Imperative Mood | Definition, Examples & Use

The imperative mood is a verb form used to make a demand or to give advice or instructions (e.g., ‘slow down!’).

The imperative mood is one of three grammatical moods in English, along with the indicative mood and the subjunctive mood.

Sentences in the imperative mood imply a second-person subject (i.e., ‘you’), but they normally don’t actually include the word ‘you’ or any other subject.

Examples: Imperative mood sentences
Stop!

Don’t touch!

Go to your room.

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What is the imperative mood?

The grammatical mood of a verb indicates the intention and tone of the sentence. The imperative mood is one of three grammatical moods.

Grammatical mood Function Example
Indicative Express a fact

Ask a question

Express a condition

‘Amir plays golf’.

‘Can we go home?’

‘You can stay for dinner if you like‘.

Imperative Express a demand or suggestion Pay attention!’
Subjunctive Express a wish, demand, suggestion, or hypothetical situation ‘I wish I were a billionaire’.

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How to use the imperative mood

The imperative mood can be used to make a demand or suggestion or to issue a warning. It’s commonly used in recipes and instruction manuals, on road signs, in GPS navigation, and when giving instructions or advice aloud.

Verbs in the imperative mood don’t follow subject-verb agreement. Instead, they take the infinitive form (e.g., ‘run’, ‘look’). The subject of sentences in the imperative mood is implicitly the second-person pronoun ‘you’. However, the pronoun is almost always omitted.

Exclamation points are commonly used in imperative sentences to emphasise the intensity of a demand. However, this is not obligatory and can seem overly dramatic depending on the context.

Examples: The imperative mood
Tidy your room.

Hide!

Turn left and walk to the end of the street.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Note
Depending on the context, statements in the imperative mood (e.g., ‘Get back to me as soon as possible’) may be considered rude or abrupt. To soften the tone of an imperative statement, add the word ‘please’ or rephrase the sentence as a question using a modal verb (e.g., ‘would’, ‘could’).

  • Please get back to me as soon as possible.
  • Could you get back to me as soon as possible, please?

Negatives

Negative constructions in the imperative mood are formed by adding ‘do not’ (or the contracted form ‘don’t’) before the imperative verb.

Examples: Negative imperative statements
Do not enter!

Don’t answer the phone!

First-person plural imperatives

First-person plural imperatives are used to suggest that both the speaker and the addressee do something. They’re expressed using the imperative verb along with a combination of the verb ‘let’ and the first-person plural object pronoun ‘us’ (i.e., ‘let’s’).

Examples: First-person plural imperatives
Let’s dance!

Let us hope it never happens again.

Negative first-person plural imperatives are formed by adding the adverb ‘not’ after ‘let us’ or ‘let’s’ and before the imperative verb.

Examples: Negative first-person plural imperatives
Let’s not eat here again.

Let’s not forget to book a hotel room.

Imperative mood and reflexive pronouns

Because the imperative mood typically uses the implied second-person pronoun (‘you’), the only reflexive pronouns used in imperative sentences are ‘yourself’ (singular) and ‘yourselves’ (plural). All other pronouns use the object form (e.g., ‘me’, ‘us’, ‘him’, ‘her’).

Examples: Imperative mood and reflexive pronouns
  • Give myself a break.
  • Give me a break.
  • Give you a break.
  • Give yourself a break.

Imperative vs indicative

Imperative statements are used to express a demand or make a suggestion, while indicative statements are used to express a fact.

For most verbs, the imperative form (e.g., ‘run’) is identical to the second-person present indicative form (e.g., ‘you run’). The exception is the verb ‘be’, which takes the infinitive form ‘be’ in the imperative but takes the form ‘are’ in the indicative.

Most sentences with verbs in the imperative mood can be made indicative by adding the second-person pronoun. With ‘be’, you’ll also need to change the form of the verb.

Examples: Imperative vs indicative
Talk slowly!

You talk slowly.

Be early.

You are early.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, common mistakes, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.

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Frequently asked questions

What is the imperative mood?

The imperative mood is a verb form used to make a demand, issue a warning, or give advice or instructions.

The subject of sentences in the imperative mood is implied to be the second-person pronoun “you,” but the word usually isn’t actually included (e.g., “close the door”).

What is an imperative sentence?

An imperative sentence is a sentence in the imperative mood (i.e., the grammatical mood used to make a demand or give instructions).

While sentences in the imperative mood typically don’t have an explicit subject, the implied subject of most imperative sentences is the second-person pronoun “you” (e.g., “answer the phone”).

What is an imperative verb?

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

Verbs in the imperative mood take the infinitive form (e.g., “wash the dishes”). The subject of an imperative verb is implied to be the second-person pronoun “you,” but the pronoun normally isn’t included.

Sources for this article

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This Scribbr article

Ryan, E. (2023, March 01). Imperative Mood | Definition, Examples & Use. Scribbr. Retrieved 22 February 2024, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/verb/the-imperative-mood/

Sources

Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.