You might be surprised to learn that there are two ways to define exclamatory sentences.
We can define them based on their function, and we can define them based on their form.
Let's learn more about each one!
The most common way of defining exclamatory sentences is by function (purpose).
From this perspective, a sentence is exclamatory if it ends with an exclamation mark. The exclamation mark indicates strong emotion.
All of those sentences have the same function: to express strong emotion. They all end with an exclamation mark.
* Who does he think he is! Although this sentence is written in the form of a question, the exclamation mark indicates that the sentence's function is exclamatory. The writer or speaker is showing the strong emotion of exasperation and isn't really expecting an answer.
Another way of defining exclamatory sentences is by form. Form has to do with a sentence's word arrangement.
To be an exclamatory sentence in form, sentences must begin with what or how, be non-interrogative, and contain a shift in the typical word order.
Notice that the word order seems a bit odd and that although these sentences begin with what and how, they are not asking questions. How strange these sentences are! :)
If you are defining sentence types based on form, the following sentences would not be exclamatory.
I can't wait to go to Grandma's house!
Shut the door!
Who does he think he is!
Here is a sentence diagram of a sentence that is exclamatory in form. We don't show any end punctuation in sentence diagrams.
The word what in these sentences is called an exclamatory determiner.
No matter how you define exclamatory sentences, don't overuse them.
If you're writing anything formal, you should probably avoid them altogether unless they're a part of a quote.
Other Helpful Resources