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What Is the Imperative Mood? | Definition & Examples

Verbs updated on  February 16, 2024 4 min read

The imperative mood is a verb form used to give commands, instructions, or advice.

In English, there are three grammatical moods: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive.

In imperative sentences, a second-person subject (i.e., “you”) is typically implied but not directly stated.

Imperative mood sentence examples
Run!
Eat your dinner.
Don’t go in there!

What is the imperative mood?

Every sentence has a grammatical mood, which describes the sentence’s attitude and intention. The imperative mood is one of three possible grammatical moods in English.

Grammatical mood

Function

Example

Indicative State a fact

Express a condition

Ask a question
Jin likes roses.

If it rains, we will move inside.

Where do I turn?
Imperative Make a demand or suggestion Stop that!
Subjunctive Describe a hypothetical scenario

Express a demand, suggestion, or wish
If I were rich, I would buy a mansion.

I suggest that Ellen resign.

Using the imperative mood

The imperative mood is used to give warnings or make suggestions or demands. It is commonly used on road signs, in recipes and instruction manuals, in GPS navigation directions, and when giving advice or instructions to another person or to a virtual or AI tool.

In the imperative mood, verbs do not follow subject-verb agreement. Rather, the infinitive form of the verb is used (e.g., “go,” “watch”). The implied subject of imperative sentences is the second-person pronoun “you.” The pronoun is rarely included in the sentence, though.

Imperative sentences often end with an exclamation point to highlight the strength of the demand. Exclamation points are not required, though, and can sometimes make a command seem too forceful for the context.

Imperative mood sentence examples
Watch out!
Dice the onions.
At the light, turn right.
Remind me to mail that package tomorrow.

Note
In certain contexts, imperative mood sentences may seem overly direct or rude (e.g., “Make these corrections by Friday”).

There are several ways to soften imperative statements. For example, the word “please” can be added to the beginning of the statement.

To soften the tone even further, the imperative statement can be rephrased as a question using a modal verb (e.g., “could,” “would”).

Please make these corrections by Friday.
Could you make these corrections by Friday, please?
Could you please make these corrections by Friday?

Negative imperative statements

In the imperative mood, negative constructions are formed by placing “do not” (or the contraction “don’t”) before the imperative verb.

Negative imperative examples
Don’t forget to call!
Do not eat the purple berries.

First-person plural imperatives

First-person plural imperatives are used when suggesting that both the speaker and their audience perform an action. They are formed using the imperative verb and a combination of the verb “let” and the first-person plural object pronoun “us” (i.e., “let us” or “let’s).

First-person plural imperative examples
Let’s go!
Let us pray.

Negative first-person plural imperatives can be formed by placing the adverb “not” between “let us” or “let’s” and the imperative verb.

Negative first-person plural imperative examples
Let’s not make the decision right now.
Let’s not end the night yet.

Note
“Let us” is a very formal construction. Typically, “let’s” is used in everyday speech and writing. “Let us” appears more in religious or historical contexts.

Imperative mood and reflexive pronouns

Because the implied subject of imperative sentences is “you,” the only reflexive pronouns used are “yourself” (singular) and “yourselves” (plural). The object form (e.g., “me,” “us,” “her,” “him,” “it”) of all other pronouns is used.

Imperative mood and reflexive pronouns examples

Call Andrew or myself.
Call Andrew or me.

Stop being so hard on you.
Stop being so hard on yourself.

Imperative vs indicative statements

Imperative statements give a command or make a suggestion, while indicative statements state a fact.

The imperative form of most verbs (e.g., “make”) is the same as the second-person present indicative form (e.g., “you make”). The verb “be” is an exception; the infinitive form “be” is used in the imperative, while “are” is used in the indicative.

Most imperative sentences can be changed to indicative by including the second-person pronoun. For sentences that use “be,” the form of the verb must also be changed.

Imperative vs indicative examples

Eat quickly!
You eat quickly.

Be quiet.
You are quiet.

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.

Idioms

Parts of speech

Fallacies

Diamond in the rough

Irregular verb

Slippery slope fallacy

Idioms

Gerund

Sunk cost fallacy

Piece of cake

Infinitive phrase

Red herring fallacy

Better late than never

Infinitive

Appeal to authority fallacy

Salt of the earth

Adverb

Circular reasoning fallacy


What is the subject of an imperative sentence?

Imperative sentences have an implied (or understood) subject, the second-person pronoun “you.” This pronoun is rarely stated in the sentence (e.g., “Take the trash out”).

The verb form for imperative sentences is the infinitive (e.g., “go,” “be,” “walk”).

What is the imperative used for?

The imperative mood is used to tell somebody what to do. This includes the following:

  • Warnings (e.g., “Do not enter”)
  • Instructions or directions (e.g., “Choose the best answer” or “Turn left here”)
  • Advice (e.g., “Wear the black shoes instead of the brown ones”)
  • Commands (e.g., “Halt!”)
  • Requests (e.g., “Please save me a seat”)

What is an imperative verb?

The imperative mood is a verb form used to express a command, instructions, or advice.

Verbs in the imperative mood use the infinitive form (e.g., “buy some parsley”). The implied subject of an imperative sentence is “you,” the second-person pronoun. However, the pronoun is not typically included in the sentence.

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Kayla Anderson Hewitt

Kayla has a master's degree in teaching English as a second language. She has taught university-level ESL and first-year composition courses. She also has 15 years of experience as an editor.

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