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adjective im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ə-tiv, -ˈpe-rə-\

Simple Definition of imperative

  • : very important

  • grammar : having the form that expresses a command rather than a statement or a question

  • : expressing a command in a forceful and confident way

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of imperative

  1. 1 a :  of, relating to, or constituting the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another b :  expressive of a command, entreaty, or exhortation c :  having power to restrain, control, and direct

  2. 2 :  not to be avoided or evaded :  necessary <an imperative duty>





Examples of imperative in a sentence

  1. … I have begun to feel each time as if I am mutilating my antennae (which is how Rastafarians, among others, think of hair) and attenuating my power. It seems imperative not to cut my hair anymore. —Alice Walker, Living by the Word, (1981) 1988

  2. This strange and distorted form of breathing could be interrupted for a minute or two by a strong effort of will, but would then resume its bizarre and imperative character. —Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, 1973

  3. We had a long and interesting evening with the Katzenbachs. He and Lyndon discussed the imperative need to make Washington a law-abiding city and how to go about it. —Lady Bird Johnson, 27 Jan. 1965, A White House Diary, 1970

  4. Eat your spinach! is an imperative sentence.

  5. Help in the sentence Help me! is an imperative verb.

  6. a verb in the imperative mood

  7. People resented his imperative tone of voice.

Origin and Etymology of imperative

Middle English imperatyf, from Late Latin imperativus, from Latin imperatus, past participle of imperare to command — more at emperor

First Known Use: 15th century

Synonym Discussion of imperative

masterful, domineering, imperious, peremptory, imperative mean tending to impose one's will on others. masterful implies a strong personality and ability to act authoritatively <her masterful personality soon dominated the movement>. domineering suggests an overbearing or arbitrary manner and an obstinate determination to enforce one's will <children controlled by domineering parents>. imperious implies a commanding nature or manner and often suggests arrogant assurance <an imperious executive used to getting his own way>. peremptory implies an abrupt dictatorial manner coupled with an unwillingness to brook disobedience or dissent <given a peremptory dismissal>. imperative implies peremptoriness arising more from the urgency of the situation than from an inherent will to dominate <an imperative appeal for assistance>.

Some commentators insist that use of masterful should be limited to sense 1 in order to preserve a distinction between it and masterly. The distinction is a modern one, excogitated by a 20th century pundit in disregard of the history of the word. Both words developed in a parallel manner but the earlier sense of masterly, equivalent to masterful 1, dropped out of use. Since masterly had but one sense, the pundit opined that it would be tidy if masterful were likewise limited to one sense and he forthwith condemned use of masterful 2 as an error. Sense 2 of masterful, which is slightly older than the sense of masterly intended to replace it, has continued in reputable use all along; it cannot rationally be called an error.

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms



noun im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ə-tiv, -ˈpe-rə-\

Simple Definition of imperative

  • : a command, rule, duty, etc., that is very important or necessary

  • grammar the imperative : the form that a verb or sentence has when it is expressing a command

  • : an imperative verb or sentence

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of imperative

  1. 1 :  the grammatical mood that expresses the will to influence the behavior of another or a verb form or verbal phrase expressing it

  2. 2 :  something that is imperative (see 1imperative): as a :  command, order b :  rule, guide c :  an obligatory act or duty d :  an obligatory judgment or proposition

Examples of imperative in a sentence

  1. Ellroy has got to be the only writer who still uses “dig” as an imperative … —Laura Miller, New York Times Book Review, 20 May 2001

  2. Indeed, under pressure from a new way of life in which radiant heat from woodburning stoves must circulate unimpeded by dividers, virtually every house with a chimney today has abandoned the closed-door imperative of the high-technology kitchen. —Maxine Kumin, In Deep, 1987

  3. “Maturity” had been a code word … for marriage and settling down; “growth” implied a plurality of legitimate options, if not a positive imperative to keep moving from one insight or experience to the next. —Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times Magazine, 20 May 1984

  4. She considers it a moral imperative to help people in need.

  5. Eat your spinach! is in the imperative.

  6. Go and buy are imperatives in the sentence Please go to the store and buy some milk.

Origin and Etymology of imperative

(see 1imperative)

First Known Use: 1530

IMPERATIVE Defined for Kids


adjective im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ə-tiv\

Definition of imperative for Students

  1. 1 :  expressing a command, request, or strong encouragement <“Come here!” is an imperative sentence.>

  2. 2 :  urgent 1 <It is imperative that you see a doctor.>

Medical Dictionary


adjective im·per·a·tive \im-ˈper-ət-iv\

Medical Definition of imperative

  1. :  eliciting a motor response <an imperative stimulus>

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