English Corner — Imperatives
Using the ‘imperative’ is similar to using the bare infinitive and has the same form as the singular or plural ‘you’ when it comes to forming it. The imperative clause is used for many reasons and is flexible in terms of its’ usage. Some of the reasons for using the imperative include when you want to tell somebody else to do something, giving them advice, making suggestions, creating requests, enforcing commands, or handing out orders and/or instructions. This means that you can tell people do things or to not do things and you are usually not referring to anyone in particular when you give out these imperatives.
There is no specific subject indicated when it comes to the imperative form of sentences. It’s rather about addressing who is listening to you whether it’s one listener or multiple listeners, and the speaker is addressing a general subject rather than a specific subject. The base form of the verb in its’ present form is usually the most common way to create an imperative sentence. You can make the imperative as direct as possible or make it more indirect as to not hurt someone’s feelings, which will make him or her less likely to do something for you.
Let us take a look at some of the reasons why we use the imperatives as mentioned earlier as well as cite some specific examples when it comes to the reasons being used.
- To give advice or suggestions
-Go to the gym three times a week to lose weight.
-Eat fruits and vegetables daily to stay healthy.
- To give directions or instructions
-Turn right at the street corner and walk 400 meters to the store.
-Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and add them to the guacamole.
- To give orders or commands
-Fire the missiles!
-Shoot the ball!
-Be silent now!
- To give warnings
-Put your cell phone on to airplane mode.
-Wear your seatbelt.
- To make polite requests
-Please eat your peas and carrots, Karen.
-Be quiet during the movie please.
- To offer invitations
-Join us for the birthday party, John.
-Come with him to the dance tonight.
It’s important to not refer to the subject as ‘you’ regardless if your imperative is singular or plural in its nature. Instead, it would be better to refer to the specific individual by their name or be more general than that by omitting the subject totally from the sentence.
If you really want your ‘imperative’ to stand out, it would be best to add the word ‘do’ to the beginning of your command, request, or instruction. The word ‘do’ really adds emphasis to your imperative and helps to create a sense of urgency that is not easily replicated with other word substitutes. The word ‘do’ has a powerful meaning in the English language that makes it an important part of mastering imperatives. Here are a few examples that uses ‘do’ in an imperative sentence effectively:
- Do be kind and gentle to your grandmother.
- Do the right thing and help that old lady carry her groceries home.
- Do finish your exam on time!
Having been able to use the word ‘do’ in an imperative sentence in the ‘positive’ form, you should also be able to use ‘do’ in its’ negative form. In order to use ‘do’ negatively, you need to add the word ‘not’ right after ‘do’ to create ‘do not’ as the beginning of the imperative sentence. You can also combine ‘do not’ together to create ‘don’t’ to create an even more powerful and emphatic command or request. Here are some examples that you can use with ‘do not’ or ‘don’t’ to create imperative sentences.
- Do not smoke inside the restaurant.
- Don’t give alcohol to underage minors.
- Don’t loiter in front of the grocery store.
An important thing to remember when it comes to using imperatives correctly is not to use them if you’re addressing your employer, a family member or relative, or a police officer / authority figure. Imperatives are very direct and you can come off as being harsh or rude in English if you don’t understand when and where to use this type of sentence.
It’s necessary to know who you’re talking with and how well you know them before you start to give out a formal request, a dire command, or a stern warning. Hopefully, with this edition of ‘English Corner’, you’ll know a lot more about ‘imperatives’ and how to form and use them correctly in polite conversation.