At the moment the only way we have to give an order is to ask politely for someone to do something.

Please call me.

If we want to add force to these requests we need to use the imperative.

Group 1

Group 1 verbs have two forms of the imperative.

English Dictionary Standard Archaic
to go 行く 行け 行きなさい
to reply 返す 返せ 返しなさい
to request 頼む 頼め 頼みなさい
to drink 飲む 飲め 飲みなさい
to exist ある あれ ありなさい

Note that from the above the imperative of the auxiliary verb becomes であれ.

Group 2

Group 2 verbs have three forms of the imperative, which I’m going to call the literary, verbal, and archaic because of their general usage.

English Dictionary Literary Verbal Archaic
to eat 食べる 食べよ 食べろ 食べなさい
to accept 受ける 受けよ 受けろ 受けなさい
to see 見る 見よ 見ろ 見なさい
to leave 出る 出よ 出ろ 出なさい

Group 3

Group 3 verbs also have three forms of the imperative.

English Dictionary Literary Verbal Archaic
to do する せよ しろ しなさい
to come 来る 来よ 来い 来なさい

In terms of general usage, the archaic form is a lot softer than others. For example, it will be used by a parent to tell their children to eat or go to bed.

It’s already 10 o’clock so get to bed quickly.

The addition of よ to the imperative can help soften it.
As I have alluded to previous, Japanese is a language which places much emphasis on the underlying power dynamics. The imperative form (especially the forms other than the archaic) of the verb very much debases the listener and therefore needs to be used carefully. Even in jocular manner, a subordinate in a company would never use it towards their boss; nor would anyone towards a customer.

Everyone’s waiting so come quickly!
Judge for yourself!
Shut up!
Be punctual!
If you do a half-baked job then it will be a problem for everyone so do it properly.

Honorific verbs deserve a special mention because they are used to form a number of very common phrases in Japanese. Honorific verbs conjugate as group 1 verbs and so have two forms of the imperative. The three most important verbs are given in the table below.

English Dictionary Standard Archaic
to deign 下さる 下され 下さい
to exist いらっしゃる いらっしゃれ いらっしゃい
to do なさる なされ なさい

You may have noticed that archaic form of the imperative of the verb “to deign” is the standard ending with the te form to say “please”.

Please come quickly.

To this you may also hear ませ added. Indeed, enter any shop or restaurant in Japan and the staff will welcome you with a polite order to enter their premises!

Please come in!
Please don’t forget my book.

The imperative form of なさる is used with some common phrases.

Welcome home.

What about ordering someone to not to do something? This one is simple: we just add な to the dictionary form of the verb.

Don’t forget!
If you’re going to break your promise don’t make it in the first place.
Scold the child for making international calls from their mobile.
Get your head out of the clouds!

The Imperative with Adjectives

Finally, while adjectives technically have an imperative form you will rarely see them used unless in the form of an old saying.

For better or worse.
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