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Here's an example:

  • Chocolate lovers rejoice!
  • Chocolate lovers, rejoice!

To my understanding, the first one says that chocolate lovers are rejoicing and in the second one, we are asking the chocolate lovers to rejoice.

Am I correct? Or is it fine to use both 1 and 2 interchangeably?

Also, if am wrong about the second one, then how do you convey to chocolate lovers that they should rejoice?

  • This has nothing to do with "rejoice" and everything with addressing people. Any other verb in that position would produce the exact same question. I have edited the title accordingly. Please make sure to watch out for such things in the future. Thank you. – RegDwigнt Nov 8 '13 at 12:42
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  • After reading the related question linked by @RegDwigнt I am even more convinced that only the comma version is correct. In my comment on the currently accepted answer I give the example of: "Pigs fly!", "Pigs fly.", "Pigs, fly!" and "Pigs, fly." The first reads like the announcement of an exciting discovery rather than an imperative. The second reads the same without the excitement. The third and fourth sound like commands. Thus, only "Chocolate lovers, rejoice!" is correct. – semantax Sep 17 '14 at 8:38
  • @semantax No, you are incorrect. Both of the OP's examples are interrogatives with directive force (as I had explained in my post). A big difference between the OP's examples and yours is in the head verb: "rejoice" vs "fly". – F.E. Sep 22 '14 at 3:13
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    @F.E. thanks for the clarification. Other references (since I don't have access to the CGEL) corroborate that the imperative does not have a comma. I do think that leaves ambiguity that cannot be resolved by grammar alone, without the context or the specific words used. That's not necessarily a bad thing since there is usually enough context except in my artificially constructed examples such as "Pigs fly!". This is merely my observation; I grant your point regarding the academic treatment of the imperative. – semantax Sep 26 '14 at 0:07
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Both versions are imperative clauses, and both have directive force. The difference is: your first version uses a 3rd person subject, while the second version uses a vocative.

In both versions, there is the directive "Rejoice!"

Both versions basically have the same meaning. In a roomful of chocolate lovers, you can give the directive "Rejoice!" or the directive "Chocolate lovers rejoice!" or the directive "Chocolate lovers, rejoice!", or the directive "Everybody rejoice!", or the directive "Everybody, rejoice!" or the directive "Rejoice, everybody!"

For more info, there's the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Chapter 10, pages 925-8 (9.2.1 - 9.2.2) which includes the section "Subject vs vocative in imperatives".

  • What if the first sentence has . at the end instead of exclamation mark? I think in that case the sentence can be considered directive no more. – Alexey Malev Apr 28 '14 at 21:03
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    I like Geoffrey Pullum. $235 new. :( – anongoodnurse Sep 17 '14 at 6:07
  • I have the same question as @AlexeyMalev Would the first version still be an imperative? Actually the following leads me to wonder whether it is imperative even with the exclamation: "Pigs fly!" vs "Pigs fly." I would interpret "Pigs fly!" as how somebody would describe their amazing discovery. Only "Pigs, fly." or "Pigs, fly!" seem imperative to me. – semantax Sep 17 '14 at 8:33
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    @Araucaria That example looks like it's using the personal determinative "you". Compare to: "[You students] should form a society" -- 2002 CGEL on page 374, [5.ii]. And so, "You chocolate lovers rejoice!" would still be an imperative; but as to how its subject seems to function (3rd person vs 2nd), maybe that's something you could look into. :) – F.E. Sep 17 '14 at 21:36
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    @f.e. I'm trying to do all my looking into stuff vicariously for the time being ;) - so keep posting over there, please, other pressing concerns permitting :) – Araucaria Sep 18 '14 at 0:22
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Yes you are correct. The comma is essential in the second example. It is a bit like 'Let's eat grandma!' versus 'Let's eat, grandma!'

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    Grandma lovers, rejoice! – J.R. Nov 8 '13 at 10:33
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The first means that chocolate lovers are rejoicing, whereas the second means that chocolate lovers are to rejoice.

1.) A statement 2.) A command

Therefore, you cannot use them interchangeably.

protected by tchrist Nov 4 '14 at 2:11

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