For information about negating or softening an imperative sentence, see Examples and Observations (below).
- Imperative Mood
- Basic Sentence Structures
- Exercise in Identifying Sentences by Function
- Felicity Conditions
- Hortatory Discourse
- Minor Sentence
- Null Subject
- Practice in Identifying Sentences by Function
- Second-Person Point of View
Etymology:From the Latin, "command"
Examples and Observations:
(slogan of Volkswagen)
- "Put an egg in your shoe, and beat it. Make like a tree, and leave. Tell your story walking."
(Jonathan Lethem, Motherless Brooklyn. Doubleday, 1999)
- "We're going into the attic now, folks. Keep your accessories with you at all times."
(Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story 3, 2010)
- "Go ahead, make my day."
(Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan in Sudden Impact, 1983)
- "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."
- Westley: Give us the gate key.
Yellin: I have no gate key.
Inigo Montoya: Fezzik, tear his arms off.
Yellin: Oh, you mean this gate key.
(The Princess Bride, 1987)
- "Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don't care if I never get back."
(Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game")
"Seek simplicity, and distrust it."
(Alfred North Whitehead)
"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
(President John Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961)
"Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia!"
(El Jefe, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, 1974)
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
"Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face!"
(John Candy as Buck Russell in Uncle Buck, 1989)
- "Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams;
Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round."
(William Butler Yeats, "Fergus and the Druid," 1892)
- "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."
(Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poets Society, 1989)
- "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."
- "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."
(Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream," August 1963)
"Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!"
(Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy)
"Forget them, Wendy. Forget them all. Come with me where you'll never, never have to worry about grown up things again."
(Peter in film adaptation of Peter Pan, 2003)
- "Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn't have gum on it, because that way it won't hold up well after a wash; soak salt fish overnight before you cook it . . .."
(Jamaica Kincaid, "Girl." At the Bottom of the River. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1983)
- "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance," 1841)
Negating an Imperative Sentence
"To negate a declarative sentence, as shown in (4), do is absent and not is contracted with the verb. In the corresponding imperative, the auxiliary do is combined with not and placed at the beginning of the sentence before the verb.
(4) Declarative Sentence: You aren't lazy.(Ron Cowan, The Teacher's Grammar of English: A Course Book and Reference Guide. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008)
(4) Imperative Sentence: Don't be lazy.
- "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force."
(Darth Vader, Star Wars, 1977)
- "Do not on any account attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once."
(W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman, 1066 and All That. Methuen, 1930)
The Understood "You" in an Imperative Sentence
"Some imperatives appear to have a third person subject as in the following:
Somebody, strike a light! (AUS#47:24)Even in a sentence like this one, though, there is an understood second person subject; in other words, the implied subject is somebody among you all out there. Again, this becomes clearer when we tack on a question tag--suddenly the second person subject pronoun surfaces:
Somebody, strike a light, will you? (AUS#47:24)In an example like this, it is quite clear that we are not dealing with a declarative, since the verb form would then be different: somebody strikes a light."
(Kersti Börjars and Kate Burridge, Introducing English Grammar, 2nd ed. Hodder, 2010)
Softening the Imperative
"The bare imperative is a very direct form in English and should be used with great care in order to avoid the perception of impoliteness. It is not generally used to make requests/commands or give instructions (e.g. in service encounters in shops or restaurants) except in cases where people are very familiar with one another, and except where accompanied by please. . . .
"Just and/or please can also soften an imperative:
[customer and market trader]"Imperatives with emphatic do-auxiliary are perceived as more polite than bare imperatives:
A: And some peppers, please.
B: Yeah. How many?
A: Just give me two big ones, please.
[to guests who have just arrived](Ronald Carter and Michael McCarthy, Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Do take your coats off."
Imperative Sentences in an Introductory Paragraph
"Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar."
(Truman Capote, "A Christmas Memory." Mademoiselle, December 1956)
Pronunciation: im-PER-a-tiv SEN-tens
Also Known As: directive, jussive