Hello! I'm Elizabeth O'Brien, and my goal is to get you jazzed about grammar.
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!)
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?
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.
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!
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. Whew!
P.S. If you're wondering how to diagram that sentence, here's Bob Ross showing us how it's done.
Thanks for your help, Bob! I knew you were a painter, but I didn't know you also diagrammed sentences.
Like many, I adore your program. I have a BA in English, an MA in Psychology, and am a certified TEFL instructor. Yet NONE of those marvelous programs taught me grammar! Thank you, Elizabeth. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. (You're a rock star!) My students, by the way, also adore your program!
- Michelle, ESL Teacher
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Like many, I adore your program. I have a BA in English, an MA in Psychology, and am a certified TEFL instructor. Yet NONE of those marvelous programs taught me grammar!
Thank you, Elizabeth. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. (You're a rock star!)
My students, by the way, also adore your program!
- Michelle, Adult ESL Teacher
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