In English the imperative mood is used only for the second person (differently from Italian, where what is called imperative mood is used also for the first, and third person).
How is the jussive mood rendered in English?

  • 4
    – stacker
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 19:18
  • Could you try to render a case-use of the jussive mood from another language into english? As in, how would you use the imperative to command he/she/it/them separately from the second person?
    – mfg
    Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 12:14
  • 1
    @mfg: I know how I would say in Italian, but the same "trick" is not possible in English, where a verb usually changes only for the third person. In Italian, to use the jussative we don't say the subject (sbrighiamoci!; mangiamo e beviamo!); if I would do the same in English, I would say hurry up!, eat and drink! which would be understood as referring to the second person. In Italian, I eat is different from you eat (io mangio, tu mangi).
    – apaderno
    Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 13:12
  • Uhmmm… I meant jussive, in my previous comment.
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 30, 2011 at 14:26
  • There are enough articles on the jussive readily available from search engines. There is a section in Thought & Co that explains the jussive with examples: thoughtco.com/….
    – Greybeard
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 10:41

4 Answers 4


Aside from the usage with "Let's", as in 'Let's (contraction: "let us") go to the theater', I am having difficulty thinking of a usage for what I understand to be the jussive mood. The use of 'shall' in Latin (as cited by @stacker 's link in the comments) does not appear to satisfy a third or first person case use of jussive; and it seems more akin to the imperative in some roundabout way. Even if I am commanding myself to go to the store, it is from the (you) person; aka 'you understood', a form of the second person. Moreover, despite the usage of us in "Let's", it is more intuitive as a second person command similar to as commanding oneself is more intuitive as a second person.

It seems the imperative, covering second person subjects, is the only relative of the jussive mood, covering other subject persons, in English usage.

  • 2
    Agreed. I always thought "Let's go" was hortatory subjunctive.
    – moioci
    Commented Aug 21, 2010 at 4:18
  • I'm pretty sure I don't understand what the jussive mood is, but what mood are "They ought to go", "They must go", "They should go", "They better go", and "It is better that they go"? (I know these overlap…) Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 6:18
  • 1
    @ShreevatsaR: The jussive mood is like the imperative mood, but it is applied for all the three persons; if "go!" is the imperative, the English jussive would be something like "go you!", "go us!", "go them!" (which is not how English renders the jussive).
    – apaderno
    Commented Mar 2, 2011 at 9:39
  • 2
    @ShreevatsaR: Basing on the answer given by mfg, I would not say that the jussive cannot be rendered in English.
    – apaderno
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 20:00
  • 1
    @Shreev unless there is some borrowing somewhere, I would have to say no. For instance, in French you have the third person pronoun 'on'; which is kind of plural, but is conjugated and used as singular but refers to a mass of people. It's one of those French 101 scenarios where the students just don't get it at all, and basically just go with it. Maybe a Canadian might be able to account for its viability, but as a native English speaker, most difficulties are just skipped or borrowed without translation.
    – mfg
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 23:29

According to the traditional shall/will distinction, shall in third person was similar to the jussive. In the canonical example

I will drown and no one shall save me!

no one shall save me is taken as an order not to save the speaker. (As opposed to "I shall drown and no one will save me!" which is a grammatically correct plea for help.)

I have no idea how widely this grammatical distinction was ever applied. I suspect that it was indeed made by RP speakers during the 19th century, but I am not sure whether it was ever used this way by Americans. Currently, except in first person questions, shall and will are generally synonymous today.

I don't believe that the third person shall has any simple modern English equivalents. You could use "I insist that no one save me."

  • Not sure that shall and will are generally synonymous even today, but +1 for the canonical example. Commented Dec 30, 2011 at 14:31
  • @Tim: Maybe not in southern England, which I have read is the source of the traditional shall/will distinction, but I don't believe Americans perceive a difference. Commented Dec 30, 2011 at 14:43

The 'third person imperative' is rendered as let him; the famous example is in 'Henry V', the speech before Agincourt:

he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made...

I think the same applies to "Let's go", but it's nowhere near as clear, as others have mentioned.

  • Sometimes this is what let him means, and sometimes not. Commented Dec 30, 2011 at 14:11
  • Used extensively in older translations of the Bible: “Let there be light!”
    – Davislor
    Commented Feb 23 at 17:45

I would say "you must", as in "you must forgive me" or "... you must come with us".

  • That is not how the Jussive mood is rendered.
    – apaderno
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 17:00
  • We’re not even sure that English has a jussive mood, so it’s premature to say how it might be rendered.
    – user205876
    Commented Oct 30, 2022 at 5:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.