Imperative mode

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The imperative ( Latin [modus] imperativus from imperare 'command'; Eng. Command form ) is a mode of the verb . It is primarily used for requests and orders, or advice and invitations. It is therefore not used for making statements, but for expressing a particular speech act .

The imperative is often included in the category of the unreal mode, although, unlike other cases of the unrealis , it makes no statement (in the specialist literature it is conceivable, but disputed, that in its directive meaning it also makes a statement about an does not actually contain an action at hand and in this respect resembles an unreal mode).

Imperative in German

In German , the imperative is a mode . It is typical of the "real" imperative that it can only be formed for the 2nd grammatical person (the so-called addressee ). In German it is usually used without a personal pronoun - except for the polite form “Sie”.

number respect indicative imperative
Singular family You are strict. Do n't be so strict!
distant You are strict. Do n't be so strict.
Plural family You are strict. Do n't be so strict!
distant You are strict. Do n't be so strict.

In standard language, however, the imperative also includes the adhortative to the 1st person plural: "Let's go!"

For the sake of completeness, an outdated, historical form of the imperative with the polite salutation "He / She" should be mentioned:

Aussagesatz: „Er/Sie ist streng.“
Aufforderung: „Sei Er/Sie nicht so streng!“

Forms of the inflected imperative

There have been various attempts to explain the surprisingly irregular forms of the inflected imperative in German, but so far this has not worked for all forms. In scientific treatises it is expressly refrained to assert that these forms are "formed" on the basis of other forms. Instead, z. B. found that the imperative of most German verbs in the singular corresponds to the verb form of the 2nd person singular present without the ending -st (and without the personal pronoun ) and that the imperative of all German verbs in the plural corresponds exactly to the verb form of the 2nd person plural corresponds. The imperatives of the verbs sein , will, and know, and several common slang imperatives, do not match this pattern.

Parallels between the forms of the imperative and other forms are never consistent. Another example of this is that verbs with an umlaut in the 2nd person (e.g. give / you give ) also show this ablaut in the imperative ( give! ), Verbs with an umlaut in the 2nd person (e.g. you drive ) but do not have this in the imperative ( drive! ). On the other hand, Eisenberg explains: “According to A. Bittner, the vowel change in the Sg Imp is the first feature that is lost when a strong verb changes to a weak inflection. In what is spoken, we often have eat (e) , les (e) , see (e) , throw (e) , but only you eat , read , see , throw . "

indicative imperative
2. Ps. Sg. You go Go
2nd Ps. Pl. You go Go!

Further examples are you workwork! and you throwthrow! .

The verbs sein , will and know (in the following only 2nd person singular):

indicative imperative
be You are Be!
become You will Will!
knowledge You know Know!

With strong verbs with umlaut in the 2nd and 3rd person singular, the vowel change in the imperative is omitted:

indicative imperative
sleep Are you sleeping Sleep!
to run You run Run!

The ending -e in the imperative singular is mostly optional in today's linguistic usage: mach and mache or sleep and sleep are considered to be equivalent parallel forms in Germany, in Austria the ending -e is unusual and outdated in standard German. For weak verbs whose root ends in -t or -d , the form with -e is considered to be stylistically better:

indicative imperative
talk You speak Speech!
waiting You're waiting Wait!

With verbs as expected or breathe , which from its root a e omitted (see rake (rule), breath ) is the imperative form with the ending -e , so expect! , the only possible variant. In verbs ending in -eln , the e in the root of the word can be omitted: collect! or collect! , but also collect! Strong verbs with a vowel change in the imperative cannot have an -e as an ending, it just means: throw! , give! , eat! .

In the plural , to form the imperative, only the personal pronoun is left out of the 2nd person plural , the ending remains. Look out of her will look! .

Prompt sentences as a substitute for the imperative

In order to convey commands, requests and instructions, the imperative mode does not necessarily have to be used; instead, the speaker can fall back on other verb forms and formulations; In some cases, modal particles make it clearer .


The indicative can anticipate an event. The speaker expects from his counterpart that this event will come true in the future. This form is very close to the inflected imperative, since the opposite is clearly conveyed what the speaker wants. The difference is that the inflected imperative usually refers to an acute situation - “Go and do your homework!” - the imperative circumscribed with indicative, on the other hand, can better express expected future events.

  • "You'll be home at nine!"
  • "In the future you will contact me directly!"
  • Alternatively: "In the future you will contact me directly !" (Future tense I)


In instructions, such as cooking recipes that do not address the user personally, the work instructions are often only given in the infinitive instead of the outdated one take ... , for example: Clean, wash and prepare vegetables ... The infinitive is often used in public advertising signs: Left stand, go right! Please get out at the back! In an emergency, break the glass. The infinitive is also common on prohibition signs, for example: Do not smoke! or don't lean out! . In oral usage, the infinitive is generally used as a substitute for the imperative in real requests (not requests and not longer sentences), for example: Pay attention! , Look here! , Don't be lazy! , Think before you speak! .

  • Recipe: Wash the salmon trout fillet , pat dry , drizzle with lemon juice and let stand briefly. In the meantime, vegetables clean and in fine stripes cut .
  • Request: The same applies to the future fund: think first, then spend money.

past participle

The past participle (or past participle II) can always be used as a substitute for the imperative in separable verbs without an object, but this - with the exception of Attention!  - to be avoided because of the implied authoritarian-military undertone (with the military itself, however, only stand still ! ):

  • Watch out , here's a trick!
  • Adjutant Carsten Gries commands: "Stand still!"
  • Car drivers watch out ! The Nauen police flashed their radar measuring device on federal highway 5 near Berge.

Passive constructions

Impersonal passive constructions are possible with verbs of all kinds:

  • Suddenly mom or dad comes into the room and says: "Lights off, now we sleep ."
  • “Now we are working , not chatting, ” she calls out to a small group of helpers and claps her hands encouragingly.


The gerundive can be used with all kinds of verbs, especially in bureaucratic language:

  • "The instructions of the operating staff as well as the police and emergency services must be followed ."
  • " It should also be noted that the children need variety and time to play."
  • " We have to obey these framework conditions ."


  • When asked, one likes to use more polite paraphrases in the subjunctive II, for example: "Would you please close the window?" Instead of "Please close the window!"

Related modes are the jussive (command to the 3rd person) and the adhortative or cohortative (request to the 1st person). These do not exist in German as an independent verb form and must be expressed using paraphrases.

Imperative in English

In English , the imperative corresponds to the infinitive of the verb. This grammatical imperative is in the 2nd person (singular and plural are indistinguishable). The personal pronoun you (du) is usually omitted, but can be used to emphasize the command.

It is denied using the negated auxiliary verb do (to do): “ Don't touch me!”

You can also be inserted in the negative to express special emphasis (“ You don't touch these!”). In everyday language can you even after do not have, but not necessarily presses an emphasis of: "Do not you touch these!"

To express particular emphasis, the auxiliary do can also be used in the affirmative imperative: “ Do be quiet!”

In the 1st and 3rd person, the imperative is paraphrased with the verb let :

  • Let us (Let's) have a drink! (expresses the imperative in the 1st person plural)
  • Let him / her / them be happy! (expresses the imperative in the 3rd person; constructions with may (may) are also used)

Imperative in French

The French language , like German, also has an inflected verb form of the imperative, the impératif . The French Impératif has three instead of two personal inflections and, unlike in German, is not marked with an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence:

imperative Impératif
2. Ps. Sg. Look! Regard e .
1. Ps. Pl. Let's see! Regard ons .
2nd Ps. Pl. Looks! Regard ez .

In the 1st person plural, the impératif is not an imperative per se, but forms an adhortative.

The French grammar also describes an impératif passé . This can be used to express that a command should have been obeyed at some point in the future. To do this, the imperative of avoir (to have) or être (to be) is combined with the appropriate participe Passé :

Impératif Passé translation
2. Ps. Sg. Sois parti (e) à midi Be until noon broken !
1. Ps. Pl. Soyons parti (e) s à midi Let's leave by noon!
2nd Ps. Pl. Soyez parti (e) s à midi Be on your way by noon!

The Impératif Passé can also be formed in the German language for the 2nd person according to the same rules, but is rare and is not taught as a separate form.

Imperative in Latin

Imperative I

Latin translation
2. Ps. Sg lauda! praise!
2nd Ps. Pl. laudate! praises!

There are short forms of the following verbs, which replaced the earlier long forms in classical Latin that were still common in Old Latin :

dicere (say) facere (to make)
2. Ps. Singular dic! fac!
translation say! do!

Imperative II

This mode is also known as the imperative future tense . The command character is more abstract than with the imperative I, i.e. H. not related to a single act to be carried out promptly. The action is not expected immediately, but rather at a later point in time or for an indefinite period of time. This is why it is particularly found in laws, sacred regulations, instructions or cooking recipes. (In German, the infinitive is often used here, e.g. "Let the dough rest overnight".)

Latin translation
2nd / 3rd Ps. Sg. laudato! you should / he / she should praise!
2nd Ps. Pl. laudatote! you should praise!
3rd Ps. Pl. laudanto! they should praise!

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Portner: Imperatives . Manuscript (PDF) 2013, appears in: Maria Aloni, Rob van Rooij: Handbook of Semantics . Cambridge University Press, p. 15 (Ms.)
  2. Matthias Wermke (ed.), Günther Drosdowski (ed.): Duden - The grammar . Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2006, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , § 787, 791
  3. Matthias Wermke (ed.), Günther Drosdowski (ed.): Duden - The grammar . Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2006, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , § 790
  4. a b Peter Eisenberg, Grundriss der Deutschen Grammatik , p. 194
  5. Matthias Wermke (ed.), Günther Drosdowski (ed.): Duden - The grammar . Dudenverlag, Mannheim 2006, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , § 1402
  6. Eat yourself fit for spring . In: Braunschweiger Zeitung , February 22, 2013, section: Verbr.
  7. Think first, then spend money . In: Berliner Morgenpost , June 16, 1999, p. 5
  8. Wilkenloh, Wimmer: Poppenspäl [detective novel]. Messkirch, 2011
  9. King Wilfried erects a monument to the King's Chain . In: Braunschweiger Zeitung , June 17, 2010
  10. Berliner Morgenpost , October 20, 1999, p. 43
  11. EXTRA raffle . In: Nürnberger Nachrichten , April 23, 2009, p. 26.
  12. With a rough tone and a big heart - Inge Hofe holds the threads together . In: Braunschweiger Zeitung , December 29, 2011.
  13. So that the tour doesn't become an ordeal . In: Vorarlberger Nachrichten , March 19, 1997, p. G3.
  14. Minutes of the session of the parliament, Berlin House of Representatives, on January 31, 2002. 4th session of the 15th electoral term 2001–2006. Plenary minutes, Berlin 2002.
  15. ^ A b Renate Ricarda Timmermann: French grammar . Profund-Verlag, Plankstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-932651-00-7 , p. 93