A command, a request, or just a statement? Navigating the tricky world of imperative sentences.

What are the main types of sentences?

According to English grammar, sentences are mainly of 4 types: declarative, exclamatory, imperative, and interrogative. While the first simply denotes a statement, the second one points to an exclamation of some sort as a reaction to an event, and the last one asks a question—the imperative sentence refers to a command.

Are imperative sentences always a command?

When we say imperative sentences are commands, we do not just mean saying things like “Do this” or “Don’t do that”! It is a mode of communication where you tell people around you about things that you need. For example, when you ask the server to bring you the check at a restaurant or when you request a colleague to drop you off at home, or even when you are teaching your pet to fetch something, you are using imperative sentences. Typically, the subject of an imperative sentence is the person being spoken to or addressed—the implied “you”.

Example

Coach, (you) give the students a break.

What are imperative sentences used for?

You can use imperative sentences to serve a multitude of purposes, including:

  • Giving instructions
  • Making a request
  • Offering advice
  • Giving commands

Different types of imperative sentences

Affirmative imperative sentences

When you tell someone to take a specific action, you are uttering/writing an affirmative imperative sentence.

Example:

  • Put your jacket on.
  • Go to the drugstore and get me some mouthwash.
  • Remind me to pick up the dry-cleaning.

Negative imperative sentence

When you tell someone to “not” take a specific action, you are uttering/writing a negative imperative sentence. A negative imperative sentence tells the reader or listener to not do something

Example:

  • Don’t go out in the dark.
  • Never count your chickens before they hatch.
  • Stop playing with your food.

Conditional imperative sentences

So far, we have given examples of simple imperative sentences with single clauses. An imperative sentence can have multiple clauses too. Most multi-clause imperative sentences are conditional imperative sentences, which means that it refers to a cause and effect (likely or highly unlikely) relationship.

Example:

  • Give a shout-out if you enjoyed the concert.
  • If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it!
  • If it does not rain tomorrow, attack the camp.

 Structure of an Imperative Sentence

The structure of most imperative sentences is similar. Since imperative sentences talk about “action” or “doing” (or “not doing”) something, they mostly start with the base or root form of the verb.

  • Study for your test.
  • Go

However, there are exceptions.

Example:

  • Please keep yourself updated on everything that is happening.
  • Please shut the door when you leave.

In some imperative sentences, the verb is the entire sentence.

Example:

  • Go.
  • Stop!
  • Run!

Finally, end an imperative sentence with either a period or an exclamation point.

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