Imperative Sentence: Give Effective Commands, Will You?

Afro businessman yelling through a megaphone in the office.

An imperative sentence tells somebody to do something. You hear such a sentence every now and then, since early childhood. Eat your vegetables. Clean your room. Wear a sweater…

Most advice and instructions you received from your Mom were in the form of imperative sentences. However, not everything is so clear. Here you will find really valuable information on the peculiarities of imperative sentences.

Imperative sentence definition

What is an imperative sentence? An imperative sentence is a type of sentence expressing commands. It can take the form of:

  • Instructions;
  • advice;
  • request;
  • command.

For example, in a movie, you might hear someone say: “Shut up!” This sentence is definitely an imperative one. However, it is a rude colloquialform. A better form is “Keep quiet!”

Imperative sentence types

Depending upon the speaker’s emotions, imperative sentences can end with a full stop (.), an exclamation mark (!) or even a question mark (?). The difference is only the speaker’s tone and attitude. To make a request more polite, a speaker can also add the word “please”. Note that sentences starting with “please”, always end with a full stop (.).

Another way to make a command sound more polite is to add a tag question such as “will you?” or “won’t you?” at the end. Then, the sentence ends up with a question mark, but it still is regarded as an imperative one. Please compare these examples of imperative sentences:

  1. Save electricity!
  2. Please forgive me.
  3. Bring me a glass of water, will you?

The first imperative sentence is a command, whereas the second and third sentences are polite requests.

Where is the subject?

It seems that everything is clear with imperative sentences. Still, there are some tricky questions. For example, what is the subject in imperative sentences? The fact that there is often no explicit subject is a frequent source of confusion. Actually, there is always a subject, and that is the second person pronoun “you”, but it usually is hidden or even implicit in the sentence. Why repeat this “you” if everyone understands anyway, from the context, who the speaker actually addresses? Otherwise, if the context is not clear enough, the speaker can use a direct address.
E.g. Jane, read please.

There are also imperative sentences in which the speaker uses a third person pronoun. This happens when the speaker doesn’t care who exactly will perform the action.
E.g. Somebody, turn the lights off.

This was all you needed to know to tell if a sentence is imperative. Now you can boast of having a complete understanding of imperative sentences and will be able to answer tricky questions your instructors may ask.