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[im-per-uh-tiv] /ɪmˈpɛr ə tɪv/
absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable:
It is imperative that we leave.
of the nature of or expressing a command; commanding.
Grammar. noting or pertaining to the mood of the verb used in commands, requests, etc., as in Listen! Go!
Compare indicative (def 2), subjunctive (def 1).
a command.
something that demands attention or action; an unavoidable obligation or requirement; necessity:
It is an imperative that we help defend friendly nations.
  1. the imperative mood.
  2. a verb in this mood.
an obligatory statement, principle, or the like.
Origin of imperative
1520-30; < Late Latin imperātivus, equivalent to Latin imperāt(us) past participle of imperāre to impose, order, command (im- im-1 + -per- (combining form of parāre to fur-nish (with), produce, obtain, prepare) + -ātus -ate1) + -īvus -ive
Related forms
imperatively, adverb
imperativeness, noun
nonimperative, adjective
nonimperatively, adverb
nonimperativeness, noun
unimperative, adjective
unimperatively, adverb
Can be confused
imperative, imperial, imperious.
1. inescapable; indispensable, essential; exigent, compelling. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for imperatives
  • Pride obviously had something to do with this, but pride compounded by the imperatives of a dueling society.
  • But the book was much more than a fairy tale unshackled from moralistic imperatives and tired fantastical creatures.
  • Their mutual influence sloshes back and forth, each responding to each other as well as their own imperatives.
  • The result is a misalignment between the emerging imperatives of smart business and the lagging sensibilities of old laws.
  • Since then the group has tried to juggle two imperatives.
  • And the villages were shaped into a city more by the accidents of history than by the imperatives of town-planning.
  • Yet strategic imperatives may prompt some countries to overlook such concerns.
  • His book is optimistic, noting that political rather than economic imperatives have always driven the euro.
  • No one expected serious discussion of national imperatives when the business of the day was honoring fallen soldiers.
  • It is because they understand the particular codes and imperatives of large-market talk radio.
British Dictionary definitions for imperatives


extremely urgent or important; essential
peremptory or authoritative: an imperative tone of voice
(grammar) Also imperatival (ɪmˌpɛrəˈtaɪvəl). denoting a mood of verbs used in giving orders, making requests, etc. In English the verb root without any inflections is the usual form, as for example leave in Leave me alone
something that is urgent or essential
an order or command
  1. the imperative mood
  2. a verb in this mood
Derived Forms
imperatively, adverb
imperativeness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin imperātīvus, from Latin imperāre to command
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for imperatives



1520s, from Late Latin imperativus "pertaining to a command," from imperatus "commanded," past participle of imperare "to command, to requisition," from assimilated form of in- "into, in" (see in- (2)) + parare "prepare" (see pare).


mid-15c., in grammar; later "something imperative" (c.1600), from Old French imperatif and directly from Late Latin imperativus (see imperative (adj.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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imperatives in Culture

imperative definition

A grammatical category describing verbs that command or request: “Leave town by tonight”; “Please hand me the spoon.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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