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Grammar: Imperative and Subjunctive Commands

In Latin, there are lots of ways to "make" things happen, using both the imperative mood but also the subjunctive mood. You need to be able to recognize when commands are given both in the imperative and using the subjunctive. You also need to understand how to make negative commands, using noli + infinitive or using ne + subjunctive.

Imperative Mood

You are familiar with the imperative, which is used to issue direct orders in the second person singular and the second person plural.

Shut up! (you!)

Shut up! (all of you!)

Make sure that you are familiar with both the active and passive imperative forms for all the verb conjugations. Passive commands are rare, but since deponent verbs takes passive forms, this means that the imperative form of deponent verbs will take the passive endings. (Notice how the second person singular passive form sure looks a lot like the infinitive form!)

  Conj. I Conj. II Conj. III Conj. III-i Conj. IV
active ama, amate mone, monete duce, ducite cape, capite audi, audite
passive amare, amamini monere, monemini ducere, ducimini capere, capimini audire, audimini

Negative imperatives. The easiest way to form the negative imperative is to use the imperative of the verb nolo plus the infinitive:

Noli dormire! Don't sleep

Nolite dormire! Don't sleep (you guys)

Future Imperative

You will occasionally find forms of the so-called "future imperative" in Latin. There is no difference in meaning between the imperative and the future imperative. This is most common with the verb to be:

Esto! Be!

Estote! Be! (plural)

You are probably already familiar with the future imperative form of the verb memini: memento! remember!

Subjunctive Mood: Second Person

It is actually very common to find that the subjunctive can be used as an imperative, making somebody in the second person singular or plural do something:

Shut up! (you!)

Shut up! (all of you!)

Negative subjunctive. Remember that the negative subjunctive is not formed with non, but with ne.

Ne loquare!
Don't speak! (you!)

Ne loquamini!
Don't speak! (you guys!)

Subjunctive Mood: Third Person

Sometimes you may want to give a command to somebody in the third person. This is good for kings and other bossy people. To make somebody in the third person do something, you use the subjunctive. This is called the jussive subjunctive.

Let him be quiet!

Let them be quiet!

The negative is formed with ne:

Ne dormiant!
Let them not sleep!

Subjunctive Mood: First Person

Finally, you may try to make yourself do something! Or to try to get the people you are with (first person plural) to do something. To do this, you use the subjunctive again. This is called the hortatory subjunctive.

If only I could keep my mouth shut!

Let's keep our mouths shut!

The negative is formed with ne:

Ne timeamus!
Let us not be afraid!

Modern Languages 4970 / MRS 4903: Medieval Latin. Spring 2003 Online Course at the University of Oklahoma. Visit for more info.
Laura Gibbs, University of Oklahoma - Information Technology © 2003. Last updated: December 29, 2002 7:12 PM