What are imperative verbs?

What are imperative verbs?
Do you know how imperative or "bossy" verbs are used in instruction texts? We explain how children are introduced to imperatives for Year 2 onwards, with examples of how they are taught in the primary classroom.

What is an imperative verb?

A verb is a 'doing word'. 

An imperative verb is one that tells someone to do something, so that the sentence it is in becomes an order or command. For example in this sentence (a command, outlining an action that must be done):

Fold your clothes up.

the imperative verb is 'fold'.

Imperative verbs are used in instruction manuals and recipes, for example: 

When are chilren taught about imperative verbs?

Children are introduced to imperative verbs (also known as "bossy verbs"!) in Year 2 grammar lessons.

What are children taught about verb tenses at primary school?

Children are taught to write instruction texts in both KS1 and KS2. 

The unit of learning may start with them being shown a variety of instruction texts. The teacher will explain to children that some verbs are used in a way that tells someone how to do something; these verbs turn the sentence into a command or order. 

Children may be asked to go through, identify and highlight the imperative verbs in the text. They may recognise that imperative verbs are usually used at the start of a sentence

Some children, therefore may see a command like this:


and identify the word 'slowly' as an imperative verb because it is at the beginning of the sentence. 'Slowly' is actually an adverb, describing how an action is done. 

Teachers will also show children how instructions are set out (with bullet points, numbers and pictures).


A good way to support children in writing their own instructions is for a teacher to ask the children to carry out an activity, such as making a sandwich, playing a game or performing a magic trick. Once children have done this, they will be asked to write their own instructions relating to the activity they have carried out. They will be asked to use imperative verbs, bullet points, numbers and pictures in their writing as they have been shown.

As children move up the school, teachers may increase the challenge of writing instructions, by asking children to write instructions for more complex tasks or suggesting that they include adverbs in their writing. 

How will children be tested on imperative verbs in the Year 2 and 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Tests?

Children are often tested on commands in the Year 2 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test (a command contains an imperative verb). To test their knowledge of commands, they may be given four sentences and asked to pick out the one that is a command.

In the Year 6 Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test, children may have to answer questions on imperative verbs. For example, they may be given a sentence and asked to underline the imperative verb.