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Imperatives

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Imperatives

An imperative, sometimes referred to as a directive, is one of the four main sentence functions in the English language and is most commonly used to give a command or instruction.

There are four main sentence functions in the English language. They are Declaratives (e.g. The cat is on the mat), Imperatives (e.g. Get the cat off the mat), Interrogatives (e.g. Where is the cat?), and Exclamatives (e.g. What a cute cat!).

Be careful not to confuse sentence functions (also referred to as sentence types) with sentence structures. Sentence functions describe the purpose of a sentence, whereas a sentence structure is how the sentence is formed ie simple sentences, complex sentences, compound sentences, and compound-complex sentences.

Imperative sentences

When we form imperative sentences, we use the imperative mood; the imperative mood is a grammatical mood that forms a command or request. Imperatives can be found everywhere, from recipes and user manuals to road signs and advertising; however, they are most common in everyday speech.

An imperative sentence is formed using a base verb, such as stop, and usually has no subject. There is often no subject present in an imperative sentence because the subject is assumed to be you - the reader or the listener. Imperative sentences end in either a full stop (.) Or an exclamation mark (!), Depending on the urgency of the command.

To put it simply, an imperative tells you to do something.

Imperative examples

Let's take a look at some common examples of imperative sentences. You'll notice that some sentences are very short, even one-word sentences, whereas others are longer and more complex. You may also notice that some sentences create a sense of urgency, whereas others have used the word 'please' to show politeness. The imperative verbs are in bold.

See if you can identify the purpose of each sentence.

  • Stop!

  • Look out!

  • Close your book, please.

  • Try the other door.

  • Have a nice day.

  • Let the cake cool for 10 minutes.

  • Join us for dinner.

  • Please bring your friends with you.

Not sure how to spot an imperative? Here are a few tricks. Typically, imperative sentences contain verbs that issue a command. Can you see a subject? Imperative sentences generally don't contain a subject.

Imperative Slow down StudySmarterSlow down! - StudySmarter Originals

How can I form an imperative?

As you can see from the examples above, the typical form (structure) of an imperative sentence is a verb without a subject. These verbs are called imperative verbs or 'bossy' verbs and are always in the present tense. This means we use the base form of the verb, e.g. give, have, go, and stop, and not to give, to have, to go, and to stop.

Each sentence is missing a subject because the subject (you) is implied. Take a look at this sentence as an example 'try the other door'. This sentence could also read 'You should try the other door'. However, the subject is obvious and has therefore been removed from the sentence.

Like most things in the English language, there are some exceptions to the rule. So, let's take a look at some imperative special cases.

Imperatives with a subject

Typically, an imperative doesn't have a subject as the subject is considered obvious. However, we can add a subject for emphasis, make the subject clearer, or demand attention.

  • Everybody listen!

  • Look this way, everyone.

  • You stay here!

Imperatives with always, never, and ever

We can also use the words always, never, and ever when forming an imperative; they usually go before the verb in the sentence. These words are adverbs of frequency and can be used to add further information to an imperative.

  • Always look both ways before crossing the road.

  • Never press that button!

  • Don't ever speak to me like that!

Imperatives with do

We can add the word 'do' to the beginning of our imperative sentences to make the command appear more polite.

  • Do take a seat.

  • Do try and be a bit quieter, please.

  • Do hurry!

What are the different types of imperative?

There are several different types of imperatives that all serve different purposes. Sometimes we use an imperative to warn someone of danger, and sometimes we use an imperative to simply wish someone a pleasant day. Let's take a look at some of the different types of imperatives and their uses.

Command or request imperatives

The command is one of the most commonly used imperatives. A command directly requests that someone does something or stops doing something. You can turn your command into a polite request by adding the word 'please'.

  • Stop climbing that tree.

  • Get down here now!

  • Please open the window.

Command imperatives are most commonly used in everyday speech. You will likely hear your parents and teachers using these kinds of imperative! Although, if you take a look at all the different signs around you, I'm sure you will spot many command imperatives.

Instruction imperatives

An instruction imperative is similar to a command. However, a command is a direct order to do something, whereas an instruction gives information or knowledge the subject may want or need.

  • Let the cake cool for 10 minutes.

  • Turn the oven to 180 degrees.

  • Take the first street on the left.

Instruction imperatives are frequently used in both written and spoken English. They are commonly found in user manuals, recipe books, and road signs.

Advice imperatives

We can also use imperatives when offering advice to people.

  • Think about your decision carefully.

  • Consider taking an Uber home.

  • Wear your black shoes with that outfit.

Advice imperatives are most commonly used in everyday speech. You will most likely use them when talking with your friends and family.

Invitation imperatives

This type of imperative extends an invitation to someone.

  • Join me for dinner.

  • Stay for a drink.

  • Please, take a seat!

These imperatives are used regularly in everyday conversation. You will also see them on, you guessed it, invitations!

Wish imperatives

Wish imperatives are sometimes referred to as unreal commands - this is because we use them to express hope rather than giving an actual command.

  • Have a nice day.

  • Enjoy your holiday.

  • Have a lovely meal!

These polite imperatives are well-wishing rather than commands. It is unlikely that the person who said “have a nice day” isn't demanding the subject does anything specific with their day - they are simply hoping it turns out to be a good one.

Imperatives Have a nice day StudySmarterHave a nice day! - StudySmarter Originals

Warning imperatives

Warning imperatives are usually very short. They are used to warn others of danger or an incoming problem.

  • Look out!

  • Duck!

  • Watch out!

Warning imperatives are most commonly used in everyday situations and are usually unplanned.

Let's take a look at that list of example imperatives again. Did you manage to identify the purpose of each sentence correctly?

  • Look out! (warning)

  • Close your book, please. (request)

  • Try the other door. (advice)

  • Have a nice day. (wish)

  • Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. (instruction)

  • Join us for dinner. (invitation)

  • Please bring your friends with you. (request)

  • Stop! (command)

Keep an eye out for reported speech or indirect speech! Reported speech is when we repeat, or report back, something that someone has said. In this case, the sentences are almost always declarative. For example: 'Sit down ' (= imperative) and 'She told me to sit down ' (= reported speech).

What are some well-known examples of imperatives?

There are thousands of well-known examples of imperative sentences out there, from song lyrics and speeches to marketing campaigns and road signs. Let's take a look at a few of them:

You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. -

'I have a dream' - Martin Luther King Jr., 1963.

This speech has frequently been described as one of the most imperative speeches in American history. Here Martin Luther King Jr. uses imperative sentences to convey a sense of command and to give advice.

Get up, stand up (Oh yeah) stand up for your rights (Lord, Lord) Get up, stand up (In the morning) stand up for your rights (Stand up for your rights)

Get up, stand up (Stand up for your life) stand up for your rights (Stand up for your life) Get up, stand up (Stand up for your life) don't give up the fight! -

'Get Up Stand Up' - Bob Marley, 1973.

Here, the singer is using imperative sentences to instruct the audience to stand up for their rights. You will notice that, throughout the lyrics, there is no subject; this is because the subject is anyone listening to the song.

Just do it. -

Nike

This slogan from Nike is a fantastic example of a brand using an imperative to communicate directly with its customers. This slogan challenges us, and orders us to just do it!

Imperatives, Image of Nike trainer, StudySmarterJust do it. - Pixabay


Now you have seen some examples of imperative sentences, how many other famous examples can you think of?

Imperatives - key takeaways

  • An imperative is one of the four main sentence functions in the English language.

  • The main purpose of an imperative is to give a command.

  • An imperative sentence is formed using a base verb, such as stop or wait and typically has no subject.

  • Imperative sentences end with either a full stop or an exclamation mark.

  • An imperative sentence has six main purposes. They are; to command or request, instruct, advise, invite, wish, and give warning.

Frequently Asked Questions about Imperatives

To put it simply, imperative sentences tell people what to do. They can give commands, give instructions, offer advice, extend invitations, or give a warning.

 Here are some examples of imperative sentences: 'Look out!'

'Come for dinner with me.'

'Stop chewing like that.'

An imperative verb (sometimes referred to as a 'bossy verb') tells someone to do something. Some examples include stop, wait, come, go, and run.

Imperative can be an adjective or a noun. 

As an adjective, it means absolutely necessary.

As a noun, it means a command. 

The imperative mood is a grammatical mood that forms a command or request.

Final Imperatives Quiz

Question

What is the main function of an imperative?

Show answer

Answer

To give a command.

Show question

Question

Which two punctuation marks are used at the end of an imperative?


Show answer

Answer

 Full stop or exclamation mark.

Show question

Question

The following sentence is an example of which type of imperative? 'Look out!'

Show answer

Answer

Warning.

Show question

Question

An imperative sentence is formed using which one of the following?

A. Pronoun

B. Base verb

C. Modal verb

Show answer

Answer

B. Base verb

Show question

Question

You are likely to find imperatives in a recipe book, true or false?


Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an example of a wish imperative:

A. Join me for dinner tonight.

B. Watch out!

C. Enjoy your meal.

Show answer

Answer

C. Enjoy your meal.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is an example of advice imperative:

A. Have a nice day.

B. Try oat milk instead. 

C. Wait here.

Show answer

Answer

B. Try oat milk instead.

Show question

Question

 The following sentence is an imperative, true or false?

       'She told me not to sit there.'

Show answer

Answer

False.

This is an example of reported speech.

Show question

Question

 The following sentence is an imperative, true or false?

       'Please open the door for me.'

Show answer

Answer

True. 

This is a request. 

Show question

Question

How can we make commands more polite?


Show answer

Answer

By using the words please or do.

Show question

Question

What is the imperative mood?

Show answer

Answer

A grammatical mood used to form a command or a request.

Show question

Question

What does the word imperative mean?

Show answer

Answer

Imperative can be an adjective or a noun. 

As an adjective, it means absolutely necessary.

As a noun, it means a command. 

Show question

Question

What are imperative verbs?

Show answer

Answer

An imperative verb (sometimes referred to as a 'bossy verb') tells someone to do something. Some examples include stop, wait, come, go, and run.

Show question

Question

When forming interrogatives, do we use the base form of the verb or the infinitive form of the verb?

Show answer

Answer

The base form

Show question

Question

Identify the purpose of the imperative:

'Look out!'

Show answer

Answer

Warning

Show question

Question

Identify the purpose of the imperative:

'Have a nice day'

Show answer

Answer

Wish

Show question

Question

Identify the purpose of the imperative:

'Try the other door'


Show answer

Answer

Advice

Show question

Question

What type of imperative is this:

'Join me for a drink'

Show answer

Answer

Invitation 

Show question

Question

What type of imperative is this:

'Think twice before saying yes'

Show answer

Answer

Advice 

Show question

Question

True or false, imperatives never have a subject.

Show answer

Answer

False. They can include subjects but often don't.

Show question

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