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What are 'imperatives'?

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Compare these two sentences:
1) 'Could you close the door?'
2) 'Close the door.'

You probably think that the first sentence is more polite than the second – and you are right.

1) is a request. We are asking someone to do something.
2) is an instruction. We are telling some what to do.

Sentence two uses an imperative to tell someone what to do.

Note: we can make 'Close the door' into a request by adding 'Please' first: 'Please, close the door.'

An imperative is base verb (present simple verb). Above, 'close' is the verb.

Imperatives are direct. Often they are used when we are angry.

Perhaps your old school teacher told you to:
'Sit down! Be quiet! Stop talking!'

Imperatives are also used in a less scary way. They are used when giving instructions.

When you buy, for example, a new DVD player it comes with an instruction book telling you how to use it. This instruction book is written using imperatives. They are simple to use and easy to explain.

Remember we can't use continuous verbs; only base verbs:
'Stand up, please' and NOT 'Standing up, please.'

negative imperatives

The negative form is do + not + base verb

For example:

'Do not smoke in your room.'
'Don't touch me!'

If there are a number of steps in your instructions you can use the following sequence markers:

After that

Let's use some imperatives with sequence markers to show someone how to make a cup of coffee.

First, boil some water.
Then, put coffee into a cup.
Next, pour the hot water into the cup.
After that, add a little milk.
Finally, stir the coffee.

Now let's look at how to do ten-pin bowlling in 5 steps:

First, put on the special shoes.
Then, choose the correct size ball.
Next, swing the ball behing you.
After that, roll the ball down the centre of the alley.
Finally, try and knock down all the pins.

Here's how to learn English:

Work hard!
Use this website!
Enjoy it!

Below you will see how to play golf. Which verb should be used in each sentence?

Can you give us any other examples of how to do something using imperatives? Write your instructions in the comments box!

How to use understatement

  • GOLF: ___ the correct size club.

  • ___ the ball on the tee.

  • ___ the club backwards.

  • ___ the ball toward the green.

  • ___ and get the ball as close to the hole as you can.