"Click on the Open File button."

This is a common type of sentence that's communicated in technical documentation. I'm trying to understand the five properties of the verb used in sentences of these types. Please help me improve my understanding, if necessary.

  • Voice: Since the omitted subject, namely, "You" is acting, the voice of the verb is active.
  • Mood: Since the subject is omitted from the sentence, the mood of the verb is imperative. Moreover, the documentation is providing instruction (or orders) to the reader.
  • Tense: The verb is written in the present tense.
  • Person: Since the documentation is addressing the user of the software, this sentence is in the second person: "You click on the Open File button.
  • Number: The verb is agreeing with the number of a singular noun, namely, "You".
  • It would be much easier with examples of each. Why should one have to figure out the puzzle here? It really should say: Active versus passive voice. The way it is explained is meaningless to me. Since the omitted subject,, "you", is acting??
    – Lambie
    Jun 26, 2021 at 18:24
  • 1
    The action is punctive rather than durative, and one assumes semelfactive rather than iterative. Arguably, 'click on' is unary/transitive. Jun 26, 2021 at 18:38
  • 2
    @EdwinAshworth Do you think all that jargon is helpful?
    – Lambie
    Jun 26, 2021 at 21:36
  • 2
    It's an English imperative. Therefore it is unspecified for tense or number.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 26, 2021 at 22:05
  • Thank you, @EdwinAshworth, for introducing new ways in which I can categorize verbs. Indeed as Labmie regards them, they're jargon, but only at first. Importantly they're points of departure for further learning.
    – parergon
    Jun 27, 2021 at 3:40

1 Answer 1


Voice: You are correct - it is written in active voice.

Mood: Also correct - commands are the imperative mood.

Tense: Although "click" is the present participle of the verb, imperative statements use the infinitive form of verbs, but omitting the 'to'. An imperative statement can't really be said to be in the 'present' tense, because the action isn't carried out until the person receiving the command puts it into action.

Person: You are correct - it is the second person, because it is addressing the reader directly. Although the pronoun 'you' isn't used in the sentence, it is tacit whoever is reading it is the intended audience.

Number: "You" isn't only a singular pronoun. A teacher would address an entire class as "you". And you cannot assume that this instruction will only read by one person - what if a teacher read the book aloud to a class? But this seems irrelevant anyway, because the verb would not change - you click, we click, they click... there is no different form for plurals.

  • Thanks, @Astralbee. You've given me the confirmations and clarifications for which I was seeking.
    – parergon
    Jun 27, 2021 at 3:41

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