IMPERATIVES – How to give commands in English

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IMPERATIVES – How to give commands in English

Imperative verbs are used for giving orders, but they can sound rude and offend others if you are not careful. This lesson is designed to teach you how to get what you want using imperative verbs while being polite. After watching this video, please practice by doing our quiz. Expect great results with little effort in this essential English lesson. Take the quiz here: http://www.engvid.com/how-to-give-commands-in-english/

TRANSCRIPT

Straighten that spine! Stand up straight! Imperatives. Welcome. James, from EngVid. If I seem crazy, I was giving orders, sir! Okay? An “imperative” is a command. I mean, we have statements in English. We have questions. You know, we’ve done lessons on those. An imperative is usually a command. I’m going to give you a quick primer, or quick lesson, on imperatives. Nothing special. And then, I want to do something a little different. I want to show you how to modify it. So let’s look at imperatives.

What is an imperative? As I said, it’s a command. You tell somebody to do something. You do not ask. You just tell them and expect it to be done. “Shut up. Sit down. Get out.” That’s it.

Next, how do we make an imperative? Well, when I said, “Shut up. Sit down. Get out”, you notice the verb is in the infinitive form minus “to”. There is no “to”. “I have to”, “got to” — nothing. Just the verb — or you could say “base form”. Right? No particle “to”.

Next, an imperative, when given, it’s in the second person. I know not everybody understands the second and third person, so I’ll be quick, but hopefully easy. I’ll make it easy for you. First person is “I”. I am the first person. You speak about yourself. The third person is when you talk about groups and others. Right? “They” or “them” or “we”. The second person is a strange one. It’s “you”. Well, sometimes, you want to say to someone, like, “You can do this. You can do that.” That’s the second person because I’m speaking to someone directly, and that’s you, you the audience. “You” can be either singular or plural. When we talk about imperatives, we’re talking about “you”. “Sit down. You sit down.” We just don’t say it. Right? So when somebody tells you to sit down, really, they’re saying, “You sit down.” They just don’t say it. It’s understood. And a command is direct. You cannot interpret — which means trying to translate or figure it out — you’re just supposed to do it. Right? “Drive slower.” Don’t try to translate. Just do it. Right?

Now, also, one other small thing. Usually, imperatives are not given with modals. There’s a small exception. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes, we use “be able to”. But when we use “be able to”, it’s very specific. Here we go. Okay? Your instructor or coach at the gym might say to you, right, “You need to be able to do 100 pushups tomorrow.” “Be able to”. It’s an order. It’s not asking you. It’s not “can you do them?” It’s, “Be able to read this or recite this tomorrow.” You must do it. It’s an order. It’s the only exception, really, with modals. Otherwise, we don’t. And this is rarely used. But I know there are some of you out there who will go, “I heard” — and I’m telling you. So got you. All right? This is the rare exception. Otherwise, modals aren’t used with imperatives.

That’s a quick imperative lesson. So we use imperatives all the time. But if you use them — and I see students doing it regularly — you offend people because they are strong. They can be rude. I know in many of your cultures, you have a language for politeness. In English, we don’t necessarily, but we can modify the imperative to make it more polite. I’m going to show you today a few ways to do that. All right? So let’s go to the board.

Private E, stand down. All right? Let’s start off with “please”, “please and thank you”. You hear this all the time. “Please, please, please, thank you, thank you.” You know this is polite. Well, how do we use “please” with an imperative, right, to make it soft? Well, one of the first things I want to tell you is when we use the imperative like “sit down”, “sit down” is an order. It’s not nice. “Sit down!” Right? “Behave!” But if I say, “Please sit down”, I’m offering it to you. I’m still telling you what to do, but I’m being polite. So when we really want to be polite but still followed — right? You still want to do it — you put “please” at the beginning of the sentence. “Please sit down. Please introduce yourself.” If you drop the “please”, listen to what I’m saying. “Please sit down.” “Sit down.” “Please introduce yourself.” “Introduce yourself.” I’m still saying you must do this, but what I’m actually doing is being polite by saying “please” first.

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