How can I recognise English imperative sentences?
This is the fourth of five lessons about Sentence Functions. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the concept of imperative sentences
– Provide academic examples of imperative functions
– Discuss strategies for recognising imperatives
Although declarative and interrogative are sentences are certainly the most common type of function in the English language (and indeed most languages), this doesn’t mean that you should neglect to learn about imperative or exclamatory sentences. Knowing how to correctly form and use these communicative types may also assist you in avoiding sentence structure errors in your own speech and writing.
Unlike exclamatory sentences, imperatives do require an audience to complete their proposition. Such imperatives may be used for orders and commands, requests, instructions, or directions, and as such are usually utilised when the speaker or writer intends to inform the listener or reader of something without entering into a debate or dialogue about that issue. Although imperatives are most often about the here and now, with contextual clues they can also refer to the future – such as in the example ‘Move out before I get home.’.
– Turn to page 53.
– Turn right at the library.
– No talking during the exam!
– Discuss these three questions with your partner.
– Leave your bags and coats at the front of the room.
What’s clear from these example sentences is that imperatives such as these are rarely if ever used during the creation of academic work. There would be very few instances of when a student would need to use imperative constructions in an academic essay or presentation, for example. These may be heard during controlled environments however, such as when providing specific instructions during exams or seminars.
The easiest way of recognising an imperative is to understand that these sentences are almost always without their subjects. In phrases such as ‘Turn to page 53’, the subject ‘you’ is implied but never said. Because of this missing subject, the first element of the sentence will therefore be the main verb, such as ‘leave’, ‘talk’, ‘turn’ or ‘discuss’. One final way of identifying imperatives is that these sentences also use particular punctuation, ending in either a full stop (.) like a declarative, or an exclamation mark (!) like an exclamatory sentence depending on delivery. Such exclamatory sentences are in fact the subject of our fifth and final lesson on sentence functions.
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