English Language


Shiken premium Upgrade Banner

The Role of Directives in Communication

Hello there! Take a moment to read this article and expand your understanding of directives in speech acts. Thank you for stopping by!

A directive is a type of speech act that aims to elicit a specific action from the listener. But what exactly are directives and when are they used? In this article, we will delve into the definition of directives and their impact on communication. We will also explore examples of different types of directives and how they influence a listener.

What is a Speech Act?

Speech acts are utterances that serve a purpose in communication. Every time we speak, we are also performing an action. These actions are called illocutionary acts and can be categorized into five types: assertive, directive, commissive, expressive, and declarative.

What is a Directive in Speech Acts?

A directive in speech acts refers to an utterance that aims to get the listener to carry out a specific action. It is equivalent to the noun "directive" when used in the context of speech acts. To better understand directive speech acts, here are some synonyms for the term:

  • Command
  • Instruction
  • Demand
  • Direction
  • Rule
  • Prescription
  • Dictate
  • Regulation
  • Ruling
  • Decree
  • Order

When is a Directive Used?

Directives are utilized when the speaker wants the listener to perform a specific action, usually for the speaker's benefit. Depending on the desired outcome, there are various ways to achieve this goal. According to Searle's speech act classification, let us now examine the different types of directives, which include:

  • Asking/Questioning
  • Requesting
  • Ordering/Commanding
  • Begging
  • Inviting
  • Suggesting/Advising

Different Forms of Directives

Directives can take on different forms, such as declarative sentences, interrogative questions, and imperative sentences. Let's look at examples of these various forms of directives in sentences below.

Examples of Directives

Now, let's examine the different types of directives in detail:


This type of directive involves the speaker posing a question to the listener to elicit a response. It typically pertains to information that the listener may not already know. At times, asking a question may lead to the listener asking a follow-up question. Grammatically, asking a question is considered an interrogative sentence.

  • Speaker: Where did you get that shirt?
  • Listener: I bought it from a store.
  • Speaker: Are you busy tomorrow?
  • Listener: No, I am free. Do you want to hang out?
  • Speaker: Who is your favorite singer?
  • Listener: I really like Ariana Grande.


Requesting is when the speaker asks the listener for something. It is often considered more formal than simply asking a question, as it requires more from the listener. A request can be an interrogative, but it can also be an imperative. It is usually polite to use "please" when making a request as a sign of respect. Modal verbs like "can/could/would" are commonly used to ask for permission. Unlike a simple question, a request typically leads to an action that benefits the speaker.

Examples of Interrogative Requests:

  • Speaker, in a restaurant: "Can I get the bill, please?"
  • Waiter/waitress response: "Of course." *Hands over the bill*
  • Speaker, to a passerby: "Could you tell me where the nearest restroom is?"
  • Passerby response: "Sure, it's down this street, to the left." *Gives directions.*

Examples of Imperative Requests:

  • Speaker: "Please take a seat."
  • Listener response: *Sits down.*
  • Speaker: "Would you please respond by Saturday at the latest?"
  • Listener response: *Sends a response within the given time frame.*


This type of directive involves the speaker instructing the listener to take (or not take) a specific action. It can be forceful or manipulative. In terms of grammar, imperative sentences are used in issuing orders or commands.

Examples include:

  • Speaker: "Give me that pen."
  • Listener response: *Hands over the pen.*
  • Speaker: "Do not touch that vase."
  • Listener response: *Avoids touching the vase.*

The Different Ways to Write Directives

Directives are expressions that convey a command or instruction to the listener. They can be written in different styles depending on the tone and intent of the speaker. Punctuation and word choice play a crucial role in conveying the emotions and urgency in directive sentences. Here are some examples of how directives can be written:

  • Commanding: This type of directive is used to directly tell someone what to do. It can be written in a formal or casual tone, using an imperative sentence. For instance, “Please close the window.”
  • Requesting: When someone wants something from someone else, they may use a request. This is usually more polite and formal than a command and can be written as a question or statement. For example, “Could you kindly pass the salt?”
  • Asking/Questioning: This type of directive is used when the speaker seeks information from the listener. It is written as a question and often ends with a question mark. For instance, “Do you know how to get to the post office?”
  • Inviting: An invitation is used to tempt someone to do something or go somewhere. It can be written in the form of a question or statement and is often used for more formal occasions. For example, “Would you care to join us for dinner tonight?”
  • Suggesting/Advising: This refers to when a speaker puts forward an idea to someone else. Unlike commands, it is not a direct order but rather persuades the listener to consider a different perspective. These statements often use modals and are written as a question. For example, “Why don't we try a different approach?”
  • Begging: When someone is desperate to get something from someone else, they may use a begging statement. It conveys a sense of urgency and can be written with exclamation marks and uppercase words. For example, “Please, please, please let me go to the concert!”

It is important to remember that directives should always be written in a respectful and appropriate manner, depending on the context and relationship between the speaker and the listener. Proper punctuation and word choice are crucial in effectively conveying the speaker's tone and emotions in their directive sentences.

Understanding Directives in English Grammar

A directive is a type of speech act that directs someone to perform an action. It is commonly used in everyday communication, such as when a teacher instructs their students to complete an assignment. Examples of directives include:

  • “Please finish your homework by tomorrow.”
  • “Kindly bring your ID to the meeting.”
  • “Don't forget to turn off the lights before you leave.”

Directives can take various forms depending on their purpose and tone. They can be in the form of commands, requests, questions, invitations, suggestions, or begging statements.

Difference between Directives and Imperatives

While directives and imperatives are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between them. A directive is a statement that directs someone to do something, while an imperative is a verb form used to give an order or command. Imperatives can also serve as directives. For example, in the sentence “Please close the door,” “close” is an imperative verb, and the sentence is a directive.

The Purpose of Directives

The main purpose of directives is for a speaker to guide or instruct the listener to perform an action. Whether it is to complete a task, give advice, or invite someone, directives serve as a means of communication to express our needs and desires. They play an essential role in effective communication and help us get things done in various situations.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Explore More Subject Explanations

Try Shiken Premium for free

Start creating interactive learning content in minutes with Shiken. 96% of learners report 2x faster learning.
Try Shiken for free
Free 14 day trial
Cancel anytime
20k+ learners globally
Shiken UI showing questions and overall results.