In this lesson, you’ll learn how to identify imperative sentences, including variations and quirks that might throw you off track at first. You’ll also learn what makes them negative or affirmative and how to spot tag questions.
What do all of the following sentences have in common?
- Enjoy some fresh strawberries.
- Give me a few weeks to make up my mind.
- Feel free to text me later.
All of the examples are imperative sentences. Imperative sentences are requests, suggestions, advice, or commands.Imperative sentences often appear to be missing subjects and use a verb to begin the sentence. In fact, the subject is the person listening, or the audience.
In other words, if an imperative sentence is directed at you, then you are the subject of that sentence.Our opening example sentences are all written in a positive format, meaning that the verb is in the affirmative. The affirmative encourages an action or directs that something happen.
The following sentences are still imperative sentences, but they are negative instead, indicating that something should not happen or is not desired.
- Don’t eat my strawberries.
- Don’t wait for my answer.
- Don’t text me.
A negative could be shortened into the simple one-word statement of Don’t.
Imagine for instance, this conversation:Person A: I want to give you some strawberries.Person B: Don’t. I’m allergic to them.
What does this pair of imperative sentences have in common?
- Send me that email, will you?
- Pass the potatoes, won’t you?
Both use tag questions added to the end. These are still imperative sentences, but they end up with a little extra emphasis in the form of a question. You’re most likely to hear these in conversations.Tag questions added to imperative sentences are not the same as typical interrogative sentences. Interrogative sentences ask a question but do not have the same format for their request, suggestion, or command that imperatives do.
Let’s look at which of the following are interrogative versus imperative:
- Take me out to the ballgame, won’t you? (imperative)
- Will you go to the ballgame with me? (interrogative)
- Park in the lot nearby, will you? (imperative)
- Can you park nearby? (interrogative)
Variations of Imperative Sentences
In addition to tag questions, imperative sentences may involve other formatting quirks. Consider the following examples:Do tell me all about it.This sentence adds on the word do, even though the meaning would be understood without it: Tell me about it. You could also modify this to be a negative: Don’t tell me all about it.Give me liberty or give me death!This sentence (a famous quote attributed to Patrick Henry) uses an exclamation point to express powerful emotion, so it is both imperative and exclamative.Let’s go to the party.
The use of let’s is a way of describing something that the speaker and the subject will do together. In other words, Let us both go to the party. This is still imperative, even though the speaker is now including himself in the request.You don’t ever bully me like that.This version adds in the word you which is usually just implied in imperative sentences.
This will add some ‘kick’ to an imperative sentence and sounds forceful and directed in this case.
Imperative sentences involve requests, suggestions, advice, or commands in a format that frequently does not express the subject. The subject is typically the listener or audience who is receiving the request.
Imperative sentences can be either affirmative or negative, depending on what verb is used.Formatting of imperative sentences can vary at times. In some cases, the word you or let’s will be included. Sometimes tag questions pin a will you? or won’t you? to the end of the sentence.
Some sentences will include the additional verb do (as in Do tell me), and others may even add an exclamative element to express passion about what is being said.
Characteristics of Imperative Sentences
- are requests, suggestions, advice, or commands
- do not usually state a subject
- can be affirmative or negative
- can have different formats
Completing this lesson should help you fulfill the following goals:
- Describe and identify an imperative sentence
- List some of the characteristics of an imperative sentence