Commands in English

When we want to tell someone to do something in English, we use a command. This can also be called the imperative form or the imperative mood.

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Giving commands in English is quite simple! We can use this form to give instructions, orders, commands, or requests. Let's take a look.

a man reading from a paper

Giving a command to someone else

In English, whether you are giving a command to a single person or to a group of people, the form is the same. We just use the infinitive form of the verb without "to" and use no subject.

Here is how it works. Below is an example of a regular indicative sentence with the subject and the verb.

Example in indicative:
  • Ned gets on the plane.
a man getting on a plane

Now, if we want to tell Ned to get on the plane, we use the command form with no subject and the verb in infinitive. This means that the verb will be the first word of the sentence.

Command form:
  • Get on the plane.
Notice that there is no subject before the verb and we removed the final s from the verb.

If we want Ned to be sure we are talking to him, we can use his name at the beginning or end of the sentence, but it will always be separated by a comma.

This means it is not the subject of the sentence. We are just getting Ned's attention.

For example:
  • Ned, get on the plane.
  • Get on the plane, Ned.
If we want to be polite, we can also use the word "please."

For example:
  • Ned, please get on the plane.
  • Please get on the plane, Ned.
Here are some more commands. Notice that the verb is always in the infinitive form. It does not matter if we are talking to one person or to a group of people:
  • Clean your room, boys.
  • Angela, answer the phone, please.
  • Help me carry these boxes up the stairs.
  • Walk down the street for two blocks, then turn right.
  • Get out of bed, Paul!
a boy who does not want to leave his bed

Negative commands

When we want to tell someone not to do something, we simply add "do not" or the shorter form "don't" before the verb. This shorter form is much more common.

For example:
  • Don't smoke. It is very bad for your health.
a guilty-looking man smoking a cigarette

Here are some more examples. Just like we saw above, these negative commands will be the same if we are talking to just one person or to a group of people.

For example:
  • Don't forget to call me after work.
  • Don't take the highway. There is too much traffic.
  • Do not park your car on the grass, please.
  • Don't use too many plastic bags. They are bad for the environment.
  • Kids, don't fight!
children arguing in the back seat of a car

Commands with "let's"

When we want to make a suggestion to a group of people and we are included in that group, we use the word "let's" and then the verb in infinitive.

This is like giving a command to a group of people and to ourselves at the same time. We often use it when we are making a suggestion for ourselves and one other person.

For example: 
  • It is a beautiful day. Let's go to the park for a picnic.
  • Let's take a moment to think about this before we give them an answer.
  • Let's finish this project before lunch.
  • Let's go to the supermarket this afternoon.
  • Let's get married!
a man proposing marriage to a woman

Negative commands with "let's"

When we want to say that we should not do something, we can use "let's" and the word "not" and then the verb in infinitive.

For example:
  • Let's not have chicken for dinner again tonight.
  • Let's not watch television tonight.
  • Let's not worry about that until it becomes a real problem.
  • Let's not ask ask Angela about her thesis.
  • Let's not play tennis together again!
a woman angry at her tennis partner

So, giving instructions, commands, suggestions, and directions in English is really very easy! Be sure to carefully review these rules and write your own examples to practice.

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