B : Sure.

Discourse Markers as Pro-sentences

Some discourse markers can act as a pro-sentence. Three of the most common ones are:

  • Yeah
  • Right
  • Okay

Now, take a look at some examples:

A : Well, you need a job.

B : Right.

A : Do you want to go to the zoo?

B : Okay.

So as Pro-sentence

With some verbs, especially in short answers, we can use 'so' instead of repeating the whole sentence:

A : Will Sam be at the party tonight?

B : I think so. (I think Sam will be at the party tonight.)

A : There is going to be a surprise party tonight.

B : Really?

A : They told me so when I talked to them today. (They told me (that) there is going to be a surprise party tonight.)

We sometimes use 'so' at the beginning of the sentence, especially in short responses with reporting verbs such as believe, say, tell, hear, and read:

A : Alex got married!

B : So I heard. (I heard that Alex got married.)

A : Country singer Toby Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

B : So I read in the paper. (I read that country singer Toby Keith was diagnosed with stomach cancer.)

So with Verbs of Expectation and Belief

We can use 'so' after verbs such as assume, be afraid, believe, expect, guess, hope, imagine, presume, suppose, and think instead of repeating the whole sentence, especially in short answers.

A : Has she accepted the proposal?

B : I think so.

A : Are you working on the weekend?

B : I'm afraid so.

A : Do you think it will be sunny tomorrow morning?

B : I hope so.

Not as Pro-sentence

We can use 'not' after verbs such as 'be afraid,' 'guess,' 'hope' and 'suppose' instead of using a negative clause.

A : Can I go and play video games now?

B : I'm afraid not.

A : I don't think Mandi will be joining us today.

B : I guess not.

A : It looks like it's going to rain.

B : I hope not.

This and That as Pro-sentences

We can use 'that' or 'this' to refer back to a whole clause, without repeating the actual words.

A : I'm having dinner with a couple of my friends.

B : That sounds nice.

A : We've got to arrive at the airport ASAP.

B : I've already told her that.

A : I got the job!

B : This is amazing!


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Understanding pronouns enable us to understand pro-forms in English very well. Pro-forms are alternatives that are put in the position of words, phrases, etc.

Pro-verb Phrases

Pro-verb phrases are short words or expressions that replace the verb and all that comes after it.


Assertive Pro-forms

An assertive pro-form is a type of word that stands in for another word, phrase, clause, or sentence where the truth of a positive statement is asserted.

Non-assertive Pro-forms

Non-assertive Pro-forms refer to a group of words or phrases that refer to specific things/persons, but it is not important to mention what.

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