8

Is this sentence an imperative sentence, or does it have conditional meaning?

You hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid, and it’ll rub off on you.

  • 3
    Both clauses are indicative, although the meaning is conditional. Spoken English has a relaxed rule-set. It would appear that J K Rowling's work may not be the best text-books for learning English. – Andrew Leach Nov 9 '12 at 12:25
  • 2
    It is conditional insofar as this is: “If you do this, then I will do that.” – tchrist Nov 9 '12 at 12:33
  • 3
    Why the down votes? This is actually a pretty interesting question. It is an informal conditional statement that elides the "if" at the beginning of the sentence, substituting an "and" conjunction to start the final clause. It is worthy of examination. – Robusto Nov 9 '12 at 14:06
  • 1
    @Robusto: to piggyback on your thought, the sentence could also be subtly modified, and become an imperative: You hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid, and I'll stay in the chat room with FumbleFingers and Dumbledore. – J.R. Nov 9 '12 at 15:18
  • 3
    I agree. It's a very interesting question. I once published a paper on the subject. – John Lawler Nov 9 '12 at 16:00
10

It's a complex situation.

Sentences like the presenting one are clearly intended to urge, if not impose, some kind of behavior on the addressee (though the addressee in this case is only a generic you, the same sense as one, but faluting a couple levels lower).

So in that they are like imperatives. However, it can be shown (as I do in my paper) that they aren't real imperatives, syntactically. They must be a different construction, mimicking an imperative. It's clear that the construction does have some conditional meaning --

  • (If) you hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid,
  • (Then) it’ll rub off on you.

which is the beginning of a Modus Ponens syllogism:

  • ((p Implies q) And p) Implies q | ((p ⊃ q) ⋀ p) ⊃ q

The second line is implied in context, and the conclusion follows.

An extreme case of this is

  • Buy 10 and Save! (almost always with an exclamation point)

which means something like (boldfaced omissions)

  • If you buy 10 [count noun]s, then you will save some money.
6

It could conceivably be read as an imperative (or, more correctly, an impositive as John Lawler explains in the comments):

[Go and] hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid, and it’ll rub off on you.

But given the context, it's unlikely that the speaker meant it as a command. (After all - who would command someone to go get bad influences from riffraff?) It's more likely to be interpreted as a conditional:

[If] you hang around with riffraff like the Weasleys and that Hagrid, and it’ll rub off on you.

  • 2
    The cover term is "Impositive"; it's meant to impose something on someone. – John Lawler Nov 9 '12 at 17:32
  • @JohnLawler: You mean "Impositive" versus "Imperative"? I'll admit I was just quoting back the question title, perhaps incorrectly. – Lynn Nov 9 '12 at 18:53
  • 2
    Imperative is a specific syntactic category, with its own syntax, while impositive is a term that covers true imperatives, suggestions, noodges, rants, and any other attempt to impose some behavior (or lack of behavior) on a person. So this is an impositive, but it isn't an imperative. – John Lawler Nov 9 '12 at 22:19
  • @JohnLawler What is the syntactic formula to form an imperative sentence? – M.Abulsoud Mar 14 '19 at 11:19
  • I can describe them, but not give a "syntactic formula to form" them. I don't know what kinds of "formula" you mean. True English imperatives have uninflected (i.e, infinitive form) action verbs and a second person subject (which is usually deleted). E.g, Get out of here. Take your box with you. You stand over there. Be honest, now. Have a good time. Enjoy yourself/yourselves/*himself/*myself. – John Lawler Mar 14 '19 at 17:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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