What are the right times to use imperative?

If you are familiar with philosophy, there is the question about what makes an imperative true. I suspect an answer to that question would shed light here.


  • You are asking this in the wrong place, I'm afraid. Unless you're under the grip of some uber-nice HR person, there's no need to fear the reaper, I mean, the imperative. Seriously, this is a philosophy question, not an English Language Learners question. Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 13:48
  • 2
    You use the imperative when your relationship to the person addressed permits you to give commands (officer to soldier, parent to small child) or in emergency - "Look out!" Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 15:47
  • Welcome! No need to apologize for asking multiple questions. But note that the guidelines here avoid subjective, opinion-based answers and questions that invite them, so the best part of this question is "What are the right times to use it," and you might want to edit out the "how do people feel about it" parts. I would also add that it's possible to add softening elements to an imperative sentence; it doesn't have to be a brutal demand. "Please put the flowers in the vase, if you would be so kind," is still an imperative. Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


The imperative is used to give a command.

I suppose by your question you mean that it could be considered rude. Sometimes this is true. But there are plenty of appropriate times to use an imperative.

You can use the imperative to give an order to someone that you have authority over. Like a parent telling a child, "Clean your room!" It doesn't need to be harsh or abrupt. Like a boss might tell an employee, "Take care of that customer".

Someone noted in the comments that the imperative can be used for a warning, like "Watch out for the broken glass." That's an "order" or "command" in a sense, but it doesn't assume any authority.

In some cases an imperative could even be quite humble. Like, "Tell me what you want me to do."

If you are concerned about sounding rude, you can "soften" an imperative by adding polite words like "please". "Sweep the floor!" can be harsh and abrasive. "Please sweep the floor" is much less so.

We often try to soften a command by switching from the imperative to the interrogative. That is, make your request a question instead of a direct order. Instead of, "Sweep the floor!", people will sometimes say, "Can you sweep the floor?" or "Would you mind sweeping the floor?"


Well, there is a simple rule. If you need to "imperate", then please, use the imperative. This is why it was created and still exists.

If you do not need to "imperate", then use other verb forms, according to what you want to say.

The problem might not be with the imperative itself, but with the other words around it. However, building professional / politically correct / formal sentences is a quite complex topic, and this site is far from being the proper place to find the answer.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .