Is it a disguised command, when someone starts a sentence with; 'Maybe you could...' e.g. 'turn on the heater'; 'add more salt'?

If you remove 'maybe you could' from the sentence, you are left with the command;'turn on the heater'.

1 Answer 1


People sometimes worry about coming across as commanding when they do this in writing (emails etc), but I don't think that meaning is implied at all. Instead, it seems to be the form of a polite suggestion.

The same things, pro and con, could be said about the phrasing 'You might try...' For either the recipient or the writer to believe that these sentences are commands is reading too much into them.

There are other helping verbs that are unambiguous demands:

You must...
You'll have to...
You should...

I think the distinction is that in the 'could' or 'might' cases, the recipient's free will is acknowledged by the uncertainty in the writer's phrasing.

In speech, it's different because the tone of voice could make it clear that the speaker would permit no argument.

  • Thank for your considered response. Yes, I agree tone of voice will have a bearing, as will context and intent of the speaker, too.
    – Curious
    Apr 24, 2016 at 12:23
  • Note that must, have to, and should have some commanding force, but are not considered imperatives. Imperative is a very specific grammatical term referring to constructions like go home and come here.
    – Anonym
    Apr 24, 2016 at 20:29
  • Fair enough, @Anonym. I've made a little tweak. Apr 24, 2016 at 20:36

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