In this lesson, we will explore how to use imperatives in English effectively. The exercises for this topic are here. This lesson is part of our Intermediate English Course.

What are imperatives?

Imperatives are a type of verb form used to give commands, orders, instructions or advice to someone.

For example, a teacher may say to her students

  • “Open your books, please.”

How to Form Imperatives

They are formed by using the base form of the verb (like the infinitive but without “to”).

Imperatives usually omit (don’t use) the subject.

For example:

  • “Close the door, please.”
  • “Clean your room before you go out.”
  • “Don’t forget to bring your passport.”

When using imperatives, it is important to consider the context and your audience. Depending on the situation, you may need to adjust your tone to be more formal or informal. Using imperatives excessively can come across as rude or bossy, so it is important to use them appropriately.

Making Imperatives More Polite

To make imperatives more polite, you can use modal verbs such as “please,”

  • “Please, be quiet. I’m trying to listen to the news.”
  • “Pass me a pen, please. I need to make a note of this.”

Adding Emphasis

Sometimes we can add the auxiliary verb “do” to make an imperative more emphatic.

  • “Do be quiet please!”
  • “Do feel free to call me whenever you want.”

Question Tags

We can add a question tag to an imperative.

  • Help me, would you?
  • Pass the the phone, will you?

With Let’s…

You can add the verb let to imperatives. This is often used for suggestions.

  • Let’s order a pizza!
  • Let us start the meeting with the minutes from the last meeting.
  • Let him try! He won’t succeed.

Using Adverbs

We can use adverbs to add information about how the action should be done or to modify the verb.

  • Carefully read all of the instructions before attempting the exam.
  • Quickly turn off the tap!
  • Discretely ask him what the problem is.

Including subjects

We sometimes add subjects to imperatives.

  • You do it your way and I’ll do it my way and we’ll see who gets the best results!

Negative Imperatives

Additionally, negative imperatives are formed by using “do not” or “don’t” before the base form of the verb.

For example,

  • “Don’t be late for the meeting”
  • “Don’t forget to call me later.”

Including subjects

Some negative imperatives include the subject. This is especially direct and imperative and may be considered rude or bossy, be careful when and how you use this form.

  • “Don’t you dare speak to me like that again!”
  • “Don’t you touch that!”
Illustration of imperatives in English grammar with the examples "be careful", "take a seat" "Call now for more information", "Don't miss this offer" & "Do not enter."

Uses of the Imperative

Commands or requests

  • Please come with me.
  • Finish the sentence that you are writing and put down your pen please.


  • Be careful with that knife!
  • Do not look directly at the laser when the disk drive is open.

Giving Directions

  • Go straight on then turn right at the traffic lights.
  • Drive along the road until you get to the bridge and then take the third road on the right.


  • Cook on a low heat for 15 minutes then drain and serve.
  • Cut along the dotted line to open.

Prohibition (signs or public notices)

  • Do not walk on the grass.
  • Don’t talk during the exam.


  • Never leave your valuable property on the table when you eat on the terrace.
  • Watch films and series in English to improve your level.


  • Come and join us for dinner.
  • Try some of the cake, it’s delicious!


  • Feel free to have a drink if you’re thirsty.
  • If you have any questions, just ask.


  • Try these 5 things to improve your English!
  • Mix the milk and flour with a whisk for better results.
  • Let’s ask someone how to do it.


If you think that you’ve understood all that, check your comprehension with this exercise!