Affirmative Sentences

affirmative sentence
The title of Alice Walker's fourth book of poetry—Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful (1985)—is an example of an affirmative sentence. Sean De Burca/Getty Images

In English grammar, an affirmative sentence is any statement that is positive instead of negative and can also be referred to as an assertive sentence or affirmative proposition. "Birds fly," "rabbits run" and "fish swim" are all affirmative sentences wherein the subjects are actively doing something, thereby making a positive statement on the noun in motion. 

In contrast, a negative sentence — which commonly includes the negative particle "not" or the contracted negative "n't" — contradicts, or negates, all or part of the meaning of a sentence, and can be seen in the sentence "rabbits don't fly" as an example.

In speech, questions can be expressed by uttering an affirmative sentence with a rising intonation, expressed in writing as a question mark. Although most questions using wh-question words are affirmative, sometimes English speakers will ask "When was it not?" instead of asking "When was it?" to arrive at the same answer.

Affirmative Questions and Word Order

According to Andrea DeCapua's 2008 "Grammar for Teachers: A Guide to American English for Native and Non-Native Speakers," word order in question sentences is important to understanding them as affirmative sentences. As she states, "when the wh-question words introduce a noun clause, the noun clause follows normal affirmative sentence word order. This is a difficult concept for many learners of English to remember, even at advanced levels." 

This is especially true in negating an affirmative sentence, wherein not all information included in that sentences is affected by negating it.

For instance, replying to someone saying "Trump is a great president of the United States" with "no, he isn't" doesn't alter the fact that Trump is a president, rather that he is not, in the speaker's opinion, a great president.

Usage of Affirmative Sentences

This might seem painfully simple, but most of the sentences in this article are affirmative sentences in that they affirm the propositions the writer is introducing — meaning affirmative sentences, therefore, make up the majority of spoken English.

Although not essential to conveying clear thought, it would be rather odd if a person spoke in only negative sentences, arriving at a point only by denying all other options — examples like "the person isn't a boy" to mean it's a girl or "the house pet is not a bird, reptile, fish or dog" to mean it's a cat only serves to convolute the sentences and intent behind the speaker's rhetoric. 

For that reason, most sentences are formed — like this one — as affirmative, unless the speaker or writer is deliberately contradicting a differing point or opinion. Basically, unless you are trying to say "no," your sentence is likely to be an affirmative sentence. 

Interestingly, the rule of double negatives applies to affirmative sentences as well, meaning that if you say "I am not not going to the movies," the sentence is affirmative because the meaning of "not not" doing something is that you are doing something. Proving, yet again, the English language can be tricky to master and fully comprehend — even for fluent English speakers. 

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Nordquist, Richard. "Affirmative Sentences." ThoughtCo, Apr. 17, 2017, thoughtco.com/affirmative-sentence-grammar-1688975. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 17). Affirmative Sentences. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/affirmative-sentence-grammar-1688975 Nordquist, Richard. "Affirmative Sentences." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/affirmative-sentence-grammar-1688975 (accessed January 17, 2018).