The imperative signals a command in the second and third person in the main clause.
Choice between aorist and present stem
The reason why a Greek speaker opts for the present stem or the aorist stem is still unclear, despite years of linguistic research. In the scientific literature on this subject one encounters three tendencies (see also the chapter on aspect):
- referential theories (‘perfective’ or ‘special’ command [AS] vs. ‘imperfective’ or ‘general’ command [PS]);
- pragmatic theories (command ‘in comment’ [AS] vs. command ‘in focus’ [PS]);
- sociolinguistic theories (‘polite’ command [AS] vs. ‘less polite’ command [PS])
So far none of the above theories is capable of explaining all the cases of the imperative. A definitive solution will doubtless need to take account of all three of these elements and find a connection between them. It is certain that the third person occurs much more frequently in the present stem than in the aorist stem.
Other aspect stems
Imperatives with a perfect stem are relatively rare. The future stem is normally not used to form an imperative (because both morphological categories refer to the future), but some verbs have unambiguous future forms: e.g. ἄξετε (2nd pl., of ἄγω 'to lead') and οἶσε (2nd sg., of φέρω 'to carry').
An imperative is often preceded by a particle ἄγε δή, φέρε δή or ἴθι δή 'come on!' (sometimes with νύν instead of δή). These particles are fixed, regardless of number or gender. In poetic language πᾶς is sometimes added to the second person singular.