[ sen-tns ]
See synonyms for: sentencesentencedsentencessentencing on

  1. Grammar. a grammatical unit of one or more words that expresses an independent statement, question, request, command, exclamation, etc., and that typically has a subject as well as a predicate, as in John is here. or Is John here? In print or writing, a sentence typically begins with a capital letter and ends with appropriate punctuation; in speech it displays recognizable, communicative intonation patterns and is often marked by preceding and following pauses.

  2. Law.

    • an authoritative decision; a judicial judgment or decree, especially the judicial determination of the punishment to be inflicted on a convicted criminal: Knowledgeable sources say that the judge will announce the sentence early next week.

    • the punishment itself; term: a three-year sentence.

  1. Music. a complete idea, usually consisting of eight to sixteen measures; period (def. 18). : See also phrase (def. 4).

  2. Archaic. a saying, apothegm, or maxim.

  3. Obsolete. an opinion given on a particular question.

verb (used with object),sen·tenced, sen·tenc·ing.
  1. to pronounce sentence upon; condemn to punishment: The judge sentenced her to six months in jail.

Origin of sentence

First recorded in 1175–1225; (noun) Middle English, from Old French, frpm Latin sententia “opinion, decision,” equivalent to sent- (base of sentīre “to feel”) + -entia -ence; (verb) Middle English: “to pass judgment, decide judicially,” from Old French sentencier, derivative of sentence

Grammar notes for sentence

A sentence is the largest grammatical unit in language. It communicates a complete thought—an assertion, question, command, or exclamation. In general, assertions and questions—the overwhelming majority of sentences—require a subject and a verb, put together in a way that can stand alone, resulting in what is called an independent clause ( see main clause ): He kicked the ball is a sentence. After he kicked the ball is not a sentence; instead it is a dependent clause ( see subordinate clause ). Even though it has a subject and a verb, it needs to be connected to something in order to complete the assertion: After he kicked the ball, he fell down; or He fell down after he kicked the ball. In the case of commands, the subject need not be written because “you” is understood: Go home! means You go home! And exclamations clearly express excitement, alarm, anger, or the like with no need for either a subject or a verb: Wow! Gadzooks! Ouch!
In everyday speech we routinely use phrases or clauses that would not make a complete sentence—so-called sentence fragments —because the conversation or the circumstances make the meaning clear. For example, we might answer a question like “Where did you go?” with “To the store,” or “Why can’t I stay out till midnight?” with “Because I say so,” or “What are you doing?” with “Trying to fix this toaster,” instead of “I went to the store,” “You can't stay out that late because I say so,” or “I am trying to fix this toaster.” In written dialogue sentence fragments are perfectly acceptable. They would generally be regarded as sentences simply because they begin with a capital letter and end with a suitable punctuation mark. But they are not sentences in a strict grammatical sense. And as a rule, sentence fragments are frowned upon in formal or expository writing. They can be useful—indeed, powerful—but in such writing they are effective only if used sparingly, in order to achieve a deliberate special effect: We will not give up fighting for this cause. Not now. Not ever.

Other words from sentence

  • sen·tenc·er, noun
  • pre·sen·tence, verb (used with object), pre·sen·tenced, pre·sen·tenc·ing.
  • re·sen·tence, noun, verb (used with object), re·sen·tenced, re·sen·tenc·ing.
  • un·sen·tenced, adjective

Words Nearby sentence Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use sentence in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for sentence


/ (ˈsɛntəns) /

  1. a sequence of words capable of standing alone to make an assertion, ask a question, or give a command, usually consisting of a subject and a predicate containing a finite verb

  2. the judgment formally pronounced upon a person convicted in criminal proceedings, esp the decision as to what punishment is to be imposed

  1. an opinion, judgment, or decision

  2. music another word for period (def. 11)

  3. any short passage of scripture employed in liturgical use: the funeral sentences

  4. logic a well-formed expression, without variables

  5. archaic a proverb, maxim, or aphorism

  1. (tr) to pronounce sentence on (a convicted person) in a court of law: the judge sentenced the murderer to life imprisonment

Origin of sentence

C13: via Old French from Latin sententia a way of thinking, from sentīre to feel

Derived forms of sentence

  • sentential (sɛnˈtɛnʃəl), adjective
  • sententially, adverb

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012