What Is a pro-Sentence?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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Pro-sentences are short phrases were single words take the place of a fuller sentence. Experts call these instances of language “anaphoric,” which means that they refer back to other elements of language. Pro-sentences are extremely useful in making communications quicker without decreasing meaning.

Understanding the pro-sentence starts with some basic examples that are most common within the English language. The most basic of these are the words, “yes” and “no.” These are two evident pro-sentences that have produced their own unique category of language. For example, English speakers or writers may talk about “yes or no questions,” which are questions that only require a yes or a no as a sufficient answer, but where a longer answer is implied by the use of the single word.

Another common example of a pro-sentence is the word “okay.” This single word signifies consent, but is more generally useful in confirming longer statements. This is a prime example of how a pro-sentence works. For instance, if someone says to someone else, “Do you want to go to the store?” the individual can answer, “yes, I do want to go to the store” or simply “okay.” Here, the fact that the word “okay” can effectively signify the whole phrase, “Yes, I do want to go to the store,” means that linguistic experts would classify it as a pro-sentence.


Studying the pro-sentence is part of understanding the complexity and relativity of language. It shows us how some of the most common words and phrases in a language can represent much more complex and diverse statements or ideas. In many cases, pro-sentences can even stand in for much longer sentences containing multiple clauses. This is perhaps most evident in the simple wedding response, “I do.” The officiant may speak long monologues with many various clauses, but the simple two-word answer confirms the entire prior speech.

One issue with pro-sentences is punctuation. Individuals are often unsure how to punctuate the connection between a pro-sentence and a preceding confirming sentence. For instance, if someone says, “okay, I will,” this may often be written, as is the case here, with a comma. In dialogue, though, someone may write it this way: “okay…I will.” The use of an ellipsis can indicate that the responder has paused between the first word and the subsequent two word phrase. There are many options for punctuating these kinds of sentences that vary depending on the style of language being used.


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