What is a Statement?October 14, 2018
Statements are what is said. More accurate, statements are things that are said that are either true or false.
They are also called claims. Here is one: “Neptune has the fastest winds in the solar system.” A statement that is especially important to us might be called a proposition, assertion, judgment, hypothesis, principle, thesis, or, in some situations, a law. Statements have to be capable of being true or false. So, if you say, “Is it midnight?” then you’ve not made a statement.
Suggestions, commands, and proposals aren’t statements either. The suggestion “I suggest we should get a new refrigerator,” and the command, “Stand back!” and the proposal, “Let’s quit studying,” are not statements. It would be very odd to call any of them “true” or “false.” The following are statements: “She suggested we should get a new refrigerator,” and “He commanded us to stand back,” and “He proposed that we use the office budget to buy a new refrigerator.“
Although there is a difference between a declarative sentence and the statement made with that sentence, this book will often not honor that distinction and will speak of declarative sentences themselves as being statements or claims.
Is the following sentence a statement?
The biggest question your pre-historic ancestors faced was, “Is that thing behind the bushes my next meal, or am I its next meal?”
You can’t spot the claims if you don’t speak the language. In the passage below from a famous Valley girl, try to decide whether the phrase in italics is (used to make) a claim. You won’t be able to figure this out if you don’t understand a little Valley-girl-ese.
So, I loan Whitney my copy of GQ, right, and she drops strawberry yogurt right on the cover, and like I could totally be so edged, but I tried to be cool.
To tell whether it’s expressing a claim, you don’t have to be able to figure out whether it’s true, but only whether it could be─whether it’s the sort of thing that might be true or might be false. The passage does make the claim. Its claim is that the speaker could be upset by Whitney’s dropping strawberry yogurt on her copy of GQ Magazine.
In spotting statements or claims, you need to pay close attention to language. One of the following is a claim and the other is not. Which is which?
I promised to give you $5. I promise to give you $5