Tema 18- Expresión de la orden, exhortación y prohibición

Tema 18- Expresión de la orden, exhortación y prohibición


Directives without a subject:

Directives without a subject: Directives typically take the form of an imperative, which differs from a declarative sentence in that:

  1. It generally has no subject
  2. It has either a main verb in the base form or less commonly an auxiliary in the base form followed by the appropriate form of the main verb.

The clause patterns of imperative sentences show the same range and ordering of elements as declaratives:

  1. (S)V: Jump
  2. (S)VO: Open the door
  3. (S)VC: Be reasonable
  4. (S)VA: Get inside
  5. (S)VOO: Tell me the truth
  6. (S)VOC: Consider yourself lucky
  7. (S)VOA: Put the flowers on the table

The imperative verb lacks tense distinction and does not allow modal auxiliaries.

The progressive form is rare and the perfective even rarer

– Be doing your homework when your parents arrive home.

– Start the book and have finished it before you go to bed.

Passives with be occur chiefly in negative directives, where they generally have the meaning: Don´t allow yourself to be….

– Don´t be told what to do.

They are less common in positive directives

– Be guided by what I say

What might be treated as passives occur with get

– Get dressed

Imperatives are restricted to predications that allow a dynamic interpretation so for instance *“Be old” is an incongruity

Imperatives refer to a situation in the immediate or more remote future and therefore incompatible with time adverbials that refer to a time period in the past or that have habitual reference * Come yesterday

Directives with a subject:

The meaning of a directive implies that the omitted subject is the second person pronoun you. There is, however, a type of directive in which the stressed subject you is added

– You be quiet

They frequently express strong irritation or merely insistence. “You” can be used in the sense of addressee- distinguishing singling out one person or one set of persons.

– You take this chair and I ´ll take that one.

Vocative you, as opposed to imperative subject you is very impolite

– You come here

Third person subjects are also possible.

– Everybody shut their eyes

It is easy to confuse the subject in commands with a vocative noun phrase. But whereas the subject always precedes the verb, the vocative is an element that occur in final and medial, as well as initial positions in the sentence.

Another difference is that the vocative, when initially placed has a separate tone unit (fall-rise) and the subject merely receives ordinary word stress.

Vocative: – M`´ ary play on m`y side

– Play on m`y side, M`ary

Subject: – `Mary play on m`y side

The distinctiveness of vocative and imperative subject is confirmed by the possibility of their cooccurrence

– John, you listen to me.

Directives with let:

1st person imperatives can be formed by preposing the verb let followed by a subject in the objective case:

– Let me think what to do next.

The same applies to 3rd person subjects.

– Let each man decide for himself

A colloquial alternative to let us is the common abbreviated form let´s.

– Let´s have a party.

In very colloquial English, let´s is sometimes used for a 1st person singular imperative as well

– Let´s give you a hand.

There are no 2nd person imperatives with let

– *Let you have a look

Summary of forms of imperatives:


1st person

2nd person

3rd person

Without subject


Open the door (1)


With subject

Without let


You open the door (2)

Someone open the door (3)

With let

Let me open the door/ Let´s open the door (4)


Let someone open the door (5)

By far the most common type is the subjectless 2nd person imperative (1)

Negative imperatives:

To negate the first three classes of imperative, one simply adds an initial don´t or do not, replacing assertive by non-assertive items where necessary.

  1. Open the door- Don´t open the door
  1. You open the door- Don´t you open the door

You don´t open the door

  1. Someone open the door- Don´t anyone open the door

No one open the door

  1. Fist person imperatives, on the other hand, are generally negated by the insertion of not after the pronoun following let.

– Let´s not say anything about it.

Informally, however, the negation with don´t is frequently heard

– Don´t let´s not say anything about it.

  1. Third person imperatives with let are negated by not after let or more informally by an initial don´t.

– Let not anyone fool himself that he can get away with it

– Don´t let anyone fool himself that he can get away with it

Negative directives are seldom followed by tags. The only operators that seem possible are will and can.

– Don´t make any noise, will you? /can you

Illocutionary force of imperatives:

Imperative sentences are used for a wide range of illocutionary acts:

  1. Order, command: make your bed at once.
  2. Prohibition: Don´t touch
  3. Request: Shut the door, please.
  4. Plea: Help!
  5. Advice, recommendation: take an aspirin for your headache
  6. Warning: Be careful
  7. Suggestion: Let´s have a party
  8. Instruction: take the first street on the left
  9. Invitation: Come in and sit down
  10. Offer: Have a cigarette
  11. Granting permission: Help yourself
  12. Good wishes: Have a good time
  13. Imprecation: Go to hell!
  14. Incredulous rejection: Oh, come now (you don´t really mean that)
  15. Self-deliberation: Let me see now.

Please and kindly may be added to imperative sentences with the illocutionary force of a request to convey great politeness

– Please eat up your dinner!

Do with positive imperatives:

A positive imperative can be made more persuasive or insistent by adding do (with a nuclear tone) before the verb. Do reinforces the positive sense of the imperative.

For many people this persuasive use of do seems more typical of female than male speech.

– Dò have some more tea.

This use of do applies only to classes 1 and 4 so we don´t have:

– * Do you have some more tea

Other ways of expressing commands: (with modal verbs)

  1. Subject + shall for third person commands: Shall can be used in very formal written regulations which will remain in force for some time. They are often in the passive.

– The chairman, Secretary and Treasurer shall be elected annually.

  1. Subject + will l for third person commands

– When the alarm rings, passengers and crew will assemble at their boat stations. (notice on board ship)

This is a formal, impersonal type of command implying that the person giving the order is quite certain that he will be obeyed. It is used in written instructions by people who have some authority.

  1. Commands are often expressed as obligations by must

– Dogs must be kept on leads in this area

  1. Instructions or orders can be conveyed by the be + infinitive construction

– You are to report for duty immediately

  1. Prohibitions may be expressed in written instructions by may not

– Candidates may not bring textbooks into the examination room.


  1. Can/ Could you is a very useful request form. Possibly can be added to show that the speaker is asking for sth. extra

– Could you possibly lend me $ 500?

  1. Will/ Would you has the same meaning as could you. Will you is more authoritative and therefore less polite.

– Will/Would you please count your change?

Will/ Would you can be placed at the end of the phrase.

– Shut the door, will you?

  1. Would you mind + gerund

– Would you mind moving your car?

  1. Would you like to….?

– Would you like to take a seat? = please take a seat


  1. Will you have/ would you like + noun

– Will you have a drink? = Have a drink

– Would you like a coffee?

  1. When the speaker doesn´t really expect his offer/ invitation to be accepted ha can say:

– You wouldn´t like another drink, would you?


  1. Must, ought to and should

– You must read this book

– You should grow your own vegetables

– You ought to plant some trees.

  1. You had better + bare infinitive

– You´d better take off your wet shoes.

  1. Why don´t you …?

– Why don´t you learn to play your guitar?

  1. It is time you + past tense

– It is time you bought a new coat

  1. May /might as well + infinitive

– You may/might as well ask him

  1. If I were you….

– If I were you, I would tell her.


  1. Let´s + infinitive:

– Let´s go for a walk

Shall we? is sometimes added

– Let´s go for a walk, shall we?

  1. Shall I/ we + infinitive

– Shall we invite Bill?

  1. Why don´t we / you + infinitive or why not + infinitive

– Why don´t we meet and discuss it?

– Why not meet and discuss it?

  1. What/ How about + gerund / noun

– What about renting a caravan?

Commands, requests, advice in indirect speech:

They are usually expressed by a verb of command, request, advice + object + infinitive

– He said: “Lie down Tom”

– He told Tom to lie down

The following verbs can be used: advise, ask, beg, command, encourage, entreat, forbid, implore, invite, order, recommend, remind, request, tell, urge, warn.

Negative commands, requests etc. are usually reported by not + infinitive

– “Don´t swim out too far, boys” I said

– I warned/ told the boys not to swim out too far

Say /tell (+ that) + subject + should

– He said: “ If your brakes are bad don´t drive so fast”

– He said/ told me that if my brakes were bad I shouldn´t drive so fast

Suggestions are reported by suggest + ing + that + should

– She said: “ Let´s leave the case at the station”

– She suggested leaving the case at the station

– She suggested that they should leave/ left the case at the station