Grammar-QuizzesClausesSubordinate Clauses › Imperatives

Subordinate Imperatives (Commands)

Restate a command within a clause (reported or indirect speech)

Get Plenty of Rest
 

 

Quoted vs. Restated Imperative (Command)

QUOTED IMPERATIVE

A quoted imperative includes a main clause, often with the verb "say", and includes quoted words enclosed in quotation marks (the exact words of the quote). The quoted speech may be placed before or after the main clause: "Get some rest," the doctor said / The doctor said, "Get some rest."

MAIN CLAUSE IMPERATIVE

The doctor said,

"Get some rest."

The doctor told me some advice.

"Get some rest."

The doctor said,

"Don't smoke."

The doctor told me some advice.

"Don't smoke."

The doctor said, 

"Call me immediately."

REPORTED IMPERATIVE

A reported imperative usually includes say or tell in the main clause followed by the content of the quote expressed as (1) a subordinate clause (that followed by a clause) or (2) an infinitive (to follwed by a plain form verb).                                                                                                                         

MAIN CLAUSE REPORTED SPEECH

The doctor said

(that)¹ I should rest.

to get some rest.

not to get tired.

The doctor told me

to get some rest.

not to get tired.

The doctor said

(that) I shouldn't smoke.

to avoid smoking.

not to smoke.

The doctor told me

to stop smoking.

not to smoke.

The doctor said

(that) I should call him immediately.

to call immediately. 

not to delay calling him. 

 

An imperative verb is one that expresses an order or strong obligation for someone to do something.
that + a clause tends to be used in more formal contexts. The verb in the that-clause includes the subjunctive verb form, the plain form of the verb.  (No -s is added for 3rd person singular.)
¹Including that before the subordinated clause is optional with verbs such as say and think.  We tend to omit "that" in speech and include "that" in writing. That is required in more formal contexts. (Azar 253) (Huddleston 953) (Quirk 681)
Also see:   Command Verbs w/ Infinitives

 

Reported Speech Verbs

Also see Synonyms for "Said" (list).

 

 

 

 

 

Imperatives with Infinitives

Expressing advice in a general way

 

 

 

Infinitive & Negative Infinitive

INFINITIVE

The verb in the main clause is usually say or tell followed by an infinitive clause with an infinitival form: to + plain form verb. Because the infinitive is not marked for person or tense, it expresses the order or the advice in a general way.

MAIN CLAUSE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

(Remove punctuation.)

The doctor said,

 

"Get some rest."

(1) subordinate marker¹

 

(2) word order [S-V]

 

(3) person & number

 

(4) tense / verb form

change to this
to get some rest  

(5) time / place

The doctor said

The doctor told me

to get some rest.

NEGATIVE INFINITIVE

The verb in the main clause is usually say or tell followed by an infinitive clause with not and an infinitival form: to + plain form verb.                                                                                                                                            

MAIN CLAUSE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

 

The doctor said,

 

"Don't smoke."             

(1) subordinate marker

 

(2) word order [S-V]

 

(3) person & number

 

(4) tense / verb form

    change to this
not to smoke.

(5) time / place

 

The doctor said

The doctor told me

not to smoke.

to¹ not smoke.

 

¹subordinate marker – that  (not used with an infinitival clause)

¹An infinitive is currently analyzed as to (the subordinator) + plain form verb. Placing not before the verb is more emphatic.   The grammar rule regarding not splitting infinitives has little or no support among current grammarians. (There is nothing to split since to is the infinitival subordinator and not part of the verb form.) See Nonfinite Infinitives and Splitting a Verb or Infinitive.

 

 

 

 

Restating Imperatives

Adjusting imperatives to indirect speech

 

 

 

Using should vs a subjunctive verb

THAT — SHOULD + VERB

The verb in the main clause is mostly say or tell and the verb in the subordinate clause is a modal such as should, ought or verb such as need. Because the clause includes a subject, it expresses the order or the advice in a more direct, personal way.

MAIN CLAUSE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

(Remove punctuation.)

The doctor said,

 

"Get some rest."

(1) subordinate marker

that (you) get some rest

(2) word order [S-V]

(3) person & number

    change to this
that I get some rest

(4) verb form  "should"

           change to this
that I should get some rest

(5) time / place

The doctor said

The doctor told me…

that I should get some rest.

THAT — SUBJUNCTIVE VERB

The verb in the main clause is verb with an imperative meaning ("command verb") and the verb in the subordinate clause is plain form (base form). Adjustments in time, person, place, and direction relate the clause to the speaker's perspective.         

MAIN CLAUSE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE

 

The doctor advised,

 

"Come to my office today."

(1) subordinate marker

that (he) come to my office today

(2) word order [S-V]

 

(3) person & number

      change to this
that he come to his office today

(4) subjunctive verb form

             change to this
that he come to his office today

(5) time / place

that he go to his office that same day

The doctor advised

that he go to his office that same day.

 

¹subordinate marker – that

Unlike say, tell requires an indirect object.)

Subjunctive Some languages have special verb forms called subjunctive, which are used especially to talk about unreal situations; things which are possible, desirable or imaginary. Older English had subjunctives, but in modern English they have mostly been replaced by uses of should, would and other modal verbs, by uses of past tenses, and by ordinary verb forms.

"English only has a few subjunctive forms left: third-person singular present verbs with out -s (e.g. she see, he have) and special forms of be (e.g. I be, he were). Except for I/he/she/it were after if, they are not very common." (Swan 567)

 

 

 

 

 

Subjunctive Verb Form

Expressing what should happen

 

 

 

That + Clause with plain form verb

SINGULAR

The plain form verb (simple, base form) is used in the clause after that (a subordinator) for first, second and third person singular.

1ST PERSON

The doctor said that I should be careful.

The doctor advised that I be careful.

The doctor advised that I not be careless.

The doctor advised that I get¹ some rest.

The doctor advised that I not get² too tired.

2ND PERSON

The doctor said that you should be careful.

The doctor advised that you be careful.

The doctor advised that you not be careless.

The doctor advised that you get some rest.

The doctor advised that you not get too tired.

3RD PERSON

The doctor said that she/he should be careful.

The doctor advised that she/he be careful.

The doctor advised that she/he not be careless.

The doctor advised that she/he get some rest.

The doctor advised that she/he not get too tired.

PLURAL

The plain form verb (simple, base form) is used in the clause after that (a subordinator) for first, second and third person plural.

1ST PERSON

The doctor said that we should be careful.

The doctor advised that we be careful.

The doctor advised that we not be careless.

The doctor advised that we get some rest.

The doctor advised that we not get too tired.

2ND PERSON

The doctor said that you (all) should be careful.

The doctor advised that you (all) be careful.

The doctor advised that you (all) not be careless.

The doctor advised that you (all) get some rest.

The doctor advised that you (all) not get too tired.

3RD PERSON

The doctor said that they should be careful.

The doctor advised that they be careful.

The doctor advised that they not be careless.

The doctor advised that they get some rest.

The doctor advised that they not get too tired.

 

¹get — obtain; arrange for; manage to do  (Get Passives – Arrange to Complete)

²get — allow oneself to become  (Get Passives – Become)

 

 

 

 

 

Command Verbs (imperative verbs)

Expressing will (volition) for something to happen

 

 

Verbs with Imperative Meaning

advise  We advised that he leave.

ask  We ask that they give us a chance.

beg   He begged that they leave him alone.

command   He commanded that they go.

demand   We demanded that he stand up.

desire   He desires that he succeed..

forbid   She forbid that he stay out late.

insist   I insisted that he come early.

order    You ordered that he clean it up.

propose    We proposed that they come too.

request   We request that you work there.

require   We require that he complete it.

suggest   We suggest that he prepare well.

urge   We urged that the Red Cross proceed.

 

recommend    We recommend that he stop.

wish    I wish that he be set free.

The above verbs are complemented by that + a clause with a subjunctive verb.

Also see infinitives used after these verbs:  "Order" + Obj + Infin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negation in Imperatives

Negating the command vs. the advice

 

 

Negative Command vs. Negative Advice

 

A command or wish followed by a negative clause expresses "Don't do X." The meaning is clear. The negative may be placed before or after the subordinator to and the infinitive (plain form verb).  See Nonfinite Infinitives regarding current analysis.

MAIN CLAUSE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE
COMMAIND NEGATIVE IMPERATIVE

The doctor said

not to smoke

to¹ not smoke.

The doctor advised

that I not smoke.

 

A negative command or wish followed by a clause expresses "He didn't say to do X."  A negative in both the main and the subordinate clause could be understood as "There is no prohibition to do X".

MAIN CLAUSE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE
NEGATIVE COMMAND POSITIVE IMPERATIVE

The doctor did not say

(He gave no advice.)

to smoke.    (No advice.)

to not smoke.  (Maybe I can.)

The doctor did not advise

that I smoke.  (No advice.)

that I not smoke. (Maybe I can.)

 

¹An infinitive is currently analyzed as to (the subordinator) + plain form verb. Placing not before the verb is more emphatic. The grammar rule regarding not splitting infinitives has little or no support among current grammarians. (There is nothing to split since to is the infinitival subordinator and not part of the verb form.) See Nonfinite Infinitives and Splitting a Verb or Infinitive.

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

*Jack shouted to let's go.

 

 

~The counselor recommended that he goes to a community college.

SOLUTION

Jack shouted, "Let's go!" (Let us go.)

Jack shouted at us to go / to get going. informal 

Jack shouted that we should go.

The counselor recommended that he go to a community college.

 

*not used /  ~used by some speakers and not others (less formal)

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes (Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Description

 

 

Traditional, ESL and Linguistic Description

TRADITIONAL & OTHER DESCRIPTIONS

Reported speech [with imperatives] (Azar 12-7)

  • "I should watch TV." 
  • She said that she should/ ought to watch TV.

 

A subjunctive verb uses the simple form of a verb. it does not have present, past, or future forms; it is neither singlular nor plural.

Sentences with subjunctive verbs generally stress importance or urgency. A subjunctive verb is used in that-clauses that follow verbs and expressions:

advise, ask, demend, insist, propose, recommend, request, suggest

It is… critical, essential, imperative, important, necessary, vital

(Azar 450)

 

subjunctive (Adj) – expressing a condition that is uncertain or contrary to fact (e.g., if I were you), including doubt, wishfulness, possibility, demand, and the like (e.g., the crowd demanded that she be heard).  — Garner  918

 

Practical English Usage (Swan 567)

567 Subjunctive Some languages have special verb forms called subjunctive, which are used especially to talk about unreal situations; things which are possible, desirable or imaginary. Older English had subjunctives, but in modern English they have mostly been replaced by uses of should, would and other modal verbs, by uses of past tenses, and by ordinary verb forms.

English only has a few subjunctive forms left: third-person singular present verbs with out -s (e.g. she see, he have) and special forms of be (e.g. I be, he were). Except for I/he/she/it were after if, they are not very common. 

 

 

LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

[There is] No subordinate imperative construction  (Huddleston 10 §9.8)

"Imperatives normally occur as main clauses: there is no grammatically distinct construction that can properly be regarded as the subordinate counterpart of a main clause imperative…"

Reporting directives:

  • Leave her alone [imperative]
  • He ordered/ told / asked / advised him to leave her alone. [infinitival]
  • He asked that I leave her alone. [mandative subjunctive]

 

Subjunctive is restricted to the following clause content:

mandative –  occurs in construction with:

various verbs

  • We insist that she be kept informed.
  • We insisted that they be kept informed. [not backshifted for tense]

 

various adjectives:  It is… advisable, appropriate, crucial, desirable, essential, fitting, imperative, important, necessary, obligatory, preferable, proper, urgent, required, vital, etc.

  • It is essential that he stay here. [subjunctive]
  • It is essential that he stays here. [declarative]

 

various nouns: advide, agreement, arrangement, decision, intention, motion, preference, proposal, recommendation, requirement, suggestion, etc.

The requirement that he be here by Tuesday is non-negotiable.

various prepositions: if, in case, on condition, unless, provided, for fear, lest, in order, so, etc.

  • Adversatives: Keep a straight face lest anyone (should) discover your intentions.
  • Conditionals: We gave him the car keys on condition that he not accept any passengers.
  • Purposives: Every bit of caution was taken so that no one  should enter without being searched.

       (Huddleston 11 §7.1.2)

Exhaustive conditional adjuncts.

We will have to face the challenge whether it be here in our country or abroad.

(Huddleston 11 §7.1.3)

 

Word Categories: N – Noun; V – Verb; Aux – Auxiliary; Adj – Adjective; Adv – Adverb; P –Preposition; Det –Determiner.

Phrasal Categories: NP – Noun Phrase; VP – Verb Phrase; AdjP – Adjective Phrase; AdvP – Adverb Phrase; PP – Prepositional Phrase; DP – Determinative Phrase.

Clausal Categories: Cls – clause; F – finite clause; NF – nonfinite clause (Ger – gerund; Inf – infinitive; PPart – past participle).

Word Functions: Subj – subject; Pred – predicate/predicator; Compcomplement: elements required by an expression to complete its meaning (DO – direct object; IO – indirect object);  Adjunctadjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning (Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator); Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added onto a clause that is not closely related to the central thought or structure of the main clause.

 

 

Works Cited

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer, and Stacy A. Hagen. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 4th ed., Pearson Education, 2009.
  • Garner's Modern American Usage, Bryan A. Garner, 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2009.
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge UP, 2002.
  • Quirk, Randolph and Sidney Greenbaum. A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. 7th ed., Longman Group, 1989.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 3rd ed., Oxford UP, 2005.

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Brothers

Brothers Going to school
 

 

Quoted Speech

Jack shouted "Get your backpack and lunch!"

Jack said "Don't make me late again."

Jack said to his brother, "Hurry up!"

His brother said, "Leave me alone!" 

"OK then", Jack said, "Walk alone!"

Jack's mother said, "Be kind to your brother."

Jack whispered to his brother, "Please be ready on time every morning."

Jack's brother said, "Warn me ten minutes before you leave."

Jack said, "Set your alarm before you go to bed."  

"I will!" Jack said, "Don't forget your head!"

 

 

 

Change the quoted speech to reported speech in the form of infinitive clauses.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 1-10" button.

 

1.
 

2.
late again.

3.
.

4.
.

5.
.

6.
.

7.
on time every morning."

8.
ten minutes before he left.

9.
before he went to bed.  

10.
two clocks if necessary.

11.
.

12.
his head.

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Recommendations and Orders

oil spill  clean up
 

 

Select the verb form that complements the verb in the main clause. 

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 13-22" button.

 

13.
The President told the oil company, "Stop the oil spill."

14.
The Environmental Protection agency issued a requirement to BP Oil Company: "Improve equipment inspections.


inspection (N) – a careful look for safety standards

15.
The fishermen told the oil-cleaning crew, "Protect our fishing grounds (areas)."

crew (N) – group of workers or athletes

16.
The fishermen said, "We hope that the oil will stay far offshore."

17.
Scientists proposed to the group of fire fighters, "Try explosives to close the oil well."

18.
The oil company says, "Be patient".

19.
The company has told us, "We understand your frustration."

20.
A crowd shouted, "No more offshore oil drilling!"

21.
Scientists say, "This is a huge disaster."

22.
The government announced, "The oil company is responsible for the clean-up costs."

 

 

Also see Command Verbs w/Infinitives.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

Treating Hay Fever

hay fever
 

 

Read 

The best treatment for hay fever is to avoid the thing you are allergic to. If it is pollen, use an air conditioner to keep it out of your house. For dust mites, put dust-proof covers on your mattress and pillows. If you are allergic to pets, keep your furry friends out of the bedroom.

Wear wrap-around sunglasses when you go out to protect your eyes from pollen. Use cool compresses on your eyes. These are just a few things you can do to treat allergies.

You can also try antihistamines, decongestants, nasal sprays, and eye drops.

Allergy shots or immunotherapy gradually help your body get used to your allergy triggers. They are usually recommended for people who have symptoms more than three months each year. They can help lower your need for medication to control your symptoms.

allergen (N) – the source or cause of an allergy, such as pollen, dust, cat hair, etc.

allergy (N) – a condition in which someone reacts to something such as dust, food, mold, pollen, or cat hair.  The reaction may be itchy eyes, runny nose, wheezing, skin

antihistamines (N) – medicine that reduces allergic reaction

avoid (V) – keep away from

compress (N) – a cold cloth that is placed on red, itchy, or swollen eyes

dust mites (N) very small (microscopic) insects found in bedrooms. Allergens from mites cause asthmas and other nighttime allergies

dust-proof (Adj) – dust cannot go through or get into (the pillow

eye drops (N) medicine that is put into eye

furry (Adj) – having fur ("hair" of a dog or cat)

hay fever (N) – being allergic to the pollen of common plants and grasses

immunotherapy (N) – a treatment that works with the body's natural defense system, way of fighting illness

nasal spray (N) – medicine that is released into the nose directly

symptoms (N) – the signs or ways that a body shows illness (runny nose, sneezing, fever, etc.)

treat (V) – care for, cure, reduce illness or pain

treatment (N) – the care that is given to help someone get better (improve health) or feel less pain

trigger (N) – something that sets off, starts an allergy.

 

WebMD.com Allergies

 

 

 

 

Edit for Errors

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 23-30" button.

 

23.
The doctor told my sister avoid allergens.


24.
He recommended that she used an air conditioner to keep pollen out of the house.


25.
He advised her that she uses special pillow and mattress covers.


26.
He also told her she is not getting a cat.


27.
He suggested her wear wrap-around glasses outside.


28.
The doctor recommended her to use eye drops.


29.
The doctor urged that she tried some antihistamine tablets as well.


30.
If necessary, he told her come back for some allergy shots.