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Could you get me a glass of water, please? Is this an interrogative sentence or an imperative sentence?

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    It could be either. It depends on how you want to interpret it. Going strictly by the grammar (because of the could), it would be interrogative. But going by the intended meaning, it could be seen as imperative (a nicely worded order). Are you looking at syntax or semantics? Aug 15, 2020 at 16:40
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    Syntactically, it is an interrogative sentence: it matches the form. Pragmatically, this is a conventional request; it has a conventional form, includes please, and is intended as an impositive. It could be considered an order if it were delivered in the appropriate manner (which can't be represented in print), but the cover term is "impositive", because the intent is to impose the speaker's will on the addressee. It's not an imperative, because imperative refers only to the form of the utterance, and this has the form of an interrogative. Aug 15, 2020 at 16:45
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    Does this answer your question? Suggestion phrased as a question Aug 15, 2020 at 18:03
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    Who's asking???
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 16, 2020 at 1:00
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    @HotLicks quite! This question's more in the area of culture and interpersonal relationships, really :) Aug 16, 2020 at 8:08

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As written, it's a request, rather than a command.

This is because it uses the modal verb, could, which is used to form polite or formal requests and invitations¹. It makes the request slightly less direct than can or will.

Whether it's one that is genuinely allowing for a negative response is completely context-dependent. If it's your boss, they probably aren't expecting you to say "no", but in any healthy working environment you should be able to demur - if you have something else you're supposed to be doing - but you may be in trouble if you don't comply. If it's a friend or a partner, one hopes that an occasional "no" is acceptable (though too many negative responses will likely spoil the relationship).

[This answer is biased because the most recent occasions when I've spoken like this, it has been a plea rather than an order. If I'm in a restaurant, I'll be surprised to be told "No" to such a request, but even so, it is a question. I just might not like the answer.]


¹ See British Council - LearnEnglish Teens, and Learn English - Online.

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  • "Please get me a glass of water" is also a directive, but this time it is an imperative. It's not, of course, an interrogative, though.
    – BillJ
    Aug 16, 2020 at 6:22
  • Yes, exactly! This sort of phrasing is often an imperative disguised as an interrogative, but this particular example falls (for me, at least) squarely in the "asking nicely" rather than "telling" category :) but as @HotLicks commented, "Who's asking?" Aug 16, 2020 at 8:03

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