June 25, 2014 at 2:12 pm #387
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: jij / jullie (informal) or u (formal). In an imperative the finite verb always occupies first position:
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:
imperative corresponding declarative Ga zitten.
Jij gaat zitten.
You sit down.
Steek de weg over.
Cross the road.
Je steekt de weg over.
You cross the road.
Neem de eerste straat rechts.
Take the first street on your right.
Je neemt de eerste straat rechts.
You take the first street on your right.
Note that the actual subject of these informal imperatives, jij/jullie, 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:
imperative corresponding declarative Gaat u zitten.
U gaat zitten.
You sit down.
Doet u uw jas uit.
Take off your coat.
U doet uw jas uit.
You take off your coat.
Note that the word order of the formal imperative is identical to the word order in a yes/no question.
Non-imperative sentences with imperative force
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.
Infinitive as 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.
Declaratives with imperative force
Commands can also be issued by using a verb which means ‘to command’ or ‘to order’. These types of commands are declarative in structure.
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’:
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.
Interrogative with imperative force
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:
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.
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