English The Imperative


This module explores the imperative mood, which is the form of giving commands in English.

Trainer teaching a dog the Stand command

Do this! Don’t do that! Let’s do this!

We use a verb in the infinitive when we tell somebody to do something.

  • Look in the classifieds!
  • Network with people!
  • Sit up straight.

We use don’t . . . when we tell somebody not to do something.

  • Don’t be late!
  • Don’t get fired!
  • Don’t tell him that

You can say let’s . . . when you want people to do something with you.

Let’s = let us

  • Let’s set up a job interview
  • Let’s go to the job fair tomorrow.

Phrases like: I want you to . . .  express your wishes for another in the present or future, I want you to get a new job.

  • I want you to work for us.
  • I want her to fill out an application.

I told you to . . . reminds people of a past verbal command.

  • I told you to take an online course.
  • I told you not to take an online course.

To express positive wishes and experiences for another we use have like a command.

  • Have a great first day of work!
  • Have fun celebrating your promotion.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has. Can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write a short, simple postcard, for example sending holiday greetings. I can fill in forms with personal details, for example entering my name, nationality and address on a hotel registration form.
Spoken Production:
I can use simple phrases and sentences to describe where I live and people I know.
Spoken Interaction:
I can interact in a simple way provided the other person is prepared to repeat or rephrase things at a slower rate of speech and help me formulate what I’m trying to say. I can ask and answer simple questions in areas of immediate need or on very familiar topics.
I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
I can recognize familiar words and very basic phrases concerning myself, my family and immediate concrete surroundings when people speak slowly and clearly.