1. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9

    Are they all imperatives?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ohmyrichard, May 7, 2013.

    Hi,guys.
    I have been thinking about the following sentence structures for a very long time, but cannot figure out a satisfactory interpretation. I would like you, especially native speakers of English, to help me with them. My question is, Are they all imperatives?

    1. God bless America. (I often hear it at the end of President Barack Obama's speeches)
    2. Thank you.
    3. Woe betide you if you arrive late again.

    I am especially interested in "Thank you", as it comes in the form of an imperative just like "Answer my question." We can make the imperative "Answer my question." complete in form by adding the subject "You". However, it is against the common sense and also hilarious to restore the completeness of "Thank you." by saying "You thank you."

    So, are the above sentences imperatives or statements? Please explain your understanding(s) of these sentence structures in as much detail as possible. Thanks a lot.

    Richard
     
  2. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    I would say:
    "God Bless America" is imperative (it is asking God to bless the nation).
    "Thank You" is not imperative (it is not making a demand or request).
    "Woe betide you if you arrive late again" is not imperative (it is a threat, not a request).


    FWIW, The implied subject of "Thank You" is 'I' not 'You': " thank you". 'You' is the direct object of the sentence, and 'thank' is a transitive verb (It expects a direct object. One cannot simply thank, you have to thank something/someone) in that context.
     
  3. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9

    Your explanation is great! Thank you. Then what about "May God bless America."?
    Still, can we say that just like when we say "God bless America", in saying "Woe betide you if you arrive late again" we are also asking a third party to do something, either good or bad, to "you" and thus "Woe betide you if you arrive late again" is also an imperative?
     
  4. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    Thanks. "May God bless America" is not imperative, IMO. In the first example, the speaker is asking that God bless us: "God, bless America". In the second version, the speaker is making an uncertain statement that God might bless America. It's the difference between "Steve, give me some water" and "Maybe Steve will give me some water."
     
  5. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thanks, LordKyleOfEarth.
     
  6. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hi, guys.

    I find this "Thank you" really interesting. We all tend to think that it is the shortened form of the declarative"I thank you", but to my understanding, the restoration of "I thank you" is somewhat awkward. Unlike "I thanked him yesterday evening", how can we use this statement of "I thank you", which is stating a fact, to thank someone? Or, is "I thank you", like "I love you", a feeling conveyed in language? I find nothing wrong with "I love you" used this way, but I find "I thank you" if intended to be used this way quite difficult to understand. Why not instead say "I would like to thank you now" or "I am thanking you"? But the latter "I am thanking you" seems to imply that the person I am thanking is not listening to me and I am blaming him or her for their inattention. It is as if I am saying "Hey, I am thanking you. Why are you not steering your ears my way?"

    Besides, I think "thank" usually is not used in the simple present unless we are telling a fable, which tends to use this tense, saying , for example, "The rabbit thanks the fox and then leaves. " or writing a VOA English teaching program, which also often uses the simple tense to tell a fabricated story. Coming to this place of my reasoning, I think of the use of "love". Again to my understanding, which may be wrong as I am a nonnative who is unable to develop that feel you native speakers enjoy for the English language, "love" is conversely seldom used in the the present continuous tense unless you are kissing someone or having sex with that person. However, quite ironically, McDonald chants "I'm lovin' it".

    My reasoning may sound weird, but I do think about this issue this non-native way.
     
  7. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    None of these are true imperatives, as none of them are expressing commands. They are however volitional sentences, and

    1. God Bless You is not a command. By definition, in order for it to be a command, the person expressing it needs to have the ability to command the one that is being commanded, and a human cannot command a god. This sentence is expressing a wish or a desire. The problem is that English has so muddled voice and mood, that it is hard to pinpoint what it is. The Jussive mood barely exists in English anymore, but if I were translating it from Hebrew, it would be a volitional called a jussive. The word that expresses the jussive is hidden in the sentence, since it is known, but is short handed out. "May God bless you" is the full sentence, and "may" signifies the jussive. In Greek, it's a subjunctive (which equals the Jussive) or maybe even optative (though very doubtful here, as optative usually little possibility and subjunctive a much larger probability—and the mood we usually use to express a wish or desire or something not factual in English). With that said, since both Jussive and subjunctive are found in the bowels of the English language, I'd said it was either one of those.

    2. This is expressing a fact in the first person. Here, there is a hidden noun, I. I thank you. It is given the fact that I am thanking you, which is an indicative sentence. You can punctuate it with an exclamation, but that doesn't turn it into an imperative. "Let you be thanked!" is an imperative.

    3. This is a conditional sentence that is in the subjunctive mood. Again, there is a hidden word, which is "may." Betide is a compound of be and tide (as in the ocean tide, which designated a period of time passing), as a wish contrary to current fact is being expressed.

    Least, that's how I see it!
     
    1 person likes this.
  8. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Thank you for giving me a lot of needed information!
     
  9. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    Very well stated. Thank you! I had no idea about jussives (nor, does it appear, does my spell checker).
     
  10. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    hadta google it...

    super cool musical/video google today, fyi!
     
  11. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    @scrubb: I disagree, in part. If you look into "let/let's" you'll see what I mean.

    It's a short form of the Old English "May/Let God bless America" and it is imperative form, since here let/may=allow/permit, and it's being used as a kind of plea or suggestion. It is perfectly possible for humans to supplicate divine help, and the "may" is not a modal when used like this. We are not saying: "God might (or might not) bless America."
    "Thank you" is an abbreviation of the old form: "I thank you" which is present simple tense, not imperative form.
    "Woe betide you" is short for "Let/May woe betide you" which again is imperative form, but it's used here as a threat/warning. Again, "may" is being used as above.

    "Let's (let us) take that" is 2nd person imperative, and "Let him take that" is 3rd person imperative, btw.

    People sometimes think "imperative" means there must always be some sort of order or command implicit, but this isn't so. Really it's just the name for when we use the "raw" or base form of the verb (give, let, bless etc) and it's also used for suggestions, advice, permission, apology etc.
     
    1 person likes this.
  12. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    Also well put. I agree (and still stand by my initial break-down of the sentences) with your interpretations, and appreciate your explanations (which were very well worded). The English language is really tricky in that words can often be one class and then, in other rare cases, act totally differently. Given that, Scrubb is also correct that "God bless America" is not necessarily imperative, although I believe it is in this context.
     
  13. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    Alright, you caught me. In actuality, the Jussive is a type of the imperative. I didn't go that way because as you said, today the imperative is treated by people as a command, and I didn't want to confuse issues. So yes and no. It's a type of imperative that is more accurately described as a Jussive. (I prefer to say it's a volitional rather than an imperative, but from what I understand, that's not accurate for English). The other confusing thing, is that it really also falls in the subjunctive category, since it indicates wish or desire. Thus, the jussive within the imperative, and subjunctive have really merged in English.

    For "thank you," I take it you are answering the OP, since we said the same thing.

    For "woe betide you," actually, let/may is an indicator of the subjunctive sentence here, since it is a wish currently contrary to reality being expressed. The fact that it's in a conditional sentence also tips off the subjunctive (not all conditional sentences use the subjunctive). Thus, it is not an imperative, because it's relating to something that is not reality. Now, with all that said. . . it does incorporate an element of the imperative because in the expression of the wish in this sentence, it actually falls into the jussive subjunctive category. Therefore, while it does incorporate elements of the imperative mood (in that it is a Jussive), the larger sentence is a subjunctive and I would therefore call this a subjunctive, or jussive subjunctive sentence, not an imperative sentence.

    And that is why I said that they aren't "true imperatives," because they are identifiable more narrowly than the general "imperative" mood.

    The real problem here is the English language dropping all of its inflections. So many of the moods have merged that it's impossible to tell anymore. Some days, I really do wish we could go back to "Ye olde shoppe," rather than the modern "the old shop." BTW, here's a little trivia, does anyone know what the first letter in "Ye" is actually called, how it's pronounced, and why it disappeared from the English language?
     
  14. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    I learnt as a 13 yr old child on a visit to Canterbury that "Ye" as in "Ye olde cake shoppe" meant "the" and was actually always pronounced "the". It was simply that the "y" was used (wrongly, in fact) instead of a very similar shape known as a "thorn" which stood for "th" and was pronounced as in the "th-" of "the". The old guide who was showing our school trip around showed us other examples of lettering devices as well, like "f" for "s" = "houfe" = "house". I have never forgotten that trip!
     
  15. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
  16. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    Yep! When publishing houses really started pushing out material, it was thought that the y looked close enough to the thorne that they used it, which is where the confusing came in, and why eventually, the thorne dropped out of our alphabet. These little types of things absolutely fascinate me!
     
  17. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    I can't agree with you ever more on this point.
     
  18. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    I heard that it's one of the easiest to learn and hardest to master because of these types of issues.
     
  19. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    I don't know, we have words that are spelled identically, but which have drastically different meanings based on context:

    The dove dove out the window.
    We lead the lead industry.
    He cut the quick of his nail because he cut was working so quick.
     
  20. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    Or come to England, where we don't have that problem: "The dove dived out of the window" "We lead the leading industry" and "He cut the quick of his nail because he was working so quickly" ;)
     
  21. LordKyleOfEarth
    Offline

    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2009
    Messages:
    3,249
    Likes Received:
    80
    Location:
    San Antonio, TX. USA
    Wouldn't 'leading', as an industry, imply an industry that applies lead to objects, versus an industry that smelts and sells lead?
     
  22. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    same thing i was wondering...
     
  23. madhoca
    Offline

    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2008
    Messages:
    2,527
    Likes Received:
    88
    Location:
    the shadow of the velvet fortress
    It's written the same, but pronounced differently, just like lead (noun) and lead (verb) are written the same way but pronounced differently--and I've heard of a leading manufacturer/firm/company, but not an industry devoted to the stuff that fills pencils.
     
  24. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Language is an interesting thing, for not all there is in it is logical. However, fortunately, it is to our great relief that we can take a lot of things for granted without thinking about why they are the way they are. It is somewhat like when we know how to drive but not every one of us knows how a car engine works.
     
  25. ohmyrichard
    Offline

    ohmyrichard Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2008
    Messages:
    443
    Likes Received:
    9
    Hi,LordKyleOfEarth. Thanks for replying to my post. Would you please tell me what your "The dove dove out the window" actually means? Just now I went to an online dictionary, but still I am not sure of my understanding of its meaning.Does it simply mean that the dove flew out of the window with its head downward? Besides, it seems that this sentence is only said for fun and it is not used in real life for real communication. Is my understanding of its lack of any real life meaning right? Thanks.
     

Share This Page