Italian Language/imperative

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Dear Maria,

I am still having some difficulty understanding when the 2nd person imperative is used as opposed to using the 3rd person imperative  (or hortatory subjunctive) to give commands.

I think that I am confused because not only are the terms “strict command” and “suggestion”  used to explain the use of these verb forms, but also the concept of the “informal you” (familiar)  and the “formal you” (courteous) seem to be taken into account.  

It would help me very much if you would tell me if the following examples are true or not:

“Fammi sapere”  (Let me know)  is considered a “strict command” and is used when an adult talks to a child or when an adult is talking to another adult that he knows.

“Mi faccia sapere” (Let me know) is considered a “suggestion” or “strong exhortation” and is used by an adult to talk to another adult that he does not know.

“Vai” (Go) is considered a “strict command” and is used when an adult talks to a child or when an adult is talking to another adult that he knows.

“Vada” (Go) is considered a “suggestion” or “strong exhortation” and is used by an adult to talk to another adult that he does not know.

Can you also please tell me if I am correct in thinking that an adult should never say “Fammi sapere”  or “Vai” to another adult that he does not know.

I was also wondering how the military would distinguish between these commands.  If a high ranking Italian officer (such as a general) was talking to a lower ranked Italian soldier (such as a private)  - does the concept of “informal you” and “formal you” still come into play?  Would the general say “Vada” to a private that he does not know?  I am sure that an American general would want to give a “strict command” which would be “Vai” in Italian, but since the Italian general does not know the private in this example, it seems like the Italian general would say “Vada”.  But, is it proper for a general to make a “suggestion” to a private?

Thank you, in advance, for your patience and help with my questions.

Sincerely

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich,

first of all here are my answers:

-“Fammi sapere!”  (Let me know) can be considered  a “strict command” as well as a “suggestion”  used when an adult talks to a child or when an adult is talking to another adult that he knows.
The difference between a “strict command” and a “suggestion” depends on the relations that exist between the two persons who are talking and are using the “informal you” (familiar) as well on the tone of voice(sweet/harsh)used by the one who is saying "Fammi sapere!"

-“Mi faccia sapere!” (Let me know) can be  considered  a “suggestion”  as well as a “ strong  exhortation”  used by an adult to talk to another adult that he does not know.
The difference between a “strong exhortation” and a “suggestion” depends on the relations that exist between the two persons who are talking and are using the “formal you” (courteous) as well as on the tone of voice (sweet/ harsh)used by the one who is saying "Mi faccia sapere!"


-“Vai!”(Go) is often considered a “strict command” and is used when an adult talks to a child or when an adult is talking to another adult that he knows ("informal you").
In this case it is the verb “andare” that denotes the command as someone is ordering another to go away and then says "Vai!" or "Vattene!".


-“Vada!” (Go) can be  considered a “suggestion” or a  “strong exhortation” / “command” and is used by an adult to talk to another adult that he does not know (“formal you” ).
The difference between a “strong exhortation” and a “suggestion” depends on the tone of voice (sweet, harsh) as well as on the relations that exist between the two persons who are talking and are using the “formal you” (courteous).
For example, I can say “Vada!” (suggestion)  to mean that someone that I do not know can enter  my house, but I can also say “Se ne vada!” (strong exhortation) to mean that someone that I do not know must go away.



As for “Fammi sapere!” and “Vai!”,  you are  correct in thinking that in good Italian an adult should never say “Fammi sapere”  or “Vai” to another adult that he does not know.

Lastly, if a high ranking Italian officer (such as a general) is talking to a lower ranked Italian soldier (such as a private),  it is  the “formal you”  that is used.
So,  an Italian general  would say “Vada!”/"Se ne vada!" to a private just to give a “strict command”, not a “suggestion”, of course, while "Vada pure" (You may go)is an exhortation/ hortatory subjunctive.

Anyway, it is usual  that a sergeant instructor  or another lower ranked officer uses the “informal you” when he is  talking to a lower ranked  soldier (such as a private) and then says “Vai!”/"Vattene!", not “Vada!”/"Se ne vada!".

Hope this helps.

Best regards,
Maria

Italian Language

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Maria

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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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