I am having an arguement with my children about whether or not this is imperative. It seemed to be, but then we found rules that imperative sentences must have "you" as the subject. It doesn't appear to be declarative, and is decidedly not either of interrogative or an exclamation. I have found mention of third party imperative, but I cannot tell if that is the correct description for it.

  • 'Do your work' is a directive (imperative). Adding the name to whom it is directed does not change that. Also, not all directives are issued to you. 'Let's go skating', for instance. – Alan Carmack Nov 14 '16 at 4:42
  • Also, I would suggest a comma after the word 'work'. – ghurley Nov 14 '16 at 4:46

Normal Imperatives and Vocative Address

Yes, that’s an imperative sentence whose implied subject is you.

[You] Do your work, John.

The John at the end is a vocative use, a noun of direct address, just like:

Your parents aren’t home, John.

In neither case is John the subject, but in the first case the implicit you and John co-refer to the same person.

Third-person imperatives

The third-party imperative you mention is today most often done through a periphrastic construction using let or may:

  • Let your sister find him.
  • May he never find her.

Formerly it was also possible to create third-person imperatives through a present subjunctive (now in form a bare, uninflected infinitive) as many of our neighboring languages still permit:

  • God save the queen.
  • Devil take the hindmost.
  • God rest you merry gentlemen.

But even that familiar line from the carol goes on to a normal periphrastic imperative:

  • Let nothing you dismay.

Meaning “Let nothing dismay you.”

These frozen phrases are no longer productive in present day English, and their grammar is no longer apparent to most modern speakers, any more than is that of things like these:

  • Till death us do part.
  • Come Saturday morning, I’m going away with a friend.
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  • You can still get 3rd person subjects for imperatives in modern English, though: "Everybody stand up" or "Don't everybody stand up at the same time", for example. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 14 '16 at 11:02
  • @Araucaria Those can still be read as 2p not 3p if you construe everybody to be the vocative it is here. That leaves “Stand up, everybody” and “Don’t stand up, everybody”, which are still 2p imperatives with their implied you (well, or y’all or whatever) subject. It’s just like “Gentlemen, start your engines” and “Go powder your noses now, ladies”. Those aren’t 3p because the command is being given to the person addressed, so by definition 2p. Compare “Let the counsel members do as they please” with “Counsel members, do as you please” and “Do as you please, counsel members”. – tchrist Nov 14 '16 at 18:31
  • Well, it's generally thought that the do-support must come before the subject for a negated imperative. But that sounds weird if you have a vocative which is normally set off by its own intonational phrase if it doesn't come in the tail. But I suppose it depends how one squints at it maybe. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 14 '16 at 21:02
  • @Araucaria Yes, its positioning is certainly weird. – tchrist Nov 14 '16 at 21:23

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