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The imperative in English

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 Use and forms of the imperative 

Index : Use of the imperative Forms of the imperative Emphatic imperatives

Use of the imperative

The imperative forms of verbs are used for several specific but similar purposes:
  • To give orders
  • To instruct
  • To warn
  • To encourage
  • To invite

Forms of the imperative

Imperatives are most commonly used in the active and in the second person, i.e. implying you. The pronoun is however omitted.
They are occasionally used in the first and third persons, with the help of the auxiliary let.
In all cases, the verb or the auxiliary stands at the start of the sentence.
Sample verb:  Look Affirmative Negative
Common imperative :
second person (you)
Look Don't look
First person ( I, we) Let me look
Let's look
Don't let me look
Let's not look
Third person ( he, she, it, they etc) Let him look etc. Don't let him look (etc)

Passive imperatives

These are rare : here are a couple of examples :
Don't be taken by surprise !       Let them not be forgotten

Exemples: simple imperatives - second person
  1. Tell him to go home.
  2. Shut up !
  3. Give me your answer by Friday !
  4. Don't let any of the prisoners escape.
  5. Don't pretend you never saw anyone enter the house !
  6. Make sure no-one sees you !
  7. Come for dinner tomorrow evening!
  8. Don't hesitate to ask if you need help.
The imperative form by itself can be rather blunt, rather abrupt, even rude. It can be made less abrupt, more polite, by the addition of softeners such as please, would you please, etc
Exemples: softened imperatives
  1. Please tell him to go home.
  2. Would you shut up !
  3. Would you give me your answer by Friday, please !
  4. Please don't let any of the prisoners escape.
  5. Please don't pretend you never saw anyone enter the house !
First and third person imperatives are not common, but there are some common expressions that use them.

Exemples: first and third person imperatives
  1.    Let me see !.
  2.    Let's go
  3.    Let's not wait any longer.
  4.    Let him think what he wants !

Emphatic imperatives

Occasionally the pronoun you is added to simple imperatives, in order to add emphasis or to specify to whom the imperative is addressed.
  1.    You wait until your turn !.
  2.    Shut up you !
  3.    You wait here while I go for assistance !
  4.    You watch the front door, and you watch the back !
These examples may not look like imperatives, but they are. The yous can be omitted, and the sense remains the same. They are thus optional, not required as in an indicative context.

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Cette page en français:
L'infinitif et l'impératif en anglais

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