The imperative mood is used for commands. In modern English, the infinitive form of the verb is used to give commands. So, 'Go to bed!', 'Save the whales', 'Eat your dinner'. It is the same as the second person present form of the verb, but without the pronoun 'you' as 'you go to bed' or 'you save the whales' woud be statements of fact and thus in the indicative mood.
In Old English, imperatives are inflected for number only. This means there is no past tense and there is one form for commands to individuals and another form for commands to groups. The singular form is usually the root of the verb (the infinitive without the -an ending), and the plural is usually identical to the present plural form of the verb. For example, ''Hier his word! - Listen to his words' and 'Fliemaþ þa wicingas! - Expell the Vikings!. The first example is commanding a single person and the second commanding a group.
Some singular imperatives have slightly different forms to the stem of the verb. For example, the singular imperative of 'lufian - to love' is 'lufa', the singular imperative of 'habban - to have' is 'hafa', and the singular imperative of 'don - to do' is 'do'. However, they are all short forms of the verb and will be easy to recognise from the verb conjugations you already know. Look at the table below to see the imperative form of several common verbs.
|Indicative 1st Person Singular||Ic drince|
|Indicative 2nd Person Singular||Þu drincst|
|Indicative 3rd Person Singular||He/Hit/Heo drincþ|
|Indicative Plural||We/Ge/Hie drincaþ|
|Indicative 1st Person Singular||Ic helpe|
|Indicative 2nd Person Singular||Þu hilpst|
|Indicative 3rd Person Singular||He/Hit/Heo hilpþ|
|Indicative Plural||We/Ge/Hie helpaþ|
|Indicative 1st Person Singular||Ic lufie|
|Indicative 2nd Person Singular||Þu lufast|
|Indicative 3rd Person Singular||He/Hit/Heo lufaþ|
|Indicative Plural||We/Ge/Hie lufiaþ|
|Indicative 1st Person Singular||Ic hæbbe|
|Indicative 2nd Person Singular||Þu hæfst|
|Indicative 3rd Person Singular||He/Hit/Heo hæfþ|
|Indicative Plural||We/Ge/Hie habbaþ|
|Indicative 1st Person Singular||Ic do|
|Indicative 2nd Person Singular||Þu dest|
|Indicative 3rd Person Singular||He/Hit/Heo deþ|
|Indicative Plural||We/Ge/Hie doþ|
Don't forget, the plural imperative is usually identical to the present indicative plural form of the verb. So while most verbs lose the -an ending of the infinitive and take the -aþ ending of the plural, irregular verbs like 'don' become 'doþ', 'gan' becomes 'gaþ' and 'beon' becomes 'beoþ'.
Two final things to remember with imperative verbs is that they are almost always at the start of a sentence or clause (as the subject is implied but not stated), and they almost always appear in texts as direct recorded speech.
You can practice imperatives below.Return to Introduction to Mood Continue to Subjunctive Mood