1. What is an Imperative Sentence?
An imperative sentence gives requests, demands, or instructions; or, shares wishes or invitations for others. Basically, they tell someone what to do! As one of the four main types of sentences, they have an important role in both speaking and writing.
Imperative sentences make up a huge part of our everyday language and serve all kinds of purposes!
2. Examples of Imperative Sentences
Imperative sentences are a big part of your conversations and your everyday life, whether you know it or not! Here are some everyday examples:
- Do Not Enter
- Please be quiet in the library.
- Let’s eat.
- Come with me.
- Be nice!
- Help me!
Even common road signs and advertisements use imperatives, like these:
Finally, imperative sentences can even be funny or lighthearted too—you’ve probably seen many versions of the posters below online, on t-shirts, and on signs:
3. Parts of Imperative Sentences
All imperative sentences include verbs written in what is called an “imperative mood,” meaning they give commands. Some of the big ones that you use are “don’t,” “please,” “go,” and so on. Imperatives tell someone what to do or not to do. Look at these two sentences:
- Don’t feed the dog. Imperative verb “don’t” expressing a command
- He didn’t feed the dog. Indicative verb “didn’t,” reflecting a lack of action
Imperative verbs give commands, while indicative verbs “indicate” (show) things that happened. So, you can’t use an indicative verb to tell someone what to do. Here are some more examples of verbs in the imperative mood:
- Please be quiet.
- Let me help you.
- Go away!
- Have fun!
- Wait for me!
4. Types of Imperative Sentences
As mentioned above, imperative sentences
- relay instructions
- relay requests
- relay demands
- share invitations
- share wishes for someone.
a. Share a request or wish
There are several types of imperative sentences that each work in different ways. Here are some imperative sentences that share polite requests or wishes for someone:
- Have fun at the fair tonight!
- Eat lots of popcorn!
- Have a safe trip!
b. Share an Invitation:
Here are some imperative sentences that extend an invitation to someone (notice that they are not in the form of questions).
- Come to the fair with me!
- Please join us for dinner.
- Let’s go to the fair together.
c. Share a request or command
Here are some imperative sentences that each share a request or command (notice that these are more firm requests).
- Please don’t give the dog popcorn.
- Go find the dog at the fair.
- Eat your popcorn.
- Stop feeding the dog!
d. Give instructions
Imperative sentences that give instructions are very common, like driving directions or a recipe:
- Preheat the oven.
- Roll out your cookie dough.
- Cut out the cookies with a cookie cutter and put them on a baking sheet.
- Put them in the oven for about 10 minutes.
- Take the cookies out when they are golden.
- Let them cool, and then eat them with milk.
As you can see, imperative sentences can relay all kinds of information.
5. How to Write an Imperative Sentence
Writing an imperative sentence is a bit different than other types of sentences, mainly because of the subject. Imperative sentences generally begin with a verb, and may seem to be missing a subject! But, that’s because imperative sentences are naturally directed at someone since they give direct orders. Since it is implied that the sentence is directed at a person or group of people, it is usually unnecessary to name the subject.
To make this simpler to understand, let’s try adding a person’s name to the beginning of some imperative sentences:
- Sally, please don’t give the dog popcorn.
- Drivers, drive slowly.
- Sam, eat your popcorn!
- Everybody be quiet!
Now, if you take away the underlined subjects from the sentences above, they still make sense:
- Sally, Please don’t give the dog popcorn.
- Drivers, Drive slowly.
- Sam, Eat your popcorn!
- Everybody Be quiet!
You can see that they all still make sense because the imperative verbs let us know that the sentences are commands.
Here are a couple more tips for writing imperative sentences:
a. Decide on tone of voice
Decide which tone of voice is the best match for the purpose of your sentence. An imperative sentence’s tone can be:
- neutral (like a recipe)
- fairly neutral (like a request)
- used to express strong emotions (like a serious command)
b. Decide on punctuation
The sentence’s tone will decide whether it ends in a period or exclamation mark:
- Ask yourself: Is your sentence it a demand, a suggestion, a wish?
- A forceful or demanding tone should have an exclamation mark: Stop feeding the dog!
- A suggestive or polite tone only needs a period: Please don’t give the dog popcorn.
Overall, the tone of an imperative sentence, and its punctuation, are up to you.
6. When to Use an Imperative Sentence
Using imperative sentences is pretty easy—in fact, you do it all the time without even noticing! Here are a few tips for using them successfully:
Remember their purpose. You can use them to:
- express your wishes for someone
- invite someone to do something
- give requests
- give instructions
- give important demands
Remember that the subject of an imperative sentence is understood, because all imperative sentences are directed at another person or group of people
Remember the distinctions between imperative sentences and other types of sentences:
- Even if it ends with an exclamation mark, an imperative sentence CANNOT be an exclamatory sentence, because exclamatory sentences do not share commands (see below).
- Even if it ends with a period, an imperative sentence CANNOT be a declarative sentence, because declarative sentences only share statements, not commands or wishes.