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The past imperative as the expression of the irrealis
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The past tense and the past perfect of the main verb can be used to form the imperative of the irrealis.

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What is a simple past tense morphologically can be used to express an imperative in the irrealis. Such examples are not very frequent. An example is given below:

Example 1

Naam dy dat dan net sa nei!
took you.OBJ that then not so after
You shouldn't have worried about it so much

This type of irrealis imperative, naamtook, expresses adhortative semantics, as is further evidenced by the use of the discourse particle danthen. The particle is used to change commands into adhortatives. Compare the following minimal pair:the phrase yt!eat expresses a command, whereas the phrase yt dan!please, eat! expresses an exhortation. Of course, it makes more sense to put an exhortation in the past than to put a pure command in the past. The past exhortation may convey the speaker's emotional involvement. Note that the sentence above has the familiar characteristics of imperatives: the subject is absent, and the implied subject is the addressee. Furthermore, the subject may be made explicit, but there is no agreement, as is characteristic of singular imperatives, as in (2):

Example 2

?Naam do dy dat dan net sa nei!
took you.SUB you.OBJ that then not so after
You shouldn't have worried about it so much

The irrealis imperative may also be used to express a past condition. Conditional clauses may be formed by putting the verb in the clause-initial position. The following example illustrates this for the indicative:

Example 3

Kaam men te let, dan lieten se jin der net yn
came one too late then let they one R not in
If you were late, they would not let you in

The same V1 (Verb First) conditional may also contain a verb in the past tense of the imperative:

Example 4

Doarst it mar ris bestean en skuor in grutte mûle op tsjin de baas!
dared.PST it DcP DcP do and pull a big mouth up against the boss
If you dared talk back to the boss (you were in for it)!

The two discourse particles mar ris are commonly used to change a command into an invitation.

The simple past may also express a past concessive in the case of the verb littelet, as shown in (5):

Example 5

Liet him ûnferskillich wêze, hja ljeave harpelûd
let.PST him indifferent be she loved harp.sound
Let him be indifferent, she loved the sound of the harp

Such examples are found in the literature. Present-day Frisian would feature the present tense and the discourse particle marbut:

Example 6

Lit him mar ûnferskillich wêze, hja ljeave harpelûd
let.PRES him DcP indifferent be she loved harp.sound
Let him be indifferent, she loved the sound of the harp

This is an odd type of imperative, since it is unclear who is the subject of the verb littelet. It is not the addressee, as is clear from the ungrammaticality of (7):

Example 7

*Lit do him mar ûnferskillich wêze, hja ljeave harpelûd
let.PRES you him DcP indifferent be she loved harp.sound
Let him be indifferent, she loved the sound of the harp

Instead, the understood addressee of this verb seems to be the universe or God (see the first sentence below). The imperative clause, present or past, is similar to the conditional V1 construction. Two more examples of this type are provided in (8):

Example 8

a. Liet de wrâld dizze jonge in rebel neame, it wie har jonge, har kammeraat
let.PST the world this boy a rebel call it was her boy, her comrade
Let the world call this boy a rebel, it was her boy, her comrade
b. Liet dan de wyn mar op 'e skoarstien bolderje, gjin noed mear, heit wie thús!
let.PST then the wind DcP on the chimney roar no worry anymore dad was home
Let the wind roar against the chimney, not to worry, dad's home!

A much more common way to express an irrealis imperative is the use of the past perfect. The perfect is formed either with hawwehave in the case of unergatives or with wêzebe in the case of unaccusatives. However, even unaccusatives are regularly found with the past perfect based on hawwehave, as noted elsewhere. The following example has exhortative semantics:

Example 9

Hie dy dat dan net sa neinommen!
had you.OBJ that then not so after.taken
You shouldn't have worried about it so much

It has the same interpretation as its counterpart in the simple past. This type of clause is much more frequent than its simple past counterpart. The sentence in (9) has the familiar characteristics of imperatives: the subject is absent, and the implied subject is the addressee. Furthermore, the subject may be made explicit, but then there is no agreement, as is characteristic of singular imperatives:

Example 10

Hie do dy dat dan mar net sa neinommen!
had you.SUB you.OBJ that then DcP not so after.yaken
You shouldn't have worried about it so much

The plural imperative is likewise possible, as shown in (11):

Example 11

Hiene jim jim dat dan mar net sa neinommen!
had you.SUB you.OBJ that then DcP not so after.yaken
You shouldn't have worried about it so much

The irrealis imperative may also be used to express a past condition. Conditional clauses may be formed by putting the verb in the clause-initial position. The construction may feature an indicative, or, as in the example in (12), a pluperfect imperative:

Example 12

Hie it mar ris bestean doarst en skuor in grutte mûle op tsjin de baas!
had.PST it DcP DcP do dared and pull a big mouth up against the boss
If you had dared to talk back to the boss (you´d be in for it)!

The let-imperative, however, cannot have the form of the pluperfect, at least not in this particular type of examples in which the universe or God is the addressee:

Example 13

*Hie him mar ûnferskillich wêze litten, hja ljeave harpelûd
had him DcP indifferent be let.PfP she loved harp.sound
Let him be indifferent, she loved the sound of the harp

Otherwise, such examples are fine:

Example 14

Hie him mar ûnferskillich wêze litten!
had him DcP indifferent be let.PfP
You should have let him be indifferent!

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x Literature

More details can be found in Wolf (2003).

References:
  • Wolf, Henk2003Imperatieven in de verleden tijdTaal en Tongval55168-187
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