Most imperative statements, or commands, are given in the second-person singular or plural (you). The formation of a verb as an imperative is quite simple:
Remove the particle word to from the infinitive, and you have a command:
Go home. Have fun. Be happy. Drive slowly.
If you change a statement to a command, the elements of the statement remain intact. It is only the verb that is altered. The target of that verb will always be second person, but the pronoun (you) is understood and not spoken or written. The tense of the verb is lost, and the verb becomes an elliptical infi nitive (to is omitted). For example:
Statement: John came home by three o’clock.
Imperative: Come home by three o’clock.
Statement: She has been one of the candidate’s supporters.
Imperative: Be one of the candidate’s supporters.
Statement: We will help her look for her keys.
Imperative: Help her look for her keys.
Modal auxiliaries are not used in the imperative with the occasional exception of to be able to:
Be able to recite the Greek alphabet by tomorrow evening.
Imperatives can be softened or made to sound more courteous by adding the word please to them. This word is placed most often at the very beginning or the very end of the command:
Please stop by for a visit if you have time.
Please be on your best behavior.
Take a number and wait in line, please.
Have your tickets ready, please.
In many cases, in order to be brief, pat statements that are imperatives or that represent imperatives are used on signs or in general announcements over a loudspeaker. For example:
Deer Crossing (represents an imperative = Caution. Deer cross this
Keep right except to pass. (roadside sign)
Merging Traffic (represents an imperative = Caution. Cars enter the
No Parking (represents an imperative = Do not park here.)
No Smoking (represents an imperative = Do not smoke here.)
No Swimming (represents an imperative = Do not swim here.)
Post No Bills (an imperative = Post no signs on this wall.)
Reduce Speed Ahead (roadside sign)
Silence (represents an imperative = Be silent.)
It is possible to include the speaker or writer in an imperative. This is done by using let’s (the contraction of let us) followed by an elliptical infi nitive and complement. For example:
Let’s talk about it. (We should talk about it.)
Let’s make some lunch. (We should make some lunch.)
Let’s ask Mary to help. (We should ask Mary to help.)
Let’s take a trip to Spain. (We should take a trip to Spain.)
Because the speaker or writer is included in the imperative, the tone of the command is softened. The sound of the command is more courteous and less demanding. Even when the speaker or writer is aware that he or she is really not involved in the action of the verb, this form of command is used to sound more like a suggestion. Compare the following pairs of sentences:
Standard command: Try to be a little quieter.
Let’s command: Let’s try to be a little quieter.
In the let’s command illustrated above, the speaker or writer is suggesting that someone should be a little quieter and knows that the suggestion is only directed at the person to whom the command is given. The speaker or writer is only including himself or herself in order to make the command sound more like a suggestion. Another example:
Standard command: Remember to send Aunt Jane a birthday card.
Let’s command: Let’s remember to send Aunt Jane a birthday card.
In the let’s command, the speaker or writer is suggesting that someone should send Aunt Jane a birthday card and knows that the suggestion is only directed at the person to whom the command is given.
The verb let can also be used to introduce a command, but the speaker or writer is not included in the command. Instead, a direct object follows let. The verb that describes the action of the command then follows the direct object. For example:
Let Jack cut the grass today. (direct object = Jack)
Let me use your car for the afternoon. (direct object = me)
Let the soldiers rest before the next march. (direct object = the soldiers)
Let her try on your new dress. (direct object = her)