We use imperative clauses when we want to tell someone to do something (most commonly for advice, suggestions, requests, commands, orders or instructions).
We can use them to tell people to do or not to do things. They usually don’t have a subject – they are addressed to the listener or listeners, who the speaker understands to be the subject. We use the base form of the verb:
Enjoy your meal.
Stop talking and open your books.
Don’t be late.
We use the imperative carefully. It is a very direct form and we don’t generally use it to make requests or commands or to give instructions.
We can use just, please or if you wouldn’t mind to make an imperative sound less direct:
Open the window a little more, please, if you wouldn’t mind.
Not: Open the window. (too direct)
A: Ann, are you ready?
B: Just give me a minute, please.
Imperatives with subject pronouns
For emphasis, we can use you in an imperative clause:
[a student and a teacher]
A: Can I leave the room?
B: No. You stay here.
In negative imperatives of this type, you comes after don’t:
Maria, don’t you try to pay for this. I invited you for lunch and I insist on paying.
Be careful when using subject pronouns in imperative clauses, as they can sound very direct.
We can also use words like someone, somebody, no one, nobody, everyone, everybody, especially in speaking:
Somebody call a doctor. Quick!
Everybody sit down, please.
Imperatives with do （Hard）
When we use the emphatic do auxiliary, it makes an imperative sound more polite and more formal:
[at the beginning of a meal]
Do start. (formal)
Do sit down and make yourself comfortable.
We can use emphatic do in short answers without a main verb:
A: Can I use your phone to call a taxi?
B: Do, of course, by all means. It’s there on the desk.
Imperatives with let (let’s)
We use let to form first person and third person imperatives.
Let me see. What should I do?
Let’s start at nine-thirty tomorrow, please. Okay?
In more formal contexts, we use the full form let us:
[at the beginning of a meeting]
Let us begin by welcoming our new members.
We can use emphatic do with let’s in formal contexts:
Do let’s try to be more environmentally friendly.
Very often we use let’s (let us) when we are referring to the first person singular (me):
I can’t find my keys. Let’s see, where did I last have them? (or Let me see, …)
We can use let’s on its own in short responses, meaning ‘yes’, when we respond to a suggestion:
A: Shall we stop now and have a coffee break?
Third person imperatives are not common; they are formed with let + him/her/it or a noun phrase:
[B is joking]
A: How will Patrick know which house is ours?
B: Let him knock on all the doors until he finds ours!
To make negative imperatives, we use the auxiliary do + not + the infinitive without to. The full form do not, is rather formal. In speaking, we usually use don’t:
[a public notice]
Do not use the lift in the event of fire.
Don’t tell anyone that I was here.
We can use don’t on its own in short responses:
A: Shall I show everyone the old photo of you?
B: No, don’t. It’s terrible!
Negative imperatives with subject pronoun
We can use emphatic pronoun you or anyone/anybody after don’t in negative imperatives, especially in informal speaking:
Don’t you worry. Everything will be okay.
It’s a surprise party so don’t anybody mention it to Jim.
Negative imperative of let’s
We often use the phrase let’s not:
Let’s not forget to lock the door!
We sometimes use don’t let’s in more formal contexts:
Don’t let’s mention anything about her husband. I think they’ve split up.
Question tags commonly used after imperatives (Hard)
We sometimes use question tags with imperatives. They make the imperative less direct:
Turn on the light, will you?
Ask him, can you?
Won’t you? adds more emphasis to the imperative:
Write to me, won’t you?
The tag after a negative imperative is normally will you:
Don’t tell anyone, will you?
Imperatives as offers and invitations
We can use imperatives to make offers and invitations:
Have another piece of melon.
Please stay another night. You know you’ll be most welcome.
Go on! Come to the match with us tonight.
Don’t be afraid to ask if you want anything.