Verb Imperative

Summary

An imperative verb is used to express direct commands, instructions, and other similar actions with varying degrees of desirability as determined by the context.

Article

In Biblical Hebrew, the Imperative form is used to express positive commands or instructions directed to another person(s). Thus, Imperative verbs always appear only in the second person. (Similarly, Cohortative verbs appear only in the first person, and Jussive verbs usually appear in the third person.) Imperative verbs can express actions with varying degrees of desirability, including instructions, requests, permissions, invitations, assurances, wishes, etc. The context must determine the nuanced meaning of each instance of an Imperative verb.

Biblical Hebrew does not use the Imperative form to express negative commands. Rather, prohibitions are expressed either with the Imperfect (with לֹא) or with a Jussive verb in the 2nd person (with אַל). Occasionally, the Imperative form will appear with a paragogic ה suffix; in these cases, the meaning of the ה suffix is unknown but probably functions to strengthen the force of the verb in some way.

Form

Qal Imperative Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular כְּבַד kevad you must be heavy
feminine singular כִּבְדִי kivdi you must be heavy
masculine plural כִּבְדוּ kivdu you must be heavy
feminine plural כְּבַדְנָה kevadnah you must be heavy
Niphal Imperative Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular הִקָּטֵל hiqqatel you must be killed
feminine singular הִקָּטְלִי hiqqatli you must be killed
masculine plural הִקָּטְלוּ hiqqatlu you must be killed
feminine plural הִקָּטַלְנָה hiqqatalnah you must be killed
Hiphil Imperative Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular הַקְטֵל haqtel you must cause to kill
feminine singular הַקְטִילִי haqtili you must cause to kill
masculine plural הַקְטִילוּ haqtilu you must cause to kill
feminine plural הַקְטֵלְנָה haqtelenah you must cause to kill
Piel Imperative Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular קַטֵּל qattel you must slaughter
feminine singular קַטְּלִי qatteli you must slaughter
masculine plural קַטְּלוּ qattelu you must slaughter
feminine plural קַטֵּלְנָה qattelnah you must slaughter
Hithpael Imperative Paradigm
Parsing Hebrew Transliteration Gloss
masculine singular הִתְקַטֵּל hitqattel he must kill himself
feminine singular הִתְקַטְּלִי hitqatteli she must kill herself
masculine plural הִתְקַטְּלוּ hitqattelu they must kill themselves
feminine plural הִתְקַטֵּלְנָה hitqattelnah they must kill themselves

Function

The Imperative form can indicate any of the following kinds of actions:

Direct commands or instructions

Example: JER 43:9
קַ֣ח בְּיָדְךָ֞ אֲבָנִ֣ים גְּדֹל֗וֹת
qah beyodkha ‘avanim gedoloth
Take in-your-hand stones large
Take some large stones in your hand

Actions of greater or lesser desirability

Example: GEN 12:13
אִמְרִי־נָ֖א אֲחֹ֣תִי אָ֑תְּ
‘imri-na ‘ahothi ‘at
Say_oh my-sister you
Say that you are my sister
Example: 2SA 18:23
וִיהִי־מָ֣ה אָר֔וּץ וַיֹּ֥אמֶר ל֖וֹ ר֑וּץ
wihi-mah ‘aruts wayyomer lo ruts
And-it-will-be_whatever I-will-run and-he-said to-him run
“Whatever happens,” said Ahimaaz, “I will run.” So Joab answered him,
Run”.
Example: ISA 8:10
עֻ֥צוּ עֵצָ֖ה וְתֻפָ֑ר
‘utsu ‘etsah wethufar
Advise counsel and-it-will-be-made-ineffectual
Form a plan, but it will not be carried out”
Example: 1KI 2:22
וְשַֽׁאֲלִי־לוֹ֙ אֶת־הַמְּלוּכָ֔ה
wesha’ali-lo ‘eth-hammelukhah
And-ask_for-him [dir.obj]_the-kingdom
Why do you not ask the kingdom for him also?