Imperative mood
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The imperative mood is a grammatical mood that forms a command or request.
An example of a verb used in the imperative mood is the English phrase "Go." Such imperatives imply a second-person subject (you), but some other languages also have first- and third-person imperatives, with the meaning of "let's (do something)" or "let them (do something)" (the forms may alternatively be called cohortative and jussive).
Imperative mood can be denoted by the glossing abbreviation imp. It is one of the irrealis moods.
Imperative mood is often expressed using special conjugated verb forms. Like other finite verb forms, imperatives often inflect for person and number. Second-person imperatives (used for ordering or requesting performance directly from the person being addressed) are most common, but some languages also have imperative forms for the first and third persons (alternatively called cohortative and jussive respectively).
In English, the imperative is formed using the bare infinitive form of the verb (see English verbs for more details). This is usually also the same as the second-person present indicative form, except in the case of the verb to be, where the imperative is be while the indicative is are. (The present subjunctive always has the same form as the imperative, although it is negated differently – the imperative is negated using do not, as in "Don't touch me!"; see do-support. Occasionally do is not used: Dare not touch me!) The imperative form is understood as being in the second person (the subject pronoun you is usually omitted, although it can be included for emphasis), with no explicit indication of singular or plural. First and third person imperatives are expressed periphrastically, using a construction with the imperative of the verb let:
Other languages such as Latin, French and German have a greater variety of inflected imperative forms, marked for person and number, their formation often depending on a verb's conjugation pattern. Examples can be found in the specific language sections below. In languages that make a T–V distinction (tu vs. vous, du vs. Sie, tu vs. você, tu vs. usted, etc.) the use of particular forms of the second person imperative may also be dependent on the degree of familiarity between the speaker and the addressee, as with other verb forms.
The second person singular imperative often consists of just the stem of the verb, without any ending – this is the case in the Slavic languages, for example.
Syntax and negation
Imperative sentences sometimes use different syntax than declarative or other types of clauses. There may also be differences of syntax between affirmative and negative imperative sentences. In some cases the imperative form of the verb is itself different when negated. A distinct negative imperative form is sometimes said to be in prohibitive or vetative mood (abbreviated proh).
Many languages, even not normally null-subject languages, omit the subject pronoun in imperative sentences, as usually occurs in English (see below). Details of the syntax of imperative sentences in certain other languages, and of differences between affirmative and negative imperatives, can be found in some of the other specific language sections below.
Imperatives are used principally for ordering, requesting or advising the listener to do (or not to do) something: "Put down the gun!"; "Pass me the sauce"; "Don't go too near the tiger." They are also often used for giving instructions as to how to perform a task ("Install the file, then restart your computer"). They can sometimes be seen on signs giving orders or warnings ("Stop"; "Give way"; "Do not enter").
The use of the imperative mood may be seen as impolite, inappropriate or even offensive in certain circumstances.[1] In polite speech, orders or requests are often phrased instead as questions or statements, rather than as imperatives:
Politeness strategies (for instance, indirect speech acts) can seem more appropriate in order not to threaten a conversational partner in their needs of self-determination and territory: the partner's negative face should not appear threatened.[2] As well as the replacement of imperatives with other sentence types as discussed above, there also often exist methods of phrasing an imperative in a more polite manner, such as the addition of a word like please or a phrase like if you could.
Imperatives are also used for speech acts whose function is essentially not to make an order or request, but to give an invitation, give permission, express a wish, make an apology, etc.:
When written, imperative sentences are often, but not always, terminated with an exclamation mark.
First person plural imperatives (cohortatives) are used mainly for suggesting an action to be performed together by the speaker and the addressee (and possibly other people): "Let's go to Barbados this year"; "Let us pray". Third person imperatives (jussives) are used to suggest or order that a third party or parties be permitted or made to do something: "Let them eat cake"; "Let him be executed".
There is an additional imperative form that is used for general prohibitions, consisting of the word "no" followed by the gerund form. The best known examples are "No Smoking" and "No Parking". This form does not have a positive form; that is, "Parking" by itself has no meaning unless used as a noun when it tells that parking is permitted.
In particular languages
For more details on imperatives in the languages listed below, and in languages that are not listed, see the articles on the grammar of the specific languages.
English usually omits the subject pronoun in imperative sentences:
However, it is possible to include the you in imperative sentences for emphasis.
English imperatives are negated using don't (as in "Don't work!") This is a case of do-support as found in indicative clauses; however in the imperative it applies even in the case of the verb be (which does not use do-support in the indicative):
It is also possible to use do-support in affirmative imperatives, for emphasis or (sometimes) politeness: "Do be quiet!"; "Do help yourself!".
The subject you may be included for emphasis in negated imperatives as well, following don't: "Don't you dare do that again!"
Further information: Latin syntax § The imperative mood
Latin regular imperatives include amā (2nd pers. singular) and amāte (2nd pers. plural), from the infinitive amāre ("to love"); similarly monē and monēte from monēre ("to advise/warn"); audī and audīte from audīre ("to hear"), etc. The negative imperative is formed with the infinitive of the verb, preceded by the imperative of nōlle ("to not want"): nōlī stāre ("don't stand", 2nd pers. singular) and nōlīte stāre (2nd pers. plural); compare the positive imperative stā ("stand", 2nd pers. singular) and stāte (2nd pers. plural).
For third-person imperatives, the subjunctive mood is used instead.
In Latin there is a peculiar tense in the imperative, which is the future tense that is used when you want the mandate to be fulfilled in the future. This time is used mainly in laws, wills, precepts, etc. However, it is conjugated only with the third and second person singular and plural which carries as a gramme or ending -tō for the second and third person singular, -tōte for the second person plural and -ntō for the third person plural. On the other hand, in other languages of the world there is a distinctive imperative, which also has a future value, but with a previous meaning and this is the so-called past imperative that appears in the French and Greek languages as a point of reference. See Latin conjugation.
Examples of the following conjugations of the verbs amare, delere, legere and audire:
Imperative of futur tense
PersonsFirst conjugationSecond conjugationThird conjugationFourth conjugation
2nd sing.amatōdelētōlegītōaudītō
3rd sing.amatōdelētōlegītōaudītō
2nd pluralamātōtedelētōtelegītōteaudītōte
3rd pluralamantōdelentōleguntōaudiuntō
Sentence examples of the future imperative:
Germanic languages
A peculiar feature of Dutch is that it can form an imperative mood in the pluperfect tense. Its use is fairly common:[3]
German verbs have a singular and a plural imperative. The singular imperative is equivalent to the bare stem or the bare stem + -e. (In most verbs, both ways are correct.) The plural imperative is the same as the second-person plural of the present tense.
In order to emphasize their addressee, German imperatives can be followed by the nominative personal pronouns du ("thou; you [sg.]") or ihr ("you [pl.]"), respectively. For example: Geh weg!Geh du doch weg! ("Go away!" – "Why, you go away!").
German has T/V distinction, which means that the pronouns du and ihr are used chiefly towards persons with whom one is privately acquainted, which holds true for the corresponding imperatives. (For details see German grammar.) Otherwise, the social-distance pronoun Sie ("you") is used for both singular and plural. Since there exists no actual imperative corresponding to Sie, the form is paraphrased with the third-person plural of the present subjunctive followed by the pronoun:
Like English, German features many constructions that express commands, wishes, etc. They are thus semantically related to imperatives without being imperatives grammatically:
Romance languages
Examples of regular imperatives in French are mange (2nd pers. singular), mangez (2nd pers. plural) and mangeons (1st person plural, "let's eat"), from manger ("to eat") – these are similar or identical to the corresponding present indicative forms, although there are some irregular imperatives that resemble the present subjunctives, such as sois, soyez and soyons, from être ("to be"). A third person imperative can be formed using a subjunctive clause with the conjunction que, as in qu'ils mangent de la brioche ("let them eat cake").
French uses different word order for affirmative and negative imperative sentences:
The negative imperative (prohibitive) has the same word order as the indicative. See French personal pronouns § Clitic order for detail. Like in English, imperative sentences often end with an exclamation mark, e.g. to emphasize an order.
In French there is a very distinctive imperative which is the imperative mood of preterite tense also called (past imperative or imperative of future perfect), expresses a given order with previous future value which must be executed or fulfilled in a future not immediate, as if it were an action to come, but earlier in relation to another that will also happen in the future. However, this type of imperative is peculiar to French which has only one purpose: to order that something be done before the date or time, therefore, this will always be accompanied by a circumstantial complement of time. However, this imperative is formed with the auxiliary verb of the avoir compound tenses and with the auxiliary verb être that is also used to form the tenses composed of the pronominal verbs and some of the intransitive verbs, this means that the structure of the verb imperative in its entirety is composed. Examples:
Imperative of preterite tense
PersonsFirst conjugationSecond conjugationThird conjugation
With the verb avoir
2nd sing.aie aiméaie finiaie ouvertaie reçuaie renduaie mis
1st pluralayons aiméayons finiayons ouvertayons reçuayons renduayons mis
2nd pluralayez aiméayez finiayez ouvertayez reçuayez renduayez mis
With the verb être
2nd sing.sois allésois partisois venusois mortsois nésois devenu
1st pluralsoyons alléssoyons partissoyons venussoyons mortssoyons néssoyons devenus
2nd pluralsoyez alléssoyez partissoyez venussoyez mortssoyez néssoyez devenus
In English there is no equivalent grammatical structure to form this tense of the imperative mood; it is translated in imperative mood of present with previous value.
In Spanish, imperatives for the familiar singular second person () are usually identical to indicative forms for the singular third person. However, there are irregular verbs for which unique imperative forms for exist. vos (alternative to ) usually takes the same forms as (usually with slightly different emphasis) but unique forms exist for it as well. vosotros (plural familiar second person) also takes unique forms for the imperative.
Infinitive3rd pers.

vosotros / vosotras
* = unique verb that only exists for this imperative form
If an imperative takes a pronoun as an object, it is appended to the verb; for example, Dime ("Tell me"). Pronouns can be stacked like they can in indicative clauses:
Imperatives can be formed for usted (singular formal second person), ustedes (plural second person), and nosotros (plural first person) from the respective present subjunctive form. Negative imperatives for these pronouns (as well as , vos, and vosotros) are also formed this way, but are negated by no (e.g. No cantes, "Don't sing").
In Portuguese, affirmative imperatives for singular and plural second person (tu / vós) derive from their respective present indicative conjugations, after having their final -s dropped.[pt 1] On the other hand, their negative imperatives are formed by their respective subjunctive forms, as well as both affirmative and negative imperatives for treatment pronouns (você(s)) and plural first person (nós).
affirmative tu
affirmative vós
negative tu
negative vós
comercomescomeiscomecomeinão comasnão comais(não) coma(não) comam(não) comamos
beberbebesbebeisbebebebeinão bebasnão bebais(não) beba(não) bebam(não) bebamos
tertenstendestemtendenão tenhasnão tenhais(não) tenha(não) tenham(não) tenhamos
dizerdizesdizeisdiz(e)dizeinão digasnão digais(não) diga(não) digam(não) digamos
^ There are some exceptions to this rule; mainly for phonetical reasons and for vós, which hold vós's archaic conjugation paradigm, -des.
If a verb takes a pronoun, it should be appended to the verb:
Indic Languages
In Hindi-Urdu (Hindustani) the imperatives are conjugated by adding suffixes to the root verb. The negative and positive imperatives are not constructed differently in Hindustani. There are three negations that be used to form negative imperatives.[4] They are:
Often to soften down the tone of the imperatives, the subjunctive and indicative negation are used to form negative imperatives. Imperatives can also be formed using subjunctives to give indirect commands to the third person and to formal second person.[5] A peculiar feature of Hindi-Urdu is that it has imperatives in two tenses; present and the future tense.[6] The present tense imperative gives command in the present and future imperative gives command for the future. Hindi-Urdu explicitly marks grammatical aspects and any verb can be put into the simple, habitual, perfective, and progressive aspects. Each aspect in turn can be conjugated into five different grammatical moods, imperative mood being one of them. In the table below, the verb करना karnā کرنا (to do) is conjugated into the imperative mood for all the four aspectual forms.
PronounsSimple AspectHabitual AspectPerfective AspectProgressive Aspect
करता रह
kartā rêh
کرتا رہ
करती रह
kartī rêh
کرتی رہ
करता रहियो
kartā rahiyo
کرتا رہیو
करती रहियो
kartī rahiyo
لڑتی رہیو
किया रह
kiyā rêh
کیا رہ
की रह
kī rêh
کی رہ
किया रहियो
kiyā rahiyo
کیا رہیو
की रहियो
kī rahiyo
کی رہیو
कर रहा रह
kar rahā rêh
کر رہا رہ
कर रही रह
kar rahī rêh
کر رہی رہ
कर रहा रहियो
kar rahā rahiyo
کر رہا رہیو
कर रही रहियो
kar rahī rahiyo
کر رہی رہیو
करते रहो
karte raho
کرتے رہو
करती रहो
kartī raho
کرتی رہو
करते रहना
karte rêhnā
کرتے رہنا
करती रहना
kartī rêhnā
کرتی رہنا
किये रहो
kiye raho
کے رہو
की रहो
kī raho
کی رہو
किये रहना
kiye rêhnā
کے رہنا
की रहना
kī rêhnā
کی رہنا
कर रहे रहो
kar rahe raho
کر رہے رہو
कर रही रहो
kar rahī raho
کر رہی رہو
कर रहे रहना
kar rahe rêhnā
کر رہے رہنا
कर रही रहना
kar rahī rêhnā
کر رہی رہنا
करते रहिये
karte rahiye
کرتے رہے
करती रहिये
kartī rahiye
کرتی رہے
करते रहियेगा
karte rahiyegā
کرتے رہیگا
करती रहियेगा
kartī rahiyegā
کرتی رہیگا
किये रहिये
kiye rahiye
کے رہے
की रहिये
kī rahiye
کی رہے
किये रहियेगा
kiye rahiyegā
کے رہیگا
की रहियेगा
kī rahiyegā
کی رہیگا
कर रहे रहिये
kar rahe rahiye
کر رہے رہے
कर रही रहिये
kar rahī rahiye
کر رہی رہے
कर रहे रहियेगा
kar rahe rahiyegā
کر رہے رہیگا
कर रही रहियेगा
kar rahī rahiyegā
کر رہی رہیگا
Translationdo nowǃdo laterǃkeep doingǃkeep doing later as wellǃkeep (it) done nowǃkeep (it) done laterǃbe/continue doingǃbe/stay doingǃ
In Sanskrit, लोट् लकार (lōṭ lakāra) is used with the verb to form the imperative mood. To form the negative, न (na) or मा () (when the verb is in passive or active voice respectively) is placed before the verb in the imperative mood.
Standard modern Bengali uses the negative postposition /nā/ after a future imperative formed using the -iyo fusional suffix (in addition, umlaut vowel changes in the verb root might take place).
Other Indo-European languages
Ancient Greek has imperative forms for present, aorist, and perfect tenses for the active, middle, and passive voices. Within these tenses, forms exist for second and third persons, for singular, dual, and plural subjects. Subjunctive forms with μή are used for negative imperatives in the aorist.
Present Active Imperative: 2nd sg. λεῖπε, 3rd sg. λειπέτω, 2nd pl. λείπετε, 3rd pl. λειπόντων.
The commanding form in Russian language is formed from the base of the present tense.[7] The most common form of the second person singular or plural. The form of the second person singular in the imperative mood is formed as follows:
A verb with a present stem ending in – j – the form of the second person singular of the imperative mood is equal to the base: читаj-у — читай, убираj-у — убирай, открываj-у — открывай, поj-у — пой.
Irish has imperative forms in all three persons and both numbers, although the first person singular is most commonly found in the negative (e.g. ná cloisim sin arís "let me not hear that again").
Non-Indo-European languages
In Finnish, there are two ways of forming a first-person plural imperative. A standard version exists, but it is typically replaced colloquially by the impersonal tense. For example, from mennä ("to go"), the imperative "let's go" can be expressed by menkäämme (standard form) or mennään (colloquial).
Forms also exist for second (sing. mene, plur. menkää) and third (sing. menköön, plur. menkööt) person. Only first person singular does not have an imperative.
In classical Hebrew, there is a form for positive imperative. It exists for singular and plural, masculine and feminine second-person. The imperative conjugations look like shortages of the future ones. However, in modern Hebrew, the future tense is often used in its place in colloquial speech, and the proper imperative form is considered formal or of higher register.
The negative imperative in those languages is more complicated. In modern Hebrew, for instance, it contains a synonym of the word "no", that is used only in negative imperative (אַל), and is followed by the future tense.
The verb to write
in singular, masculine
Future IndicativeImperative / Prohibitive
Affirmativetikhtov – תכתוב
(You will write)
ktov – כתוב
اكْتـُبْ- uktub
Negativelo tikhtov – לא תכתוב
(You will not write)
al tikhtov – אל תכתוב
(Don't write!)
The verb to write
in singular, feminine
Future IndicativeImperative / Prohibitive
Affirmativetikhtevi – תכתבי
(You will write)
kitvi – כתבי
اكْتـُبْي- uktubi
Negativelo tikhtevi – לא תכתבי
(You will not write)
al tikhtevi – אל תכתבי
لَا تَكْتُبِي- lā taktubī
(Don't write!)
The verb to dictate
in singular, masculine
Future IndicativeImperative / Prohibitive
Affirmativetakhtiv – תכתיב
(You will dictate)
hakhtev – הכתב
Negativelo takhtiv – לא תכתיב
(You will not dictate)
al takhtiv – אל תכתיב
(Don't dictate!)
Japanese uses separate verb forms as shown below. For the verb kaku (write):
/ Prohibitive
Affirmative書く kaku書け kake
Negative書かない kakanai書くな kakuna
See also the suffixes 〜なさい (–nasai) and 〜下さい/ください (–kudasai).
Korean has six levels of honorific, all of which have their own imperative endings. Auxiliary verbs 않다 anta and 말다 malda are used for negative indicative and prohibitive, respectively. For the verb gada ("go"'):
LevelIndicative AffirmativeImperativeIndicative NegativeProhibitive
(formal) Hasipsio-style가십니다gasimnida가십시오gasipsio가지 않으십니다 gaji aneusimnida가지 마십시오 gaji masipsio[vn 1]
Haeyo-style가세요gaseyo가세요gaseyo가지 않으세요 gaji aneuseyo가지 마세요gaji maseyo[vn 1]
Hao-style가시오gasio가시오gasio가지 않으시오 gaji aneusio가지 마시오gaji masio[vn 1]
Hage-style가네 gane가게 gage가지 않네gaji anne가지 말게gaji malge
Hae-stylegaga가지 않아gaji ana가지 마 gaji ma[vn 2]
(informal) Haera-style간다 ganda가라 gara가지 않는다gaji anneunda가지 마라gaji mara[vn 2]
  1. ^ a b c Verb and adjective stems that end in ㄹ l, including mal-, eliminate the last l before suffixes starting with l (not r), n, o, p, and s.
  2. ^ a b An imperative suffix -a(ra) contracts mal- to ma- exceptionally. The other verbs are not contracted by -a(ra).
Standard Chinese uses different words of negation for the indicative and the prohibitive moods. For the verb 做 zuò (do):
/ Prohibitive
Affirmative做 zuò做 zuò
Negative不做 búzuò别做 biézuò
For the imperative form, the second-person singular, Turkish uses the bare verb stem without the infinitive ending -mek/-mak. Other imperative forms use various suffixes. The second-person plural, which can also be used to express formality (See T–V distinction), uses the suffixes -in/-ın/-ün/-un. The second person double-plural, reserved for super formal contexts (usually public notifications), uses the suffixes -iniz/-ınız/-ünüz/-unuz. Third-person singular uses -sin/-sın/-sün/-sun. Third-person plural uses -sinler/-sınlar/-sünler/-sunlar (There is no third person double-plural in Turkish). First-person pronouns do not have imperative forms. All Turkish imperative suffixes change depending on the verb stem according to the rules of vowel harmony. For the verb içmek ("to drink", also "to smoke" a cigarette or similar):
The verb içmek ("to drink")Second-person singularSecond-person pluralSecond-person double-pluralThird-person singularThird-person plural
Imperative form ("Drink!")için ("Drink!")içiniz ("Drink!", e.g. Soğuk içiniz "Drink cold" on soft drinks)içsin ("let him/her drink")içsinler ("let them drink")
Turkish also has a separate optative mood. Conjugations of the optative mood for the first-person pronouns (singular içeyim, (double-)plural içelim) are sometimes incorrectly said to be first-person imperatives. Conjugations of the optative mood for second and third-person pronouns exist (second-person singular içesin, second-person (double-)plural içesiniz, third-person singular içe, third-person plural içeler), but are rarely used in practice.
Negative imperative forms are made in the same way, but using a negated verb as the base. For example, the second person singular imperative of içmemek ("not to drink") is içme ("Don't drink!"). Other Turkic languages construct imperative forms similarly to Turkish.
See also
  1. ^ Wierzbicka, Anna, "Cross-Cultural Pragmatics", Mouton de Gruyter, 1991. ISBN 3-11-012538-2
  2. ^ Brown, P., and S. Levinson. "Universals in language use", in E. N. Goody (ed.), Questions and Politeness (Cambridge and London, 1978, Cambridge University Press: 56-310)
  3. ^ A.M. Duinhoven, 'Had gebeld! De irreële imperatief', in: Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde. Jaargang 111(1995)
  4. ^ Bhatt, Rajesh; Sharma, Ghanshyam (2018). Trends in Hindi Linguistics. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. p. 315. ISBN 978-3-11-060698-0.
  5. ^ "Third Person Imperatives in Hindi".
  6. ^ "Deferred imperatives across Indo-Aryan"(PDF).
  7. ^ Валгина Н.С., Розенталь Д.Э. Современный русский язык. 1987, Moscow, page 322—323. isbn 978-5-8112-6640-1
Last edited on 4 May 2021, at 09:32
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