Types of Speech Acts

There are various kinds of speech acts, yet the following, classified by John Searle, have received particular attention:

Representatives commit a speaker to the truth of an expressed proposition.

  • Paradigm cases: asserting, stating, concluding, boasting, describing, suggesting.
    • I am a great singer.
    • Bill was an accountant.

Commissives commit a speaker to some future action.

  • Paradigm cases: promising, pledging, threatening, vowing, offering.
    • I am going to leave you.
    • I'll call you tonight.

Directives are used by a speaker who attempts to get the addressee to carry out an action.

  • Paradigm cases: requesting, advsing, commanding, challenging, inviting, daring, entreating.
    • You'd better tidy up that mess.
    • Sit down.

Declarations affect an immediate change of affairs.

  • Paradigm cases: declaring, baptising, resigning, firing from employment, hiring, arresting.
    • We find the defendant guilty.
    • I resign.

Expressives espress some sort of psychological state.

  • Paradigm cases: greeting, thanking, apologising, complaining, congratulating.
    • This beer is disgusting.
    • I'm sorry to hear that.

Exercise on types of speech acts

Exercise on the use of directives

Go back to Speech Acts and Events

Categories: Glossary