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August 30, 2016

August 30, 2016


Here in Minnesota, it's time for fairs! We recently had our county fair, and our state fair is happening right now. Alice's favorite things to do at fairs include going on every ride possible, eating anything with sugar, and watching the farm animals.

English Grammar Revolution
What is the subject of an imperative sentence that begins with a noun of direct address? Here's an example:

, read this.

That's the topic of today's Grammar Time article. Read it and see if you know the answer!

Happy Learning,

Elizabeth O'Brien

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Imperative Sentences or
Declarative Sentences?

Today, I'm answering a question sent by Trish, a teacher who is including grammar instruction in her lessons. (Yay, Trish!)


    I'm new to teaching 6th grade grammar, and my students and I are confused about imperative sentences.

    If a sentence is a command with a stated subject, is it then a declarative sentence?

    Bob, walk the dog.

    Thanks for your assistance.

    - Trish, 6th Grade Teacher

A Quick Review of the
Stuff You Need To Know

  • Declarative sentences make statements.

    Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Imperative sentences give commands.

    Walk the dog.

  • Subjects are nouns that tell us whom or what a sentence is about.

    Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Nouns of direct address are nouns that address the person or thing you are speaking to.

    , water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finding Subjects

It's pretty easy to find the subjects in these declarative sentences.

The fall is a beautiful time of year.

Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

It's a bit harder to find the subjects in commands. Can you find the subjects in these two sentences?

Walk the dog.

Wear a warm coat.

The subject in imperative sentences is implied, and every single imperative sentence has the same implied subject: you.

(you) Walk the dog.

(you) Wear a warm coat.

Because this you is implied - or understood - we call it understood you.

English Grammar Revolution

Whenever you give a command, you are addressing someone or something. How would you be able to give the command if you weren't addressing them?

Bob, walk the dog.

Let's get back to Trish's question. Trish is wondering about commands that begin with a noun of direct address.

Bob, walk the dog.

Cathy, wear a warm coat.

We call the words Bob and Cathy nouns of direct address because they are addressing the person whom we are speaking to.

In Trish's question, she refers to these nouns as "stated subjects" because Bob and Cathy seem to be the subjects. However, Bob and Cathy are not subjects.

Remember that the subject of all imperative sentences is (you). This remains true even when we begin an imperative sentence with a noun of direct address.

Bob, (you) walk the dog.

Cathy, (you) wear a warm coat.

Although Bob and (you) refer to the same person, they aren't interchangeable. Consider the issue of subject-verb agreement. Bob would take the singular verb walks. However, (you) takes the plural verb walk.

Dear Trish


That is an excellent question.

Commands will never have stated subjects. Their subjects are always understood you. When you begin a sentence naming the person you are addressing, that noun is called a noun of direct address. It is a noun, but it is not the subject.

These sentences, then, are still commands. They are not declarative sentences. Keep up the good work teaching grammar!


Would you like to learn more,? You'll find these pages helpful.

Are you an educator? Feel free to use this information with your students.

About Elizabeth

English Grammar Revolution

Elizabeth O'Brien is founder of, a company devoted to helping people learn and love grammar.

Through her website, books, and programs, Elizabeth shows people how to teach and learn grammar the easy way. She's on a mission to inspire and motivate people by making grammar fun and friendly.

If you liked today's issue, you'll love Elizabeth's grammar and sentence diagramming programs, which will help you learn or teach grammar through simple, step-by-step instructions and sentence diagrams.

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