There are many situations in which you might want a person to do something for you. In English, it’s customary (and polite) to ask or make a request when you want something done. However, many circumstances call for commands that come in the form of a statement, as opposed to a question. This kind of statement is known as an imperative sentence.
So, what is an imperative sentence? What is the grammatical structure of an imperative statement? How do imperative sentences differ from other types of sentence structures? Finally, is it rude to use imperative sentences in English?
We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the definition of an imperative sentence:
Imperative Sentence Definition
An imperative sentence is any sentence that issues a command to do something (or not do to something). It requires an imperative verb, which is always in the infinitive form. Additionally, imperative sentences are always statements that end with a period or an exclamation point. Therefore, they exist in direct contrast to the interrogative sentence (a sentence that asks a question).
4 Types of Sentence Structures
Generally speaking, there are four sentence types in English:
- Declarative Sentence – A sentence that makes a statement or offers an opinion.
- I went to the grocery store.
- Imperative Sentence – A sentence that issues a directive (demand, request, advice, invitation, or instruction).
- Go to your room!
- Interrogative Sentence – A sentence that asks a question.
- Do you know where to go?
- Exclamatory Sentence – A sentence that makes a statement with emotional emphasis (it always ends with an exclamation point).
- I forgot to return my book to the library!
Imperative Sentence Examples
Now that you understand the different types of sentence structures in English, let’s return to imperative sentences and look at some different examples. There are a few different reasons to use this type of sentence:
- Make a demand
- Make a request
- Offer advice
- Extend an invitation
- Give instructions
Here are a few examples of each:
Make a Request or Demand
- Wash the dishes.
- Move your car so I can leave.
- Don’t talk to him.
- Please arrive on time.
- Don’t eat too much before bed.
- Remember to do your homework.
- Don’t forget to brush your teeth.
- Be sure to study all of the material before the test.
Extend an Invitation
- Come to the party tonight.
- Please join us for tea.
- Come sit with us!
- Come over to my house later.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add more oil to your car.
- Turn left at the stop sign.
- Connect the blue wire to the red wire.
How to Form an Imperative Sentence
As you can see from the examples above, most imperative sentences are relatively short and get straight to the point. However, some imperative statements can list out multiple instructions or demands, one after the other. For example:
- Go to the store, buy four carrots, then come straight back home.
- Turn left, continue until you see the red house, then turn right.
- Remember to turn off the lights, bring the dogs inside, and lock the door before you leave.
If you take a closer look at the sentences above, you’ll see that they each have multiple imperative statements that have been combined into one sentence. In any case, it is very easy to form imperative sentences. Here are a few rules to remember:
- The sentence must have at least one verb in the infinitive form.
- It must end with a period or exclamation point.
- It must tell someone to do something.
While imperative sentences usually begin with a verb, this is not always the case. For example:
- Please wash your hands.
- Yes, bring it to me.
- Sure, ask them to come over.
- Always use the blue towel.
It’s also important to note that most (though not all) negative imperative statements begin with “do not” or “don’t.” For example:
- Don’t eat the brownies.
- Do not play in the street!
- Don’t leave the door open.
- Never talk to strangers. (exception)
- No, don’t go in there. (exception)
Are Imperative Sentences Rude?
In short: yes and no. Imperative sentences can be rude or impolite, but they don’t have to be. It all depends on your intention, your tone, and your wording. Let’s look at a few different examples to better understand polite and impolite ways to use this kind of sentence.
- Please bring me my purse. (generally polite)
- Bring me my purse, please. (generally polite)
- Bring me my purse. (could be polite or impolite)
- Don’t forget to bring me my purse. (could be polite or impolite)
- Remember to bring me my purse. (could be polite or impolite)
- Bring me my purse now! (impolite)
You can almost always make a statement more polite by using a friendly tone and adding the word “please” to the beginning or end. However, if you make demands by shouting, using a stern tone, or failing to use the word “please,” it will probably come across as rude.
Many people avoid imperative sentences entirely so that they won’t sound like a jerk. If you want to make a request, offer advice, or give an invitation or instructions without using an imperative sentence, you can simply change your statement into question (i.e. interrogative sentence). For example:
- Can you bring me my purse?
- Could you bring me my purse?
- Would you mind bringing me my purse?
- Could you please bring me my purse?
While these are not imperative sentences, they do get the same point across — without the risk of sounding rude!
The imperative sentence is extremely useful for everyday English conversations. It can help you make demands or requests, offer advice, extend an invitation, or give instructions. However, be careful when using imperative sentences, as they can come across as rude if you don’t use the right tone or wording. Fortunately, you can easily fix this issue by saying “please,” using a friendly tone, or simply changing your imperative sentence into an interrogative sentence!
If you’d like to hear native English speakers using the imperative sentence and other types of sentence structures in English, be sure to subscribe to the Magoosh Youtube channel today!