This question seems to indirectly ask the question, but the upvoted answer says "the actual sentence is...". So my question is this: Are commands considered to be grammatically sound, complete sentences in the English language?

Some examples:


Add a note.

Do work.

  • Why the downvote? Is something not clear or acceptable about my question?
    – xdumaine
    Aug 27 '13 at 19:50
  • 3
    Provided they're grammatical imperatives, yes, they're complete sentences. Imperatives and Interrogatives are different kinds of sentences, but not incomplete. They have their own grammar, is all. Aug 27 '13 at 20:17
  • 1
    There are innumerable “grammatically sound” utterances that are perfectly fine to stand on their own even without having a verb. Like what? Like this. What are you doing? Eating. Those are just fine. You seem to have a funny idea of what a “complete” sentence needs to be. But even under the strictest and least useful of interpretations, those are all perfectly sound.
    – tchrist
    Aug 27 '13 at 22:09
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    No matter what the definition of a sentence is, there simply is no rule that we must be speaking in sentences to begin with. Look no further than this post of yours. Look at that "Some examples:". It's two words, and it ends in a semicolon. That certainly doesn't fit anybody's definition of a sentence. And yet you spake, and it was English, and it was grammatical. I can call it a sentence, I can call it a fragment, I can call it Susan if it makes me happy. What's the point? There is no point.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 27 '13 at 23:15

The upvoted answer there actually says:

The subject (you) and helping verb (can) are implied

So yes, the above would be complete sentences. See also this question, in particular the upvoted and accepted answer for shortest complete sentence:


People can nitpick about conversational colloquialisms and academic prose but most uses of a command will be understood as complete.

  • 4
    The subject you can be demonstrated; the auxiliary can is somebody's imagination. There's no modal in an imperative. If you want more deleted material, try the performative order. Any imperative utterance Verb Phrase! is equivalent to the performative utterance (I order you to) Verb Phrase, so the you is just part of the story. Aug 27 '13 at 20:14
  • @JohnLawler Agreed that the modal can is somebody’s imagination here. It’s pretty hard to get an imperative modal, given their defectiveness in such arenas.
    – tchrist
    Aug 27 '13 at 22:03
  • Nope. Though you can impose an obligation that can be expressed by a modal with a felicitous order. I.e, if the boss tells you Show up Sunday, then you must show up Sunday. But the imperative is not a modal itself. Aug 27 '13 at 22:36
  • "Me." is an equally short complete sentence when used in response to a question like "Who is it?"
    – Dale M
    Aug 27 '13 at 23:58

Linguists, who try to make rules that work across all languages, certainly consider commands to be complete sentences. The implied subject isn't a problem. Languages like Spanish omit the subject even for non-commands when it can be deduced from the verb or from the context, and those are still considered complete sentences. Japanese omits the subject even though the verb gives you no clue about it, but those are also considered complete sentences.

Generally, to establish a sentence as incomplete, you would offer a revision that made it complete. "Want to go with?" vs. "Want to go with me?" But how would one "complete" a sentence like "Go home now."


Imperatives are grammatically correct...as for the complete sentence part of the question, I will say no. I did see John Lawler's comment

Provided they're grammatical imperatives, yes, they're complete sentences. Imperatives and Interrogatives are different kinds of sentences, but not incomplete. They have their own grammar, is all.

but I was taught in elementary school that a classical complete sentence contains a subject, verb, and object. If that is also how the OP defines complete sentence, and I say if because it is a definition open to interpretation (think of a complete breakfast), then imperatives do not qualify.

A phrase ending in a period, question mark, or exclamation mark makes it a sentence, potentially a sentence fragment, but not necessarily a complete sentence.

  • 2
    Must contain an object? Say what?! Every heard of intransitive verbs? Or passives, for that matter?
    – tchrist
    Aug 30 '13 at 21:37
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    I gave an unofficial definition of S+V+O; others may define a complete sentence as having one main independent clause. In the case of intransitives there's usually an implied object or implied prep. phrase (prep. + object of prep.). We arrived. (at the station)
    – icy
    Sep 3 '13 at 16:14
  • This is the definition I was taught as a child as well, and my teachers harped on it through high school as well. This question and its other answers make me very upset about that. Oct 12 '16 at 3:08
  • I can see the argument for considering a complete sentence to consist of a subject and predicate. But a sentence can certainly be complete without having any object. You don't use the word "must," but you imply that a complete sentence must have an object by presenting this definition and then stating that "imperatives do not qualify" under it.
    – herisson
    Oct 12 '16 at 3:11

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