Module 21 - Orders


There are a number of ways in which one can issue an order in Latin. An order commands someone to do something.

Imperative Mood

The imperative is the third of three moods in Latin. We’ve had extensive practice with the primary two: the indicative mood, which is used for factual situations; and the subjunctive mood, which is used for non-factual situations (doubt, possibility, wish, etc.).

This third mood, the imperative mood, exists mostly in the 2nd person and issues an order from the speaker to the addressee. For example:

The verbal action is a command being issued to the listener. The singular imperative commands a single person to do something; the plural imperative commands a group of people to do something.

To form the imperative of 1st, 2nd, and 4th conjugation verbs:

To form the imperative of 3rd and 3rd -iō conjugation verbs:

Take a look at the following examples.

Irregular Imperatives

There are four verbs that have irregularly-formed singular imperatives:

Their plurals follow normal third and third -iō conjugation patterns, except for ferre:

The imperative of the verb eō, īre, iī/īvī, ītus (“to go”) is formed as follows:

Negative Imperatives

To form a negative imperative, we use the imperative forms of nōlō, nōlle, nōluī with a complementary infinitive. The singular imperative of nōlō is nōlī; the plural imperative of nōlō is nōlīte.

Negative Prohibition

Another way to express a negative command in the 2nd or 3rd person is to use a perfect subjunctive in an independent clause introduced by .

It is more common, however, to use a negative imperative to express a negative command.

Practice Opportunity 1

Translate the following sentences.

  1. illōs lībrōs ad mē ferte!

  2. cum patientiā rege! (patientia, -ae, f. - “patience”)

  3. nolī eōs aspicere!

  4. meam vocem audī! (vox, vocis, f. - “voice”)

  5. haec nē dīxerīs!

Jussive Subjunctive

The jussive subjunctive is an independent use of the subjunctive (meaning it stands on its own in a clause and does not rely on a main clause) that expresses a command in the third person. Note the difference between the jussive subjunctive and the imperative: the latter gives an order directly to a listener (second person), while the jussive subjunctive gives an order to a third person entity (a “he,” “she,” “it,” or “they”).

Take a look at the following examples:

Jussives are negated with :

Hortatory Subjunctive

The hortatory subjunctive is an independent use of the subjunctive that expresses a command in the first person. Note the difference between the hortatory subjunctive and the jussive: the latter gives an order to a third person entity, while the hortatory subjunctive gives an order to a first person entity, often in the plural (“we” or “us”). For this reason, a nickname for the hortatory subjunctive is the “salad subjunctive” (“let us…” = “lettuce”).

Like the jussive, the hortatory is negated with :

Practice Opportunity 2

Identify whether the sentence contains a jussive or a hortatory subjunctive, and then translate.

  1. ad nōs veniat.

  2. hortēmur mīlitēs nostrōs.

  3. ā cīvibus omnibus videāmur.

  4. pulchra carmina canant.

Indirect Command

All the methods of forming orders above (imperative, negative imperative, negative prohibition, jussive, hortatory) are indepedendent clauses and express a command directly to the person being ordered, whether 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person.

To express a command indirectly, or to filter it through a head verb of ordering (e.g., “He orders that…”, “She commands that…”), we use a complex sentence structure called an indirect command. An indirect command utilizes:

  1. a main verb of commanding, requesting, encouraging, advising, etc. (e.g., imperō, hortor, moneō, rogō),
  2. the conjunction ut for a positive command or for a negative command,
  3. and a clause with a subjunctive verb that follows the sequence of tenses.

Indirect commands often attract the person being commanded into the main clause as the object of the main verb. In such cases, we can translate the person commanded as the object of the main verb and the substance of the command as an infinitive. Take a look at the following examples:

Note that it is easy to mix up indirect commands with purpose clauses because of the conjunctions used (ut, ). The key differences are in the action of the main verb and the question answered by the clause. If the main verb expresses some sort of command or request, it is likely to introduce an indirect command. Moreover, if the clause answers the question “why”, it is probably a purpose clause; if it answers the question “what was commanded or requested?” it is probably an indirect command. Take a look at the following comparison:

The first sentence contains an indirect command because the main verb indicates an action of commanding and the clause expresses the substance of that command (that he listen to the song). The second sentence, on the other hand, contains a purpose clause because the ut clause answers the question “why” or “for what purpose” did he come (in order to listen to the song). Here are some more comparisons:

Practice Opportunity 3

Translate the following indirect commands.

  1. pater mē monēbat ut discederem.

  2. dux eīs imperat nē ab hostibus currant.

  3. magister discipulōs hortātus est ut cautē legerent. (cautē (adv.) - “carefully”)

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