[ im-per-uh-tiv ]
/ ɪmˈpɛr ə tɪv /
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See synonyms for: imperative / imperatives / imperatively / imperativeness on Thesaurus.com

absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable: It is imperative that we leave.
of the nature of or expressing a command; commanding.
Grammar. noting or pertaining to the mood of the verb used in commands, requests, etc., as in Listen! Go!Compare indicative (def. 2), subjunctive (def. 1).
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Origin of imperative

1520–30; <Late Latin imperātivus, equivalent to Latin imperāt(us) past participle of imperāre to impose, order, command (im-im-1 + -per- (combining form of parāre to fur-nish (with), produce, obtain, prepare) + -ātus-ate1) + -īvus-ive



imperative , imperial, imperious
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does imperative mean?

In English grammar, we use mood to categorize verb forms by the attitude the speaker has toward what they are saying. The imperative mood is used when you are asking (or demanding) someone to do something, as with commands, directions, invitations, and warnings. For example, Don’t go into the woods at night. 

Imperative is also used to describe something as being absolutely necessary, as in It is imperative that we make it to the airport by noon, or we will miss our flight.

And imperative is used to mean a command or important obligation, as in Helping my brother is an imperative that cannot be ignored. 

Why is imperative important?

The first records of imperative come from around 1520. It ultimately comes from the Latin verb imperāre, meaning “to order” or “to command.”

In most imperative sentences, the subject of the sentence is understood to be “you,” meaning the person that the speaker is talking to, as in (You,) Pass me the salt. The exception to this is when the speaker wants to include themselves in an imperative sentence, as in Let’s go to the beach!

Did you know … ?

When using imperative sentences, you don’t need to be overly demanding or aggressive to make your point. Beginning a command with please can help your listener be more willing to follow your directions.

What are real-life examples of imperative?

Most GPS programs and apps use imperative sentences when giving directions.

Imperative is a common word that describes something as being really important or necessary. The imperative mood is also commonly used.

What other words are related to imperative?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following sentences uses the imperative mood?

A. Do we need to work together?
B. I want you to bring me that stack of papers.
C. Take a left at the next intersection.

How to use imperative in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for imperative

/ (ɪmˈpɛrətɪv) /

extremely urgent or important; essential
peremptory or authoritativean imperative tone of voice
Also: imperatival (ɪmˌpɛrəˈtaɪvəl) grammar denoting a mood of verbs used in giving orders, making requests, etc. In English the verb root without any inflections is the usual form, as for example leave in Leave me alone
something that is urgent or essential
an order or command
  1. the imperative mood
  2. a verb in this mood

Derived forms of imperative

imperatively, adverbimperativeness, noun

Word Origin for imperative

C16: from Late Latin imperātīvus, from Latin imperāre to command
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for imperative


A grammatical category describing verbs that command or request: “Leave town by tonight”; “Please hand me the spoon.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.