I know that this specific type of sentences has a name, but I can't remember it.

The sentences I'm referring to are the sentences that describe an action that is performed when saying the sentences, like for example:

  • I give you my benediction
  • I wish you a happy birthday
  • I curse all those who...
  • Etc...

Any clues ?

  • 3
    I believe these are called (explicit?) performative utterances.
    – senshin
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 22:00
  • You are correct! Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


These sentences are referred to as performative utterances. As you mention in the question, performative utterances are those in which the utterance itself (the act of speaking) is part of the action that the utterance describes. So, the act of saying "I wish you a happy birthday" itself is part of the act of "wishing one a happy birthday", and thus it is a performative utterance.

The other main characteristic of a performative utterance, as I understand it, is that they have no truth value (though this is not a unique feature of performative utterances). In other words, "I wish you a happy birthday" and its ilk cannot be deemed true or false.

As jlawler points out in the comments, J. L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words is a good source for learning about performative utterances. Alternatively, consult any text on pragmatics.

  • 1
    Read J.L. Austin's How to do things with words for details. Or consult any textbook on Pragmatics.
    – jlawler
    Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 23:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.