The written word is a marvelous thing. We could discuss the reasons why all day long, but for our purpose here suffice it to say that through the written word we can express different thoughts and emotions. We do this simply through the words we choose and how we string them together in a sentence. Each type of sentence can express a different emotion or desire.
Let me give you an example…
Suppose you’re going to be late coming home and need to remind a family member the dog needs to be fed at a certain time. What do you do? The easiest course of action is to write a note before you leave the house that says, “Please feed the dog at 5 o’clock.” That written sentence leaves no doubt as to what you want to happen – you’re clearly issuing a request and you’re using an imperative sentence to do it.
Make Your Request Known
An imperative sentence issues a request, gives a command, or expresses a desire or wish. They differ from sentences that make a statement (declarative sentences), express strong feeling (exclamatory sentences), or ask a question (interrogative sentence).
Typically, imperative sentences are short and simple, but they can be long, compound or complex sentences as well. Some of the simplest sentences in the English language are actually imperative sentences consisting of a single verb. Like this…
Depending on the strength of emotion you want to convey, either a period or exclamation mark punctuates imperative sentences.
Examples Of Imperative sentences
- Pour me a glass of water.
- Leave the package at the door.
- Take me to the library.
- Walk through this door and turn left at the next hallway.
- Come over here, look at this specimen, and tell me what you think.
- Put that down now!
- Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Though it may be considered more polite to use the word “please” in imperative sentences, it’s not necessary. Without the word attached the sentence is still grammatically correct.
The Stuff Great Ads Are Made Of
Though you won’t see imperative sentences as frequently as declarative sentences, chances are you’ll see them quite a bit when thumbing through magazines. Or when you’re on the highway driving past billboards or stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. That’s because imperative sentences are often used as catchy slogans for ads and bumper stickers.
Have you ever seen these imperative sentences before?
- Honk if you like my driving.
- Don’t worry, be happy.
- Have a Coke and a smile.
- Just do it.
You’ll also come across imperative sentences in great literature as well. Actually, the 10 commandments of the Bible are stated as imperative sentences.
- Honor thy father and mother.
- Do not kill.
- Do not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
These sentences make a command…which is the reason why they’re called the 10 Commandments.
Subjects of Imperative sentences
Though the subject usually isn’t obvious in imperative sentences, it’s there. The subject is always in the second person and is always the word “you”. In the sentence examples used earlier the subject isn’t written but is implied.
- (You) pour me a glass of water.
- (You) leave the package at the door.
- (You) take me to the library.
- (You) walk through the door and turn left at the next hallway.
- (You) come over here, look at this specimen, and tell me what you think.
- (You) put that down now!
- (You) tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Naturally, imperative sentences contain verbs in the imperative form, meaning the purpose of the verb in the sentence is to make a command. Imperative verbs can take on other forms in different sentences, meaning they can be used as the object of a sentence, or as another verb form, as well.
Imperative Verb Form Non- Imperative Forms
Talk quietly. There’s a lot of talk of a new restaurant.
Walk softly, please. It’s just a short walk to the coffee shop.
Turn off the television. We took a wrong turn and got lost.
Hang up your clothes. There is nowhere to hang your hat.
Clean your room. My job is to clean the table after dinner.
Use imperative sentences to add more depth to your writing. Even in academic papers, imperative sentences have a place. For instance, “Consider these findings.” or “Look at the facts.” You can use an imperative sentence as a title or headline – the title of this article is an imperative sentence! Did you notice?
View all our articles about sentence types.