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

Pro-sentences in the English Grammar

What Are Pro-sentences?

Pro-sentences are short words or expressions that take the place of a whole sentence. The content of a pro-sentence can be understood from the preceding context. As a type of pro-form, pro-sentences are anaphoric, which means they refer back to other elements. Pro-sentences help us communicate quicker without the loss of any meaning.

Common Pro-senteces in English

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

  1. Yes and No
  2. Sentence Adverbs
  3. Discourse Markers
  4. So
  5. Not
  6. This and That

Yes and No as Pro-sentences

The most basic forms of pro-sentence in English are the words, 'yes' and 'no.'
For example, 'yes/no questions' only require a 'yes' or a 'no' as the answer. However, these single words imply a 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 questions. They are considered pro-sentences because they substitute the whole sentence. The following types of adverbs can be used as pro-sentences:

  • Adverbs of Probability
  • Adverbs of Degree

using an adverb as a pro-sentence

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. For example:

A : Will Sam be at the party tonight?

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

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

D : Really?

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

Sometimes we 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. For example:

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. For example:

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. For example:

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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