Imperative Sentences or 
Declarative Sentences?

Today, I'm answering a question about imperative sentences (commands) and declarative sentences (statements) sent by Trish, a 6th grade teacher who is including grammar instruction in her lessons. (Yay, Trish!)

Elizabeth,

I am new to teaching 6th grade grammar, and my students and I are confused about commands.

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

Example:
Bob, walk the dog.

Thanks for your assistance.

- Trish, 6th Grade Teacher

A quick review of
the stuff you need to know


1. Declarative sentences make statements

  • Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Imperative sentences give commands.

  • Walk the dog.

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

  • Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

  • Jerry, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finding the 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 the two example 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.

I realize that this sounds kind of funny, but when you think about it, it makes sense. 

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.

It is a coincidence that in these cases the noun of direct address and the subject (you) are referring to the same person. However, that does not mean that you can use them interchangeably as subjects.

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!

Best,

Elizabeth


Does that seem strange to you?

Does it still seem like nouns of direct address should be subjects? If so, here is something helpful to consider. 

Check out these declarative sentences that begin with nouns of direct address. 

Tom, the fall is a beautiful time of year.

Jerry, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yikes! If we treated nouns of direct address as subjects, we wouldn't know if the subjects were Tom and Jerry or fall and water

Luckily, we don't have to worry about this because nouns of direct address are never subjects. 

If you want to teach or learn grammar the easy way, then follow a step-by-step program that clearly lays everything out for you and allows you to move at your own pace. The Get Smart program is presented in a logical sequence, so it's not an overwhelming mishmash of information. Before you know it, you'll be a grammar and sentence diagramming pro!

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Keep learning and have fun!

Elizabeth O'Brien is the creator of the Grammar Revolution step-by-step grammar and sentence diagramming programs. Her programs are guaranteed not only to teach you grammar, but also to give you more confidence in your communication skills.

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