Definition of imperative in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ɪmˈpɛrətɪv/


1Of vital importance; crucial: immediate action was imperative [with clause]: it is imperative that standards are maintained
More example sentences
  • The rampant smuggling once again shows how imperative and urgent it is now to bring domestic fuel prices closer to international levels.
  • We do have imperative obligations to people who are poor and in need, and no government can avoid that.
  • It is imperative you be shielded from that criticism by the very mechanism of providing this conduit for those feelings.
2Giving an authoritative command; peremptory: the bell pealed again, a final imperative call
More example sentences
  • The high incidence of nominalization in the CMA code completes the message of authority given by the imperative mode and its deontological orientation.
  • But then there will be an imperative demand for the local authorities to invest in skilled manpower.
  • The human desire for novelty is twinned with an equally imperative desire for continuity.
2.1 Grammar Denoting the mood of a verb that expresses a command or exhortation, as in come here!.
Example sentences
  • In English the indicative mood is used to make factual statements, the subjunctive mood to indicate doubt or unlikelihood, and the imperative mood to express a command.
  • It's short and sweet, but decidedly in the imperative mood.
  • As is evident from my translation, the elision is that of an imperative verb.


1An essential or urgent thing: free movement of labour was an economic imperative
More example sentences
  • Tackling this pandemic is one of the most urgent moral imperatives facing the world.
  • She continued: ‘There are moral imperatives also and one of the moral imperatives here is that the vulnerable must have their basic human needs met.’
  • Such an imperative seems particularly urgent because of the vacuum at the top.
1.1A factor or influence making something necessary: the biological imperatives which guide male and female behaviour
More example sentences
  • Some women were aware of the influence of technological imperatives on the attitudes of health professionals, and they occasionally experienced this as bullying.
  • Though feminism today is obviously a broad term that includes different and sometimes clashing ideas, many feminists reject the idea that motherhood or biological imperatives define a woman.
  • Great efforts of the mind are required to rationalize actions that are obviously contrary to fundamental biological imperatives.
2 Grammar A verb or phrase in the imperative mood.
Example sentences
  • Noteworthy in this meditation is the use of imperatives and action verbs, which are meant to activate the believer.
  • When Anglicans and Presbyterians used direct imperatives, they have a preference for the verbs ‘help’ and ‘teach’.
  • In fields where imperatives were present in the main text (five out of ten), we recorded interviews with the authors of one of the articles.
2.1 (the imperative) The imperative mood.
Example sentences
  • In any case, this tension between the indicative and the imperative may lead us to a fruitful discussion on the main theme of our deliberations during this conference.
  • We focused on the indicative and the imperative, the former implying fact, the latter implying authority.
  • Their relation sometimes shows that the imperative is no longer the consequence of the indicative, but an inseparable part of the kerygmatic indicative.



Pronunciation: /ɪmˌpɛrəˈtʌɪv(ə)l/
Example sentences
  • Thus descriptive claims cannot entail the extra expressive or imperatival component that according to the non-cognitivist is part of the meaning of moral terms.
  • On the other hand bare belief in an impersonal order of claims, while it is compatible with their absolute authority, does not provide the personal basis which their imperatival quality requires.
  • The relationship of hierarchies of imperatival policies to responsibility, and to authority policies, is discussed.


Pronunciation: /ɪmˈpɛrətɪvli/
Example sentences
  • When it comes to criminal justice, which is always a mirror of social justice, the state, in this case the courts, imperatively has to take note of the social facts relevant to the construction of values, principles and rules.
  • One key to understanding policy and politics in most European countries is to take it that ‘social’ indicates that the matter in hand imperatively demands a political decision to override any market solution that would otherwise emerge.
  • They [the writers of the 18th century] constitute our ordinary standard literature, and for models in English writing the tradition, not yet obsolete, of our fathers refers us imperatively hither.


Example sentences
  • He was often accused of political intractability, a lack of imperativeness, too great a readiness to take clairvoyants seriously, and excessive slyness.
  • Ongoing teacher education is needed to bring to the consciousness of teachers the necessity, the imperativeness of humane education.
  • Even those professing to walk a darker path, including many Satanists, recognize the imperativeness of taking responsibility for their own actions.


Late Middle English (as a grammatical term): from late Latin imperativus (literally 'specially ordered', translating Greek prostatikē enklisis 'imperative mood'), from imperare 'to command', from in- 'towards' + parare 'make ready'.

  • emperor from Middle English:

    The root of emperor is the Latin word imperare ‘to command’, which is also the ultimate source of empire (Middle English), imperative (mid 16th century), imperial (Late Middle English), and imperious (late 16th century). Latin imperator meant ‘military commander’, which was given as a title to Julius Caesar and to Augustus, the first Roman emperor, and was adopted by subsequent rulers of the empire. In English, emperor first referred to these Roman rulers, and then to the head of the Holy Roman Empire. See also evil

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: im|pera|tive

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.