Commands order one or more people to do or not to do something.
Their subject is “you,” whether or not it is included. This is referred to as the “understood you.”
Because the English “you” can be either singular or plural, whether speaking to one person or more than one depends upon the context. When spoken, it is often accompanied by a gesture. When written, it relies on the words before and/or after.
Depending on the level of the command, it may be accompanied by “Please.” (We try to teach our children to use the word.)
Punctuation also indicates the degree of severity. When the command is accompanied by a dialogue tag, a comma separating the two shows the least intensity. A period indicates stronger, followed by an exclamation mark as the most authoritative.
They may be written as direct or indirect. Direct commands are surrounded by quotation marks.
Examples with each punctuation:
- “Come in,” Mother called. “It’s supper time.”
- (calling the first time)
- “Come in.” Mother called. “It’s supper time.”
- (calling the third time, holding the door open)
- “Come in!” Mother called. “It’s supper time!”
- (calling the fifth time, hands on hips, walking toward the children)
Indirect commands are included in the sentence without separation, so no quotation marks. In this case, the intensity is indicated by the context.
Examples of indirect commands:
- She called the children to come in for supper.
- Holding the door open, she shouted at the children to come in for supper.
- Hands on hips, walking toward the children, she demanded that the children come in.
Negative commands usually begin with “don’t” or “do not,” but they may begin with other negative words.
“Don’t,” as less formal, would indicate less strength.
Examples with “don’t”:
- “Don’t forget your homework.”
- “Don’t wear that shirt.”
Examples with “do not”:
- “Do not drop that basket of eggs!”
- “Do not hit your brother!”
Examples with other negatives:
- Never run with scissors.
- Never touch a hot stove.
- No one eats before I do.
- Nobody move!
They may also appear to be requests, but the authority of the speaker makes them a command. These are usually punctuated with a period (unless a drill sergeant in the face of a new recruit).
- (General to captain) “I would like you to line up the troops in formation.”
- (Father standing over son) “It would be nice if you would eat your vegetables.”
- (Coach to player) “We really need a home run.”
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