Exclamatory sentence english and vietnamese

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A contrastive analysis of exclamatory sentences in English and Vietnamese

Student: Nguyen Thi Xuan Dung

Class: 4B08

Lecturer: Bui Nguyen Khanh

December 2011


Sometimes you wonder how you might do to make your writing less boring or dull. There are many ways you may think of such as using various structures, “floral” words or various sentence types in which “exclamatory sentences” may become remarkably dominant points in your writing. Besides your ideas or thoughts you wish to express, exclamatory sentences assist you in showing your truly strong emotions so that you are able to make your writing more vivid and closer to the readers. That’s for sure; exclamatory sentences are being talked about, not casual statements, questions or commands… that they show strong emotions. However, isn’t forming an exclamatory sentence easy? The answer: “Yes, it’s easy, even easier than you suppose”. Indeed, write a declarative sentence with emotion and use this punctuation mark (!) then you may convey ideas filled with emotions more than expected. Therefore, an exclamatory sentence is so familiar in many languages including English and Vietnamese. This paper is aimed to contrast exclamations in these two languages by pointing out similarities and differences, at the same time, to add some useful teaching implications to English teaching and learning. It’s a good idea to take a look at this paper if you want to get deeper into these two languages in terms of exclamations as well as broaden your knowledge. In this paper, we will discuss the way to construct English exclamatory sentences and then simultaneously make a comparison between English and Vietnamese to find out whether Vietnamese has the same ways of forming exclamations, through this to indicate the similarities and the differences which will conduct the teaching English exclamations to Vietnamese students. Now, let’s enjoy this paper.

An exclamatory sentence

An exclamatory sentence (or an exclamation) is a sentence that expresses strong emotion such as excitement, anger, joy, humor, or sadness. Exclamations always end with an exclamation mark (!).

In other way, an exclamatory sentence is mainly used to show directly emotional feelings of the speakers (or writers) about either complaints or compliments.

Types of exclamations in English and Vietnamese

According to Quirk et al. (1985), there are the only two formal types of exclamatory sentences which are introduced initially with “What” and “How” in English. These structures are broadly and commonly used and easily recognized as exclamations to English learners.


Beginning with “What

Beginning with “How


What + (a/an) + (adj) + noun + S + V!

How + adj/adv + S + to be/V!


(a) What a nice house Tom has!

(b) What boring stories I read!

(c) How beautiful she is!

(d) How fast he runs!

However, these structures may also be spoken in shorter form, for instance:

(a’) What a nice house!

(b’) What boring stories!

(c’) How beautiful!

(d’) How fast!

As for informal types of exclamations to express strong emotions, you can show your emotions in all sentence types. A declarative sentence written with an exclamation mark at the end turns into another kind of sentence called “exclamatory declaratives”, “exclamatory interrogatives” respectively. Below are some examples along with determined emotions:

  • No, you did not have permission to stay out this late!  to show anger

  • I can’t figure this out!  to show frustration

  • Our team won the championship!  to show happiness

  • I don’t know what happened here!  to show confusion

  • I simply adore you!  to show love

  • I just won the lottery!  to show elation

  • My life will never be the same without you!  to show sorrow

  • Oh, I didn’t see you come in!  to show surprise

As you can see, with just a punctuation mark (!) put at the end of each sentence of all types, we may form exclamatory sentences conveying all types of emotions. An exclamation mark no doubt plays a vital role in forming exclamations and is used to show a various range of emotions such as love, anger, happiness, confusion, elation or any other exuberant emotions. All examples above illustrates exclamations beginning with any word, any sentence type used commonly in everyday informal English.

You may be surprised to know that an interrogative sentence can become an exclamation also called “exclamatory interrogatives” mentioned above, too.

Examples:__Chao_ôi!'>Examples: (1) What did you do to the dog’s hair!

(2) Am I hungry!

In English, besides exclamatory sentences constituted by sentences plus exclamation marks, we also have words called exclamatory words which indicate a strong emotional response. Below is a list of common ones to use in your writing. What is more, exclamatory words that can become a sentence when standing alone in order to express emotions or reactions.

  • Wow!

  • Brilliant!

  • Awesome!

  • Ouch!

  • Amazing!

  • Bravo!

  • Fantastic!

  • Tremendous!

  • Sheesh!

  • Geronimo!

  • Timber!

  • Eureka!

  • Hooray!

  • Wowsers!

  • Gosh!

  • Jeepers!

  • Magnificent!

  • Unbelievable!

However, those exclamatory words can be put in a sentence by using commas, and in these cases, they are called interjections that don’t need a subject or verb to express an idea.


  • Wow, that was a thrilling ride!

  • Brilliant, you solved the puzzle!

  • Awesome, you got the job!

  • Ouch, that really hurts!

  • I don’t know what you feel but, sheesh; I think the food was too expensive!

Compared to English, the way to form exclamations in Vietnamese is somewhat similar. However, in Vietnamese we have no difficulty identifying exclamations thanks to exclamation words such as ôi, than ôi hỡi ơi, chao ơi (ôi), trời ơi; thay, biết bao, xiết bao, biết chừng nào, ... In Vietnamese, there are not as many types of exclamations as in English from declaratives, interrogatives or imperatives. We usually express thoughts or ideas under affirmative sentences then putting exclamation marks to achieve exclamations.


a. Than ôi! Sức người khó lòng địch nổi với sức trời.Thế đê không sao cự lại được với thế nước! Lo thay! Nguy thay! Khúc đê này hỏng mất.

(Sống chết mặc bay-Phạm Duy Tốn)

b. Hỡi cảnh rừng ghê gớm của ta ơi!

(Nhớ rừng-Thế Lữ)

c. Chao ôi, có biết đâu rằng: hung hăng hống hách láo chỉ tổ đem thân mà trả nợ cho những cử chỉ ngu dại của mình thôi. Tôi đã phải trải cảnh như thế. Thoát nạn rồi, mà còn ân hận quá, ân hận mãi.

(Dế Mèn phiêu lưu kí-Tô Hoài)

Similarly in Vietnamese, exclamatory words that can become a sentence or a separate constituent in a sentence when standing alone often at the beginning of a sentence in order to express emotions or reactions.


  • Chao ôi! Mùa xuân xinh đẹp đã về !

  • Ôi! Cây hoa héo mất rồi !

Furthermore, there are also several words such as “thay, sao, làm sao, biết bao, xiết bao, dường nào, biết chừng nào, ...” standing behind words that they modify. Those are called particles. Nevertheless, thanks to these particles, we are bound to recognize exclamations in Vietnamese. It is also a distinct point in forms between English and Vietnamese when constructing exclamations.


  1. Buổi chiều tôi đứng chờ bạn lâu biết chừng nào!

  2. Non nước Nha Trang đẹp biết bao!

  3. Cái áo mới đẹp làm sao!

Exclamations vs. Commands

In both English and Vietnamese, there is a slight notice of the distinction between exclamations and commands. Generally speaking, a command is a sentence that is used to tell someone to do something, or to give an order. At times, commands probably end with an exclamation mark, which means that the speaker or the writer is giving an order with strong emotion. Due to the fact that both these two types can be recognized the same with exclamation marks put at the end of the sentences, we can just determine them depending on contexts or situations in which the sentences are being used or spoken.


(a) Bring me the book. (Đưa tôi quyển sách.)

 In this command, the writer uses a period to imply that he is giving an order calmly.

(b) Bring me the book! (Đưa quyển sách đây!)

 In this command, the writer utilizes an exclamation mark to express that he really wants the book, and that he doesn't wish to wait for it any more. As you see a command with an exclamation mark at the end, you should read it aloud with very strong emotion.

Teaching Implication

In daily communication, using exclamations is an efficient tool. Through this paper, the teachers can help the students to use exclamations appropriately and properly. One thing that is not less important is that this paper is considered as a tool for translation helping the students to translate more vivid and more poetic when the students can grasp thoroughly the basic knowledge. Besides, this also helps the students vary writing structures, enhance writing skills, as well as help the students to know more about these two languages when comparing this aspect of exclamation. In addition, this may help the students broaden their knowledge about exclamations not only in familiar structures they have learnt but also in expanded structures and examples clearly illustrated in the paper so that the students can follow easily. It is inevitable that there are still some unsatisfactory things that students may get stuck with concerning syntactically or grammatically patterns. Therefore, learning those is always a long process to achieve as for both the teachers and the students. Furthermore, based on the students’ knowledge, the teachers can help the students intrinsically approach English by means of comparing the two languages and remarking the differences for students to take notice of. As the students can tell apart clearly between the English and Vietnamese exclamatory sentences, they will use them more easily and properly. From similarities and differences pointed out, the students are expected to get enough acquisition to consolidate their English knowledge and from there they can prompt themselves to achieve a higher level in both languages. Beneficially, the teacher may create a more active environment for students to study through teaching exclamations particularly in speaking skill because in spoken forms, exclamations are mainly expressed by speakers’ intonation and attitudes towards giving complaints or compliments, encouraging students to use exclamations more often in daily lives as an indispensible part of everyday conversations. In sum, the last target of the teachers is to help students understand and use English appropriately and efficiently.


Le, Quang Thiem. (2004). Ngôn ngữ học đối chiếu. Hanoi: Hanoi National

University Publisher.

Exclamatory sentence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 31, 2011, from http://www.k12reader.com/exclamatory-sentences-rock/

The case of exclamation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 31, 2011, from http://www.google.com.vn/books?hl=vi&lr=&id=W26bhImKrM0C&oi=fnd&pg=PA151&dq=exclamation+sentence&ots=79YnbnCfYh&sig=9ADBXUU0tN1_CIiiT0FOJGGsrhU&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=exclamation%20sentence&f=false

Câu cảm thán. (n.d.). Retrieved December 31, 2011, from http://baigiang.violet.vn/present/same/entry_id/3449

Exclamations vs. Commands. (n.d.). Retrieved December 31, 2011, from http://www.manatee.k12.fl.us/sites/elementary/samoset/3boltonmayagsen4.htm

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