3

Whatever book you had open about German grammar, they had always tell you to form the imperative with the verb at the beginning. However, if you turn on some German TV for example, you had often hear phrases like

'Jetzt sparen'

or

'30 Tage kostenlos testen'

Which to me pretty much sounds like the imperative and the verb is at the end of the sentence. What is the difference between saying that and the 'regular'

'Sparen Sie jetzt'

or

'Testen Sie 30 Tage kostenlos'

  • 1
    Those aren't imperative forms, just sentence fragments used with the same purpose as imperatives. – Kilian Foth Dec 4 '19 at 7:27
3

Your general recognition that

... they had always tell you to form the imperative with the verb at the beginning

is correct.

Though the examples you heard

'Jetzt sparen'

and

'30 Tage kostenlos testen'

aren't really imperatives1.
You can just read these as implicit suggestions

'[Sie können] jetzt sparen'

or

'[Sie können] 30 Tage kostenlos testen'


What is the difference between saying that and the 'regular'

The difference is that the "regular" (whatever you mean) imperative sound more aggressive in demand.

I am not sure, but the advertising companies might have adapted to lesser demanding and aggressive tone, as this turns out being better accepted by the targeted customers.

Of course, this would be different for a dominatrix's advertisement

'Ruf mich an!'

where the expressed agressivity helps for the good marketing ;-).


1)Note that this comes from ny gut feelings as I am a native speaker. I can't really give some reliable source or evidence, as I am not a grammar expert.

  • 1
    Wow, thanks a lot, it makes sense now :) – Shashi Dec 3 '19 at 19:19
2

You have to make a distinction between imperative as a verb form and the speech act request (in German "Aufforderung"). Whereas there are only two genuine imperative forms (for kommen they are 'komm(e)!' and 'kommt!'), you have many more possibilities of making a request.

One of them is the infinitive form. In former times the pupils had to stand up when the teacher entered the class. After greeting, the teacher used to say

Hinsetzen!

as a command. In the same way you may say to an apprentice or to a trainee who wants to go home without cleaning his worksite

Nicht weglaufen und schön hierbleiben, wir sind hier noch nicht fertig.

You can also make a request by means of a past participle. In military commands it is common to say

Stillgestanden! (= "Attention!")

You can also say to the young runaways from the example above

Schön hiergeblieben!

And as said before, there are many other ways to request a person to do something.

For me, the interesting question is whether πάντα ῥεῖ's analysis is in accord with what I said here. I have to admit, that his perspective matches more closely to the intention of the respective advertising agencies, because they are not authorised to command the readers of their advertisements. They can only make suggestions, and that ist what πάντα ῥεῖ said.

So finally I will keep in mind that there are infinitives that look like ersatz imperatives but can as well be understood as suggestions.

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