How would you define the difference between the words "command" and "order" in general?

I used to interpret them as:

"Order" - "заказывать в ресторане = order in a restaurant" (in Russian) and "sipariş" (in Turkish)


"Command" - "командировать" (in Russian) and "Emretmek" (in Turkish) [as the word "military commandar" / "командир" / "komutan" has been derived from.]

But now, the verbs "command" and "order" and their corresponding seem mostly the same. The only nuance that comes to mind is:

"An order" can be given by anyone to anyone, but the word "command", implies a pre-defined hierarchy in the manner that can only be given by a 'superior' to a lower-ranking person.

For instance if I said:

I command you to sit.

then I must be higher than you in hierarchy.

By contrast, if I say:

I order you to sit.

then it is not necessarily mean that I'm higher than you in hierarchy.

Do you think this is accurate? Does it sound correct to you?

  • Please, dear moderators, do us a favor and ban or somehow restrict those people who "for no reason" keep downvoting. That's really unfair. It is a sort of deep and linguistic question. How they do that?!!! I am sure that the forum needs a systematic update for such problems. – A-friend Jun 25 at 6:02
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    Most of the downvotes seem to come from those who think the question can be answered with a dictionary, but I've observed that you always seem to do significant research before asking here. I would just ignore the downvotes as coming from those who act from reflex, without properly considering what you've written, or your question history. A good question/answer is good no matter what the vote count. – Andrew Jun 25 at 17:55
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    There is a good explanation of what you should do when you’ve received a downvote that might be helpful. It is frustrating when someone doesn’t explain their downvote. If I’ve considered the advice in the post I linked and still can’t see why they downvoted, I will sometimes make up a reason. Maybe they were in a car and hit a bump just as they were going to upvote. Or maybe they’re having a bad day and don’t like anything. Maybe they are downvoting so their reputation will be a lucky number. Who knows? – ColleenV Jun 25 at 20:20
  • Thank you @ColleenV. Your words revieled the problem in my mind very much.Both you and Andrew were really helpful. Thank you... – A-friend Jun 25 at 21:19

As with many words in the English language, you have to consider which definition applies. In this context, "command" is fairly straightforward:

command (v): Give an authoritative or peremptory order (instruction)

"Order" has many more possible meanings:

order (v):
1. Give an authoritative instruction to do something
2. Request (something) to be made, supplied, or served

When talking about authoritative instructions, "command" and "order" are synonymous.

I command/order you to sit down.

This doesn't apply only to the military. Anyone can "order" someone else within their area of authority, such as a guard to a prisoner, or a police officer to a citizen. In some schools it would be acceptable for a teacher or administrator to "order" a student to do something, or an upperclassman can "give orders" to younger students. Some organizations or religious groups allow those of higher rank to "command" those of lower rank. And so on.

Note the importance of "area of authority". Anyone can order anyone else to do something, but without authority to back it up, there's no reason why that order would be obeyed. For example, it wouldn't make sense for someone of lower rank in the military to order someone of higher rank, unless the relationship was complicated in some way that would be explained in context.

Meanwhile, there is a significant difference in meaning between "give an order" and "place an order". "Placing an order" (with a business or service) amounts to a request, not a demand.

You were late so I ordered us some pirogis.

We're almost out of paper towels so I ordered some more from Amazon.

Call up the printer and order us another thousand copies of our brochure.

and so on. The business that "takes the order" doesn't have to fulfill it, but since normally that's how they get paid, they are personally motivated to do so.

You may find it interesting to reference an etymology dictionary, which can help you understand why certain English words seem to have multiple meanings. For example, the original meaning of "order" was strictly "command", and its use to mean "formally request" is fairly recent (from 1837).

  • Really interesting and helpful information @Andrew. Thank you... :) – A-friend Jun 25 at 19:58

In general usage of these words hierarchy is not relevant. Commands and orders may come from anyone. Whether they are obeyed is another question!

  • So are they the same thing? Can they be always used interchangeably? If not, then please let me know when they cannot be used as a substitute for one another? – A-friend Jun 25 at 6:05
  • The word order can be used in the context of ordering a meal "please can I order the salmon". The word commend would not be appropriate. – EML Jun 25 at 9:11

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