The Meaning of Imperative: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of imperative? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word imperative, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

Your writing, at its best

Compose bold, clear, mistake-free, writing with Grammarly's AI-powered writing assistant

What does the word imperative mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word imperative is an adjective with multiple different definitions. If something is imperative, this means that it is essential, importance, and must be done. This essential action is one that must be done. Many things can be imperative, such as an imperative tone of voice, imperative inflections, imperative law enforcement or police in recent history for community safety, an imperative entreaty with friendly nations, imperative spinach for iron, imperative COVID-19 vaccines, an imperative narrative, new moral imperatives, an imperative item in a locked tomb, an imperative gesture or strong request, imperative orders, imperative duty, and more. The word imperative is four syllables – im-per-a-tive, and the pronunciation of imperative  is ɪmperətɪv. This word can also sometimes be used as a noun. 

This word is also used in English grammar. In English grammar and semantics, the imperative form of a verb is a command. This usually contains the base form of a verb and has no subject. These type of clauses are used to give a command or tell someone to do something, and is called an imperative clause or obligatory statement, and created a statement using an imperative verb or mood of verbs which along with the inflection, create an unavoidable obligation. These use the bare infinitive or usual form of the mood of a verb. 

Many different languages also contain words that mean imperative. You may notice that many of these translations of imperative look and sound similar to the word imperative itself. These are called cognates, which are words of different languages that look and sound alike while also retaining a similar meaning. These are often formed when two words or languages have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations of the word imperative is provided by Word Sense.

  •  French: impératif‎, essentiel‎, indispensable‎
  •  Portuguese: essencial‎, imperativo‎
  •  Icelandic: mikilvægur‎
  •  Russian: обяза́тельный‎
  •  Arabic: أَسَاسِيّ‎, ضَرُورِيّ‎
  •  Turkish: mecburi‎, zorunlu‎
  •  Finnish: välttämätön‎, pakollinen‎
  •  Czech: rozkazovací‎ (neut.)
  •  German: essenziell‎, essentiell‎, notwendig‎, unverzichtbar‎, wesentlich‎
  •  Italian: imperativo‎ (masc.), necessario‎ (masc.), necessaria‎ (fem.)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: àithneach‎
  •  Spanish: imperativo‎ (masc.)
  •  Greek: επιτακτικός‎
  •  Dutch: noodzakelijk‎
  •  Latin: necessus‎, necessum‎

What are synonyms and antonyms of imperative?

There are many different words and phrases that a person can choose to use in place of the word imperative. These are called synonyms, which are defined as words and phrases with the same definition as another word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your English vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms of imperative is from Power Thesaurus.

  •  irresistible
  •  incumbent
  •  peremptory
  •  proviso
  •  precondition
  •  instant
  •  needed
  •  heat-on
  •  acute
  •  obligation
  •  essentiality
  •  firm
  •  vital
  •  forceful
  •  significant
  •  immediate
  •  requirement
  •  dogmatic
  •  importunate
  •  dominant
  •  of vital importance
  •  commanding
  •  inevitable
  •  inexorable
  •  crucial
  •  constraining
  •  emergency
  •  paramount
  •  important
  •  critical
  •  central
  •  absolute
  •  dictatorial
  •  demanded
  •  need
  •  condition
  •  consequential
  •  must
  •  pressing
  •  mandate
  •  needful
  •  powerful
  •  binding
  •  adjuratory
  •  decisive
  •  insistent
  •  magisterial
  •  essential condition
  •  bossy
  •  required
  •  sine qua non
  •  essential
  •  duty
  •  life-and-death
  •  dire
  •  despotic
  •  must-have
  •  compulsory
  •  basic
  •  requisite
  •  crying
  •  burning
  •  called for
  •  domineering
  •  fundamental
  •  high-handed
  •  inescapable
  •  tyrannical
  •  mandatory
  •  assertive
  •  urgent
  •  pivotal
  •  imperative mood
  •  necessity
  •  imperial
  •  indispensable
  •  all-important
  •  masterful
  •  inevitability
  •  urgency
  •  of the essence
  •  exigent
  •  overbearing
  •  authoritative
  •  stern
  •  enforced
  •  obligatory
  •  clamant
  •  compulsatory
  •  imperious
  •  vitally important
  •  necessary
  •  autocratic
  •  called-for
  •  clamorous
  •  command
  •  compelling
  •  high-priority
  •  unavoidable
  •  prerequisite

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word imperative. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another quick and easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  adjuratory
  •  irrelevant
  •  inconsequential
  •  little
  •  non-essential
  •  nonobligatory
  •  co-curricular
  •  not obligatory
  •  noncore
  •  noncritical
  •  orison
  •  nugatory
  •  unimportant
  •  incidental
  •  insignificant
  •  voluntary
  •  frivolous
  •  insubstantial
  •  unessential
  •  discretionary
  •  needless
  •  non-compulsory
  •  trivial
  •  conjure
  •  inferior
  •  unnecessary
  •  inconsiderable
  •  minor
  •  importunate
  •  nonessential
  •  accidental
  •  elective
  •  beg for
  •  beseeching
  •  nonurgent
  •  dispensable
  •  elidable
  •  trifling
  •  immaterial
  •  auxiliary
  •  inessential
  •  ancillary
  •  mendicant
  •  nominal
  •  negligible
  •  omissible
  •  noncompulsory
  •  less important
  •  free
  •  meaningless

What is the origin of the word imperative?

According to Etymonline, the word imperative has been used since the c16 Middle English imperatif, which comes from the Old French imperatif. This comes from the Late Latin imperativus, which comes from the Latin imperātus, the past participle of imperāre/imperare and form of parāre/parare which can be compared to the Greek prostatikē enklisis. Related words include emperor. This uses the suffixes ive/īvus and the Latin imperāre.

How can the word imperative be used in a sentence?

There are many different ways in which the word imperative can be used in a sentence in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a fantastic way to familiarize yourself with their definitions and add them to your vocabulary. You can also try making flashcards or a quiz for yourself to test your knowledge of the definitions of different words. Try using this new word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of different examples of using the word imperative in a sentence to help get your started.

It was imperative to heal the long standing roots of distrust in the context of Pakistan if the country wanted to find allyship in them. They wanted to approach the nuances with care to make sure that everyone felt heard. 

The class took a quiz on the grammatical term imperative. They enjoyed coming up with different commands using the imperative form of different verbs. 

Overall, the word imperative means important or essential. This is also a grammatical term. 


  1. imperative: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Imperative synonyms – 978 Words and Phrases for Imperative | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Imperative antonyms – 178 Opposites of Imperative | Power Thesaurus 
  4. Imperative definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  5. imperative | Origin and meaning of imperative | Online Etymology Dictionary