the Later Latin Society

a Brief Guide to
the Imperative in Latin

The Imperative is the mood of the will. It wills that the predicate be made a reality. The tone of the Imperative varies from stern command to piteous entreaty. It may appear as a demand, an order, an exhortation, a permission, a concession, a prayer.

  The Imperative has two forms, known as the First and the Second Imperative (also, but less accurately, as the Present and Future Imperative). The First Imperative has only the Second Person; the Second Imperative has both Second and Third Persons. The First Person is represented by the Subjunctive.

  Some verbs have only the second form. This may be due to the signification: so scito, know thou; memento, remember thou; and habeto, in the sense of know, remember.

  The First Imperative looks forward to immediate fulfilment (Absolute Imperative):
  Special: Patent portae; profiscere, C., Cat., I. 5, 10, Open the gates; depart.
  General: Justitiam cole et pietatem, C., Rep., VI. 16, 16, Cultivate justice and piety.

  The Second Imperative looks forward to contingent fulfilment (Relative Imperative), and is chiefly used in laws, legal documents, maxims, recipes, and the like; likewise in familiar language.

from Gildersleeve's Latin Grammar (3rd ed.) by B.L. Gildersleeve and Gonzalez Lodge (London, 1930)

An Action Commanded is put in the Imperative, as abî go-away; abîtô let-him-go-away.
  The heavier forms of the Imperative, i.e. those containing -, as amâtô (Sing.), amâtôte(Plur.), give an order less bluntly than the shorter forms, but with more authority. They are often used in relation to the future, and are called by some Future Imperatives.

  Commands and Requests
  In positive Requests besides (1) the Imperative and (2) the Subjunctive of Desire, Latin writers also use forms which are properly Statements, viz. (3) the Future Indicative, which puts the Request as something which will happen, and is thus a strong Command, as hôc faciês you will do this; and (4) the Sunjunctive of Imagination which puts it as a recommendation only. Sometimes also (5) the Request is put as a Question: quîn îs why don't you go? Lastly (6) certain Periphrases are used, as fâc veniâs be sure and come.

from The New Latin Primer (rev. ed.) by J.P. Postgate with C.A. Vince (London, 1916)


factus est Informale