This brings up an interesting topic
. Before I go into the nitty gritty, I'd like to mention that in Latin
, there is no direct way of saying "yes
" or even "no
." Typically, if one Roman
were talking to another and said "Are
you the farmer who lives in a province of Asia?" the other would respond either "I am..." or "I am not...." Anyway, without further ado, the reason you're -really- reading this node:
Whether "no" is a complete sentence is dependant enirely on the definition
of a sentence. Do me a favor
, friend, head on over to sentence
and scroll down to Webster's entry. Lots of entries, eh? For the moment
, let's skip down to the entry under grammar
"A combination of words which is complete as expressing a thought, and in writing is marked at the close by a period, or full point."
Ok, that's interesting. A sentence requires a few things: some words that make sense, and that little dot thing. Okay, but what on earth makes a bunch of words "complete as expressing a thought"? What makes a sentence complete wih respect to expressing a thought? Well, if we scroll down Webster's writeup a teeny bit more, we find he says
"Sentences are simple or compound. A simple sentence consists of one subject and one finite verb; as, "The Lord reigns."
Ahh, so there we are! A subject
and a verb
. Is no a subject and a verb? No. But wait, isn't that a complete sentence? I just expressed a complete thought and put that little dot thing after it! Unfortunately, grammatically speaking, it is not a complete sentence, simply because it lacks a subject and a verb. You did express
a thought, but not by means of a subject and a verb (and a dot).
To refute FordPrefect's saying that "no." as a sentence has an implied verb and subject, I'll say this: In English, we imply subjects all the time (Go to the store. Who? You, go to the store). It's how we use the imperative mood; we are giving a command, and the one whom we are addressing understands that s/he is the implied subject of the command. This is a very special case and we rarely imply subjects outside of the imperative sense. Implying a verb is something we don't do. The word no does not imply a subject and a verb all on its own, grammatically speaking. Of course we understand that, if a mother tells her son to go to his room and the son says no, the son really means "no, I shall not go to my room."; however, because we understand what he means does not mean that the word no implies the subject and verb in a sentence.
The issue here is not so much what "no" means--we all know what it means--but rather, with what a sentence denotes. If this node were titled " 'no is a complete thought' " we wouldn't be having this discussion. A sentence contains a complete thought expressed by a subject, a verb, and a period. No is neither a subject nor a verb; thus, it can not be a complete sentence.