April 20, 2012

Imperative Mood

The imperative mood is a verb mood used to express imperatives (commands). It can also express suggestions or exhortations – i.e., milder commands. It is important to note that “commands” are not harsh, direct, or rude demands necessarily, but can also represent mild wishes or gentle requests or suggestions, etc.

In this article, other forms of commands will be discussed too. The imperative mood is only one way to express commands. There are at least 3 common ways to express imperatives in Hindi:

1) The imperative mood

2) The infinitive

3) The subjunctive mood

The imperative mood is a particular verb form. It has three major subcategories, which generally correspond the the three forms of the second person personal pronoun (“you” in English, तू, तुम, आप in Hindi).

The Intimate Imperative

The intimate imperative is formed by removing the –ना suffix from the infinitive form of the verb, namely, it has the same form as the verb stem.

इधर आ जा – “Come here” – the compound verb आ जाना has the intimate imperative form आ जा, which might be used, for instance, to summon a small child.

This correspond to तू, and is highly intimate. It is often used to address small children, or among close friends. This verb form can also be used to express insult or anger, so it should generally be avoided by non-native speakers, since they may fail to discern the appropriate contexts in which to use it, and thus risk appearing rude to native speakers.

The Familiar Imperative

This is perhaps the most common form of verbs in the imperative mood. It is formed by appending the vowel to the verb stem.

खाना खाओ – Eat (some) food

खाना खा लो – Eat (some) food

इधर आओ – Come here

This form corresponds to तुम. It is therefore used among friends and peers, etc. It would not be appropriate to use this form with elders or superiors.

The Formal Imperative

The formal imperative corresponds to आप. Therefore, it is used to indicate respect or deference, to address elders or superiors, etc. It is formed by appending the suffix इए / इये to the verb stem.

फिर से बोलिए – Say it again

इधर आइये – Come here

It is important to remember that, although the various imperative forms and pronouns do correspond to different degrees of formality, they do not inherently express kindness or rudeness, just as in other languages. Politeness is a pragmatic feature of language that is broader than mere verb moods or pronoun forms.

The Deferential Imperative

There is additionally a highly formal imperative, the deferential imperative. It is formed by suffixing इएगा / इयेगा to the verb stem (i.e., by suffixing गा to the formal imperative).

बैथियेगा – Please sit down

This form is rare and highly formal.

Other Means of Expressing Imperatives

The infinitive and subjunctive verbs can also be used to express imperatives.

The Infinitive

The infinitive can be used to express a neutral imperative – an imperative that is neutral with respect to the relative status of the speaker versus the addressee. This sort of imperative can be used with people whom one would address as either तुम or आप. It often indicates a deferred command – one that is not expected to be executed immediately.

वहां जाना और उससे बात करना – Go there, and talk to him

It is not inflected for gender.

The Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood can be used for commands too. Such commands are polite and deferential – almost akin to suggestions. Thus the subject is generally understood to be आप, and such verbs are generally plural.

जब आप भारत पहुँचते हैं, तब हमको e-mail भेज दें – When you reach India, please send us an e-mail.

Negation of Imperatives

The negative particles used with imperatives are generally ना and मत.

मत is generally stronger than ना. It is therefore more frequently used with familiar or intimate imperatives. मत may be used with neutral imperatives to express emphatic negation or warning, etc.

बहार ना जाइये – Please don’t go outside.

यह खाना मत खाइएख़राब हो गया है – Don’t eat this food – it has spoiled

अन्दर ना जाना – Don’t go inside

ऐसे मत करो – Don’t do that (literally, “don’t do like that”)

Saying “Please”

There is no word in common usage which corresponds to “please” in English. Formal imperatives do not necessarily imply “please” either. Regardless, Hindi speakers have many means at their disposal to express politeness.

Just as in any language, the tone of voice, context, and personal relationships affect politeness.

There are several means of explicit politeness also:

The negative particle ना, when it follows an imperative, conveys the sense of “please”.

सामान अन्दर ले लो ना – Take the things inside, please; literally, “take the things in, no?” or “take the thing inside, won’t you?”

This idiom is therefore similar to the English idiom which ends polite imperatives with a negative question.

In very formal contexts, the adverb कृपया (“kindly”) is used. This is often present on public signs, etc.

कृपया घास पर ना चलिए – “Please do not walk on the grass”

The adverb ज़रा (“just, a little”) is used to make a command more mild.


The subject of any imperative is always a second person personal pronoun. Just as in English, this pronoun is usually not expressed explicitly, since it is always implicit in any command, but can be expressed explicitly for emphasis.

Indirect Commands

There are of course, many other ways to express commands. For instance, the adjective मना (“prohibited”) may be used to express prohibitions:

यहाँ थूकना मना है – “Spitting here is prohibited”