What Is an Imperative Sentence?

The English language includes four types of sentences: declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative.

An imperative sentence is one in which we assert something, such as when we issue a command, make a request, or give advice, directions, or instructions. The word imperative stems from the 16th century Latin imperātīvus, from the Latin imperāre (“to command”). The word emperor has similar origins.

When we are communicating with an imperative sentence, the subject of our statement is always the singular or plural you. (That subject will often be omitted.) Imperative sentences also use the second-person present tense verb, with the exception of to be, which does not use the second-person are but rather maintains the infinitive.

Examples
You go with us.
(You) Go with us.
You turn right at the corner.
(You) Turn right at the corner.
You be sure to get eggs at the store.
(You) Be sure to get eggs at the store.

Imperative sentences are not as common in formal writing as they are in everyday speech. When we do see them in written communication, they often appear in manuals, user guides, road signs, and marketing or advertising.

Examples
STOP (road sign)
Just do it (Nike tagline)
Install the enclosed program disc. (instructions for computer software)

Even though an imperative sentence can end in an exclamation point for emphasis, it is different from an exclamatory sentence, which expresses strong feelings in the form of an exclamation.

Examples
Exclamatory sentence: You are amazing!
Imperative sentence: Stay amazing!

We also often come across imperative statements in both polite and negative forms, particularly in requests or commands.

Examples
Please take off your shoes before stepping on the carpet.
Do not wear your shoes on the carpet.

Let’s look at a few more examples of imperative sentences in different contexts:

Follow the arrows to the petting zoo. (command)
Please be careful when walking through the tunnel. (request)
Wait a day or two before calling them again. (advice)
Walk three blocks and then go up the steps to the terrace. (directions)
Slide panel A into the groove on panel B. (instructions)

Weaving Imperative Sentences into a Narrative

Although imperative sentences are not common in longer-form formal writing, you can still work them in to add style and effect to your writing voice.

Consider the following paragraph in which we use short imperative statements among other sentence types for a sense of movement and voice:

The team has begun to ask how to make the new ideas serve the project’s greatest potential. What if they can inspire progress not slowed by bureaucracy and opposing viewpoints? Picture it. Resources maintain a constantly forward momentum. What a concept! Achievement stands on united imagination, knowledge, and decision-making. Let’s do it. Let’s aim for that.

 

Pop Quiz

Using what you’ve learned in this article about what an imperative sentence is, identify the imperative statements below.

1. I would like a beginner’s guitar for my birthday.

2. Please remember to lock your door on the way out.

3. What kind of purse is that?

4. You stay here while I go over there.

5. Above all, be a good person.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

2. Please remember to lock your door on the way out.

4. You stay here while I go over there.

5. Above all, be a good person.


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