Speech acts can be classified according to how we intend our utterances to be understood by an audience. We use language primarily to (A) represent the facts, (B) get the audience to do something, (C) express our own mental world, or (D) show our commitment to bring about certain states of affairs. Accordingly, our expressions fall primarily within the four categories below, each comprising many speech acts.
A. INFORMATIVES: claiming, asserting, affirming, reporting, stating, denying, announcing, identifying, informing, predicting, answering, describing, and so on. Example:, the speech act of claiming that the defendant was involved in the crime.
B. DIRECTIVES: language used for prescribing, asking, advising, admonishing, entreating, begging, dismissing, excusing, forbidding, permitting, instructing, ordering, requesting, requiring, suggesting, urging, warning, and so on. Example: the speech act of prescribing that we should respect our parents.
C. EXPRESSIVES: lamenting, regretting, apologizing, congratulating, greeting, thanking, accepting, rejecting, objecting, cheering, and so on. Example: the speech act of apologizing for having been rude.
D. COMMISSIVES: promising, adjourning, calling to order, bequeathing, baptizing, guaranteeing, inviting, volunteering, naming, and so on. Example: the speech act of naming one’s cat ‘Felix.’