The most common way of giving orders in Dutch is by using an imperative. By its nature (imperatives issue commands), it always addresses the second person, although a second-person pronoun (informal jij / jullie or formal u) is absent. In an imperative the finite verb always occupies first position:
Doe de deur dicht.
Close the door.
There are formal (u) and informal (jij/je) imperatives. There are also other types of sentences with imperative force. Imperatives are often softened (i.e. made more polite) by means of one or more modal particles.
Informal imperatives generally address someone you would normally address with jij or jullie . This kind of imperative simply consists of the stem of the verb:
Steek de weg over.
Cross the road.
Neem de eerste straat rechts.
Take the first street on your right.
Note that the actual subject of informal imperatives does not appear.
When giving someone an order who you would normally address formally (with u), you can often use the straightforward informal imperative, but it may need to be more polite. This is done by using a formal imperative: the conjugated form of the verb for the second person formal followed by u:
Gaat u zitten.
Doet u uw jas uit.
Take off your coat.
Note that the word order of the formal imperative is identical to the word order in a yes/no question.
Some sentences are not imperative in form, but have the pragmatic effect of an imperative, i.e. it is possible to give someone an order without using an actual imperative.
The infinitive is used as an imperative in general instructions, for example on public notices and in written instructions such as cookery books and manuals. The infinitive usually occurs towards the end of the sentence.
Voor gebruik goed schudden.
Shake well before use.
Een pan water aan de kook brengen.
Bring a pan of water to the boil.
Commands can also be issued by using a verb which means ‘to command’ or ‘to order’. These types of commands are declarative in structure.
Ik beveel jullie op de gang te gaan staan.
I order you to stand in the corridor (= to leave the classroom).
Wij gelasten u tot terugbetaling van de kosten.
We order you to pay back the costs.
A command like this addresses a person (or persons) directly with a second-person pronoun and uses a verb meaning ‘to command’. The subject is in the first person. In the examples above, the subjects are, respectively, ik (first person singular), and wij (first person plural).
It is also possible to issue a command by using a verb which means ‘to have to’:
Jullie moeten meer tijd aan je huiswerk beter besteden.
You have to spend more time on your homework.
U dient zich bij de balie te melden.
You are required to report at the counter.
Commands which contain a verb which means ‘to have to’, are accompanied by a subject in the second person. In the examples above, the subjects are, respectively, jullie and u.
Sometimes, sentences which are interrogative in structure are actually imperative in nature. Questions with the verbs kunnen and willen often have the effect of a command:
Kun je het raam dichtdoen?
Can you close the window?
Wilt u de kosten terugbetalen?
Do you want to (Could you) pay back the costs?
The examples above are questions in form, but the intended effect of the question is that someone carries out an action. Therefore, questions of this type are interpreted by the recipient as a command.