Imperative sentences

(Making imperatives and requests)

Table of contents – imperative sentences

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Imperative sentences
  2. Downtoning and intensifying
  3. Additional possibilities
  4. Further explanations and exercises

How are imperative sentences used?

Imperative sentences are primarily used to express or give a demand, an order or an insistent request. Their formation is relatively simple since English verbs do not have individual imperative forms. Instead, it is only necessary to use the bare infinitive, which is the infinitive (base form) of the verb without specifying ‘to’. There are various possibilities for formulating an imperative sentence, including the following essential points:

  1. Intensifying or softening down the tone,
  2. the intonation, that is, how specific words are pronounced and stressed.

Information: Regarding punctuation, English imperative sentences do not always have an exclamation mark at the end (which may be expected in other languages).

Now compare the specifics of their usage:

  • Imperative sentences use the verb without ‘to’ and can often be short. Read the explanation of the imperative (command form) for further details about this verb form. Likewise, an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence may not be necessary:
    • Be quiet!
      • Short, strong request with an exclamation mark (although this utterance would typically appear in spoken language).
    • Have some cookies.
      • No exclamation mark is needed in this case.
  • To negate an imperative sentence, simply put ‘don’t’ before the verb. Alternatively, ‘never’ can be used, for example:
    • “And don’t come late this time.”
      • negation with ‘don’t
    • Never ask me again.”
      • In this statement, ‘never’ replaces ‘don’t’, which is no longer needed.
    • Don’t be angry. It was just a joke.”
      • Particularity: In other sentence types (such as negations or questions), ‘to be’ does not require an auxiliary verb like ‘to do’; here, in the imperative sentence, however, it is necessary.

How can you make a request sound softer or more intense?

Besides using the exclamation mark, there are also various options for softening and intensifying the utterance, such as adding ‘please’ or similar expressions:

  • Softened request:
    • Please, come in.”
      • Here, ‘please’ is preferred for reasons of politeness, thus softening the request and giving it a friendly tone.
  • Intensified demand, making the request explicit, a command:
    • “Get out!”
      • The exclamation mark signals a harsh request.
    • “Don’t sit on my smartphone, you idiot!”
      • In this statement, the dismissive phrase ‘you idiot’ serves as intensification.
    • “And please do ask me if you have any questions.”
      • Here, the verb ‘do’ is an auxiliary in a positive sentence and makes it possible to insist emphatically and reinforce the statement.

How else can you express requests or demands?

In English, it is very typical to express a request by paraphrasing. One possibility is formulating questions, another is the use of ‘let’s’ (let us).

  • Questions can take over the function of an imperative sentence. This substitution is useful for asking someone to do something while sounding polite:
    • “Would you mind opening the window?”
  • Similarly, you can use the phrase ‘let’s’ for a colloquial request that also includes the speaker:
    • Let’s watch a movie.”
      • Here, the speaker refers to his interlocutor and to himself; ‘let’s’ is mainly used in such cases.

Further explanations related to ‘English imperative sentences’

The following explanations relate to the topic ‘Using imperative sentences and requests’ and could also be helpful: