[ 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. 2023


What is an imperative sentence?

An imperative sentence is a sentence used to give commands or instructions or make requests, as in Give me that. It usually begins with a verb or a verb phrase.

Imperative sentences often don’t have an apparent subject. Instead the subject is implied, usually the person who the speaker is giving the commands or instructions to. It is possible to include subjects in imperative sentences by addressing the person separately, as in Joe, hand me that wrench.

While imperative sentences often start with verbs, they can also begin with adverbs, as in Carefully move the sofa, or prepositional phrases, as in Without opening your eyes, count to ten.

Why is imperative sentence important?

The first records of the term imperative sentence come from at least 1737. The word imperative means “commanding” or “a command,” and imperative sentences are supposed to deliver commands, as well as polite requests and directions.

You can use certain adverbs or prepositional phrases to make your imperative sentences sound less rude or forceful, such as Please wash the dishes.

Imperative sentences can also be negative, asking or commanding someone to not to do something or warning them against it, as in Don’t walk there.

While many imperative sentences are short because they omit the subject and give urgent commands, they can be pretty long, as in Tiptoe past the angry sleeping bear while whistling the Canadian national anthem backwards and balancing a bowl of strawberry jelly on your head without spilling it. (We don’t recommend this as a way to escape a bear, sleeping or otherwise.)

Did you know … ?

The shortest grammatically correct sentence in the English language is an imperative sentence: “Go.” This two-letter sentence has an implied subject of “you.”

What are real-life examples of imperative sentence?

This list gives some more examples of imperative sentences:

Drive carefully.
Don’t poke me.
Wendy, turn off the television.
In ten words, tell me what happened. 
Get out of here!

Students learn about imperative sentences early when studying grammar. People use imperative sentences everyday with varying levels of politeness.


Quiz yourself!

Which of the following is an imperative sentence?

A. Do it.
B. John took out the trash.
C. Could you please tell me the time?
D. Jayne left her books at school.


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.