JoLIE 9:3/2016


Back to issue page







Petranka Ruseva

Shumen University, College-Dobrich, Bulgaria






Generally, the English imperative is accepted to be presented by bare verb stem and imperative clauses are the ones whose verbs are in imperative mood. But the idea about the variety of ways possible to express imperative meaning is also widespread. One of the possibilities suggested by some authors involves modal verbs. Although some differences between the two types are recognised, the focus of the paper is on the similarities between the imperative in its general use compared to prefabs of second person structures with some of the modal verbs (can, must and will, in particular). The hypothesis adopted here concerns the similarity between the two types and it is a starting point for the search for examples confirming it in an online corpus (BYU-BNC). In order to limit the enormous range of possibilities in the language to be examined, the paper studies only those with have and you can have/ you must have/ you will have in spoken classroom language. Two are the main steps that are undertaken.

Firstly, the investigation aims at finding the similarities in the VP. The task is facilitated by using valence patterns. Have as a lexical verb is targeted in both cases, i.e. on the one hand in the imperative and on the other, as a part of the structure where it follows one of the central modal verbs, mentioned already, which is preceded by the second person pronoun you. The paper does not consider other possibilities for subjects. The choice of this particular structure is determined by the imperative as it is usually referred to and implies second person subject. However, this does not mean that other overt subjects are impossible. Another point to mention is that have as one of the so called light verbs is related to Sinclair’s “progressive delexicalization”. This phenomenon is paid attention to as it is closely connected to the next step.

Secondly, the similarities are looked for in pragmatics. In general, imperatives are associated with requests and commands but a number of other uses are also recognized. The corpus offers examples that illustrate the variety. The context is of great importance to get the intended meaning of the addresser. There are words that are sometimes crucial for understanding the clause properly. These could be markers of politeness, such as please, or words that are sometimes signs of minimization of the imposition (e.g. just), or words that signify stages of instruction (e.g. first, next, then) and so on.


Key words: Imperatives; Valency; Inducement; Progressive delexicalization.





Aikhenvald, A. (2010). Imperatives and commands. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Austin, J.L. (1962). How to do things with words. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Bach, K. (2004). Minding the gap. In C. Bianchi (Ed.), The semantics/pragmatics distinction (pp. 27-43). Stanford: CSLI Publications.


BYU-BNC. Retrieved from


Condoravdi, C., & Lauer S. (2010). Speaking of preferences: imperative and desiderative assertions in context. Lichtenberg-Kоlleg, University of Gottingen, June 4-5. Retrieved from


Davies, E. (1986). The English Imperative. New Hampshire: Croom Helm Ltd.


Downing, A., & Locke, P. (2006). English grammar: a university course (2nd ed.). Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd, Oxon, New York: Routledge.


Doykova, I., & Seizova-Nankova, T. (2013). Predicative adjectives in ESP – a corpus-based approach. In S. Nedelcheva, & D. Cheshmedzhieva-Stoycheva (Eds.), Dynamics, interdisciplinarity, diversity (pp. 43-52). Shumen: Constantin Preslavsky University Press.


Fillmore, C.J. (2008). A valency dictionary of English. International Journal of Lexicography, 1-31. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from


Greenbaum, S. (1991). An introduction to English grammar. Harlow: Longman.


Grundy, P. (2000). Doing pragmatics (2nd ed.). London: Arnold.


Halliday, M.A.K. (2004). An introduction to functional grammar. London: Hodder Arnold.


Han, C. (1998). The structure and interpretation of imperatives: mood and force in universal grammar. IRCS technical report series, A dissertation in linguistics – University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from


Han, C. (1999). Deontic modality, lexical aspect and semantics of imperatives. Linguistics in Morning Calm 4, 1-18. Seoul: Hanshin Publications.


Herbst, T. (2009). Introduction. Erlangen Valency Patternbank – a corpus-based research tool for work on valency and argument structure constructions. Retrieved from


Herbst, T., Heath, D., Roe, I., & Götz, D. with the assistance of M. Klotz. (2004). A valency dictionary of English: a corpus-based analysis of the complementation patterns of English verbs, nouns and adjectives. Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.


Huddleston, R., & Pullum, G. (Eds). (2005). The Cambridge grammar of the English language. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Hunston, S., & Francis, G. (2000). Pattern grammar: A corpus-driven approach to the lexical grammar of English. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins B.V.


Leech, G. (1983). Principles of pragmatics. London: Longman.


Leech, G., & Svartvik, J. (1988). A communicative grammar of English. London: Longman.


Levinson, S. (1983). Pragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Peneva, D. (2015). The Speech act of apology of Bulgarian learners of English (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Konstantin Preslavsky University of Shumen, Shumen, Bulgaria.


Searle, J.R., & Vanderveken, D. (2005). Speech acts and illocutionary logic. In Logic, Thought and Action. Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science (Vol. 2, pp. 109-132). Dordrecht: Springer. Retrieved from


Sinclair, J. (1991). Corpus, concordance, collocation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Wilson, D., & Sperber, D. (1988). Mood and the analysis of non-declarative sentences. In A. Kasher (Ed.), Pragmatics: critical concepts. (Vol. 2, pp. 262-289). London: Routledge.


Wittgenstein, L. (1958). Philosophical investigations (G.E.M. Anscombe, Trans.). Oxford: Basil Blackwell.


Wray, A., & Perkins, M.R. (2000). The functions of formulaic language: an integrated model. Language & Communication 20, 1-28. Retrieved from



How to cite this article: Ruseva, P. (2016). Comparison between have and you can have/ you must have/ you will have as structures conveying inducement in the BYU-BNC classroom language. Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education – JoLIE, 9(3), 133-152. DOI:



For details on subscription, go to:


[1]This article is published with funding from project RD-08-143/08.02.2016, Scientific Research Fund of Shumen University, Bulgaria.