Difference Between Sentence and Utterance


Main Difference

The main difference between Sentence and Utterance is that a Sentence, either written or spoken, gives a complete and absolute meaning of an idea, whereas Utterance does not provide a full definition or thought.

Sentence vs. Utterance

A group of words that give complete meaning and make a sense is called a sentence. The words that do not make any sense are collectively called as utterance. A sentence can exist both in spoken and written form, whereas an utterance only exists in spoken form confined by breaths or gaps.

The formal and complete speech following the grammatical and syntactical rules, and conveying complete thought is called a sentence. On the other hand, the informal and incomplete speech not following the grammatical rules, and not conveying complete thought is called utterance.


The basic unit and configuration of semantics are called a sentence, whereas the tiniest unit of speech is called utterances. A sentence can be defined as the exemplary string of words aligned by grammatical rules of the language. Conversely, grammatical rules are not followed by utterances.

In a sentence, the specific sequence of grammar is followed, and the words are positioned understandably but utterance, on the other hand, utterances are short phrases, single words, incomplete sentences, abbreviations, and incomplete versions of whole sentences.

A sentence is neither a physical incident nor a tangible thing, while an utterance is a piece of language used by a person in a particular situation. The purpose of the group of words used in a sentence is to manifest any statement, exclamation, inquiry, question, request, or command.


Comparison Chart

Bunch of words referring to the full meaning and thought of an idea is called a sentence.Few words having incomplete meaning and not conveying full thought are called utterances.
Include subject, verb, and objectEither subject, verb, or object is missing
Grammatical Rules
Follow the grammatical rulesDoes not follow the grammatical rules
Physical Entity
Not a physical event or incidentA physical entity
Not so specificBy specific person at a specific time
Words Extent
As much as are necessary for conveying the complete ideaCan be a single word, a single phrase, or a single clause
Quotation Mark
Not used in a sentenceUsed in utterances
I am a student“Ummm…a student.”

What is a Sentence?

A sentence is presented as a collection of words combined to convey a meaning. The basic unit of linguistics that demonstrates the whole idea is called a sentence. It follows the grammatical and syntactical rules to make the statement comprehensible for a simple man.

A sentence is usually made up of a subject, a verb, and an object, but a subject and the main verb are compulsory to be in a sentence to convey full thought. Besides the fundamental subject and main verb, a sentence may include phrases or clauses.


  • Simple Sentence: The sentence that includes a subject and a verb to refer to absolute meaning is called a simple sentence. A simple sentence is also called as an independent or main clause. i.e., Alice seemed to be busy.
  • Compound Sentence: The sentence having two independent clauses joined by coordinating conjunction is called a compound sentence. i.e., “I was writing my assignment,” is an independent clause. “My brother was playing a computer game,” is another independent clause. Both are joined by coordinating conjunction as, “I was writing my assignment, and my brother was playing a computer game.”
  • Complex Sentence: The sentence which mainly comprises one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses is referred to as a complex sentence. i.e., “The teacher returned to the class,” is an independent clause. “After hearing the noise,” is a dependent clause. The complex sentence is structured as “The teacher returned to the class after hearing the noise.”

What is Utterance?

A part of speech or a piece of language offered between pauses and breathes is called utterance. A single word, clause, incomplete sentence, or a phrase that conveys somewhat meaningful but not completely meaningful thought is referred to utterance.

The utterance is spoken linguistics and is not permitted for written language. i.e., a person comes before the audience and says, “Good Evening ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell some facts about high suicide rates in this state……let me start with some figures….As you can acknowledge.” It is clear that “let me start with some figures,” are the words articulated between two pauses, stated as utterance.

In spoke language, utterances are found, and they are not separated by commas or full stops as utterances do not follow the grammatical or syntactical rules. Thus, it becomes difficult to distinguish the sentences and utterances in spoken language.


  • Some two-word utterances are: “Look here,” “paper cup,” “my bottle,” etc.
  • Incomplete sentence utterances are: “Ummm, do you know how to make ramen?”


  • Referential Utterance: Information supporting utterance is called Referential Utterance.
  • Phatic Utterance: An utterance that includes small talk or abbreviations is called Phatic Utterance.
  • Expressive Utterance: The utterance which articulates the feelings and emotions of the speaker is called Expressive Utterance.
  • Interactional Utterance: A verbal communication between two persons giving special highlighting on a social link is called Interactional Utterance.
  • Transactional Utterance: The utterance having a spoken argumentation to get something completed is called Transactional Utterance.

Key Differences

  1. A Sentence conveys a complete idea, thought, or meaning. An utterance does not convey a full idea, thought, or meaning.
  2. A sentence is a bunch of words that altogether make a sense, while an utterance hardly conveys some sense.
  3. A sentence consists of a subject and mainly the main verb, but an utterance does not bound itself with so many words. A single word, phrase, an incomplete or a somewhat meaningful statement may act as an utterance.
  4. The grammatical rules are followed by the sentence structure, whereas an utterance never follows any grammatical or syntactical rule.
  5. A sentence can be written as well as spoken, but an utterance can’t be written as it involves usage of commas and full stops and utterances are not bound to use them. The utterances are spoken linguistics.
  6. A sentence is not a physical existence; on the flip side, an utterance is a physical existence related to a specific person, specific time, and specific emotions attached to it.
  7. A sentence does not include features like facial expressions, position, and gestures, etc. but utterances are entitled with such tag questions, false flinches, fillers, facial expressions, etc.
  8. A sentence is referred to as a fundamental unit of semantics, whereas an utterance is the tiniest component of language and spoken linguistics.


A sentence provides a whole sense or thought either in spoken or in written form, whereas an utterance gives imperfect meanings and ideas and can only be presented in spoken form.

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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