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Imperatives (Commands)

Imperatives are, remarkably, one of the easiest things to form in English and in Latin.  An imperative is a command.  It tells someone directly what to do.  Although there is no subject present, it is understood to be "you" both singular (if you are talking to one person) or plural (if you are talking to more than one person).   A command is brief and expresses the action of the verb simply. 

Examples in English:

  1. Go away, James!

  2. Be quiet and sit down, class!

As you can see, there is no subject expressed here.  But it does exist.  It is there, hidden in all that language.  You should not translate you but just know that it is there.

How do you do this in Latin?

There are two simple steps. 

  1. Find the infinitive (It ends -re).

  2. Remove the -re (Now it's the present stem).

That's it.  The present stem is the singular imperative.  If we use the verb laboro, laborare = to work, we would form the imperative by simply removing the -re.

Labora!  = Work!

Of course, in this situation, you are only talking to one person who is understood to be "you".

If we were talking to a group of people, we have to make the understood subject  plural (or "y'all" as we say in the South).  How do you do that in Latin?  Easy.  Just add the plural imperative ending -te. 

Now your word becomes

Laborate!  = Work!

You can tell that it is plural from the ending but not from the translation.  Usually, context clues will help you determine if you need the singular or the plural.  Good luck telling people what to do!