Why can't we use "doesn't talk" instead of "don't talk"? when referring to he/she why is "doesn't talk" wrong?

e.g. When you are talking in class and your teacher said: "don't talk please." Why didn't she use "doesn't talk" in that case?

  • 3
    Can you show some context? He doesn't talk is absolutely fine, and don't talk as well. But don't talk is an order you give someone, and you always address an order to someone (second person!), never to a "he or she" (third person).
    – oerkelens
    Oct 17, 2014 at 11:25
  • Can you please try explain what you mean, as the grammar and logic of your sentence construction is mixing up your confusion.
    – Tushar
    Oct 17, 2014 at 11:27
  • @oerkelens I feel that "He don't talk" is actually misused here as the word "don't" is a shortened form of "do not" therefore stating "He do not talk" is actually a misconstruction.
    – Tushar
    Oct 17, 2014 at 11:28
  • 2
    Ok, so you are asking about the imperative (order) indeed. Well, the trick is you cannot give an order to "he", you always give an order to a "you" - you always address someone, singular or plural. The verb form is the same for the imperative as for the second person: "don't".
    – oerkelens
    Oct 17, 2014 at 11:39

6 Answers 6


When someone gives a command like this, it is called an "imperative sentence". The subject of the sentence is an implied "you", and so you use the form of the verb that goes with "you". In this case, "[You] do not talk." "Doesn't" is used with the third person singular, such as "he". But you can't give a command to a third person, that is, you can't give orders to someone other than the person you are talking to. So we don't use the third person for imperatives, always the second.

  • exactly, that's what I was about to write! :)
    – Maulik V
    Oct 17, 2014 at 13:28
  • You have the right answer. Not sure why you're not upvoted the most. The implied subject is "you". The teacher is instructing you (or the whole class including you) to keep quiet.
    – ADTC
    Oct 17, 2014 at 14:35
  • 5
    @ADTC: It's correct, but a bit misleading, because it makes it sound like you would say (to borrow sanchises's example below) *"Are quiet, Lisa!" instead of the correct "Be quiet, Lisa!"
    – ruakh
    Oct 17, 2014 at 18:56
  • 2
    @ruakh Exactly. The simple fact is that the imperative is different from the second person form of a verb, and indeed always takes the form of the bare infinitive, NOT the second person. Rather, it's just that the second person usually, but not always, takes the form of the bare infinitive.
    – Sanchises
    Oct 18, 2014 at 9:41
  • @sanchises: The affirmative imperative always takes the form of the bare infinitive. But this question is actually about the negative imperative, which does not. (We say "Don't talk!", even though the bare infinitive is not talk.)
    – ruakh
    Oct 18, 2014 at 17:44

The phrase you are using is called an 'imperative'. We use the imperative when we command other people to do something. For example,

Be quiet, Lisa!


Eat your breakfast, Timmy!

In English, the imperative is mostly the same as the bare infinitive form, but can be contracted. Since the infinitive in question is 'to do', you should use "don't talk" and not "doesn't talk". This because 'don't' is the contraction of 'do not', and 'doesn't' is the contraction of 'does not'.

  • I have a question, due to the grammatical and sentence construction issues that were identified in the question when it was posted, how does your answer take into consideration the clarified meaning of the question?
    – Tushar
    Oct 17, 2014 at 11:34
  • @Tushar: good comprehensive reading, I guess, because as I understand the edited question, this answer is bang on :)
    – oerkelens
    Oct 17, 2014 at 11:36
  • 1
    @Tushar The question made it obvious to me that the problem was not the use of contractions, but the use of imperatives (especially the question title). I edited in some information about contractions to be more complete.
    – Sanchises
    Oct 17, 2014 at 12:27
  • 1
    It saddens me you used Be quiet, Lisa over Shut up, Meg.
    – TMH
    Oct 17, 2014 at 13:52
  • 1
    @DanGetz: But that's just as wrong, and for the same reason. The helping verb do doesn't have a bare infinitive; one can say "If you disagree, do speak up", but one cannot say *"If anyone disagrees, I'd ask them to do speak up".
    – ruakh
    Oct 20, 2014 at 3:23

Ice Girl, according to situation given in your question the teacher is telling the students to do something or NOT do something. This type os sentence is called a command or an order - it is also described as an imperative sentence form (as pointed out by sanchises and others).

This type of sentence (command/order/imperative) requires the verb to be in the BARE infinitive form (INFINITIVE FORM: to talk; BARE INFINITIVE: talk). So the teacher says:

Talk, please!
Write, please!
Stop that!
Get out!
Be quiet!

When the teacher tells you NOT to do something that is called the NEGATIVE form of the sentence. The negative form needs an auxiliary (helping) verb. The helping verb is the PRESENT INDICATIVE form of the verb to do. As correctly pointed out by oerkelens this must be the second person singular/plural - that is, DO.

So for the negative forms of commands the teacher says:

Don't talk, please! - or - Do not talk, please!
Don't write!
Don't stop!
Don't be quiet!

Hope that helps!

  • Use bold, not CAPS. No need to greet asker, write non-answer content or sign your name. The post should purely be an answer.
    – ADTC
    Oct 17, 2014 at 14:38
  • The same form of the verb is used, but it doesn't make much sense to say imperatives use the infinitive form of a verb. Instead, let's call this the plain form of the verb and say that it's used in both infinitive and imperative constructions.
    – user230
    Oct 17, 2014 at 16:07

Simply put. Words like "Doesn't, Don't, Can't, Won't" are all contractions. The reason they are used is to shorten the sentence speaking/writing length. Therefore when wondering why a specific contraction is preferred over the other I'd suggest you look at the full form and then ask. For example.

Don't talk Thomas! = Do not talk Thomas!


Doesn't talk Lisa! = Does not talk Lisa!

So it means that the second contraction is actually incorrect as saying "Does not talk Lisa" is not an Imperative form which is used to command others to do something.

  • The asker is asking why it's incorrect.
    – ADTC
    Oct 17, 2014 at 14:39

Because it is in imperative mood, which does not have tenses. Especially it does not have present tense, in which we add "-s" in third person singularis.

Imperative is made in form: [Infinitive without 'to'] + [rest of sentence (objects &c.)]


Answers here tend to mix up two different aspects: one being imperative/indicative, another being 2nd person/3rd person. I'm not versed well enough in Early Modern English to know whether it sported a 3rd person imperative like Kaiserzeit German, but if it did, it would have been somewhat like "Talk he not to me, commoner!" in analogy to the German "Spreche Er mich nicht an, Gemeiner!".

Of course, neither modern English nor German use anything but the second person in their imperative nowadays, but the difference in ending between "doesn't" and "don't" cannot be mainly attributed to 2nd/3rd person difference since "does" never worked as an imperative even for 2nd person.

  • 1
    English has third-person imperatives: "Nobody move!" This is neither "Nobody, move!" with a vocative nor "Nobody moves!" with the usual present singular third-person -s inflection.
    – user230
    Oct 19, 2014 at 1:28

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