Table of Contents
- What Is the Command Form?
- Expressing Strong Commands
- Using the Command in Casual Conversation
- The Command for Motivation
What Is the Command Form?
The command form expresses commands, orders, and demands. Compared to the polite imperative form Verb なさい, the command comes off as much more abrupt, strong, or demanding.
The examples above each come from a different verb conjugation group, so the way they are conjugated into the command form is different. To review how to do these conjugations, look at our page on conjugating into the command form. This page will focus more on putting this form to use.
While it is often translated into "do…", this form of speech is only used in certain situations because of the strong tone it creates. For example, imagine a situation where a robber broke into a bank. A robber isn't going to be concerned with their tone, so it would be natural for them to say:
- This is a robbery! Put your hands in the air!
While this is not a situation people commonly experience, there are plenty of situations where the command form serves an important role in real life communication. Let's examine a few of them.
Expressing Strong Commands
Since it expresses a strong command, the command form is more commonly used in situations where the speaker is in a higher social standing than the listeners. For example, imagine you are a teacher and notice a student looking out the window during class. You can tell that student:
- Look straight at the blackboard!
Because teachers are in a higher social standing than students, they can get away with using authoritative language to their students.
In addition, it is fairly acceptable to use it when there is an immediate need of avoiding danger, such as a bear chasing after you.
- A bear! Run away!
In an emergency situation like this, it's totally appropriate to use strong language like this.
In addition, you can also command someone not to do something by adding な after a plain form verb.
- Don't worry about a jerk like that.
One common situation where this form of speech is used is when the speaker has authority or a supervisor role over the listener. For example, a girl might say this to make her younger brother stop crying.
- Don't cry! You're a boy, aren't you?
Wow sis, boys can cry too!
Using the Command in Casual Conversation
When using the command form in casual conversations, final particles such as よ are often attached to the verb to avoid sounding too abrupt. Imagine a situation where your friend is looking at you grinning for no reason, and it's making you uncomfortable. To put a stop to their weird behavior, you can say:
- Hey, stop grinning at me like that!
That was pretty strong, so hopefully they'll stop. But what if they don't? This time, you can put a different ending after the verb: 〜って or 〜ってば.
- I said "stop it!"
〜って and 〜ってば indicate that you are repeating the same command, which does a great job of expressing your frustration. Even still, this is less abrupt than やめろ all on its own.
Traditionally, the command form is often associated with masculine speech in conversation because of the assertive tone it carries. Despite this association, you'll find many examples of women using it in real life.
The Command for Motivation
Even though the command form tends to be associated with rudeness, it actually has a very positive use as well: it is commonly used to offer encouragement, such as cheering at a sports game.
Imagine you are a baseball coach. You can encourage the players you are training by saying:
- Believe in yourself!
- Give it all you've got!
In case you are not familiar with やれ, it is the conjugated form of やる (to do…). Compared to する, やる is less formal. Since やる is a godan verb, you have to change the last -う sound to -え, which creates やれ.
It's not only coaches that can use this form for encouragement. Let's say you're at a baseball game in Japan. Just like in any country, you would see people yelling at their favorite team to encourage them.
- Pick it up!
- Hit the ball!
Keep in mind, it could be potentially rude to use this form when you are talking to a player face-to-face. If you are in a close relationship with them though, it might be appropriate to use the command form to give encouragement. A common, very friendly way to give encouragement is:
- Hang in there!
Take a break! You've studied the command form enough for now. You should come back and study command form again later, but before you do that, take some time to learn about commanding people in a more polite way. Do it!