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Bare + imperativ

When the adverb bare (‘just’) comes before a verb in the imperative mode, it is typically used to provide the recipient with a suggested solution/action to a presented problem. The bare construction can signal that the solution is simple or straightforward, while simultaneously indicating that the problem is not as big or complicated as it was presented as. 

Typically, when a speaker uses an imperative it’s an indication that they have the authority to direct the recipient to perform the action expressed by the imperative. This authority can have a variety of bases, e.g., access to knowledge or social structures, and is context dependent. This means that the same speaker can claim authority in some situations, and not in other situations. 

There is a difference between whether an imperative is used alone (potentially along with an object as in slip bremsen (‘let go of the brake’ or tag opvasken ‘do the dishes’) or along with a modifying word like e.g. bare (‘just’). If the imperative stands alone, it signals that the speaker has very high authority and such constructions are typically used if the requested action has to be performed immediately. By contrast, if the imperative is modified it becomes less relevant whether the action is performed right away, and other factors surrounding the request play a bigger role. If the imperative is modified by, e.g., a preceding bare (‘just’), it’s not necesarilly a wish that the action should happen right away – although it may be so. Rather, focus is placed on the fact that there is a simple solution to the proposed problem. In the following example the four conversation participants are discussing university students and their problems with taking responsibility. M, a student herself, has begun telling a story about how younger students use her as an information source, rather than looking at the university’s online platform FirstClass: 

Samtalebanken | Sam4 | mødregruppe1 | 2044-2064 ((ansigt-til-ansigt) 

01   Mia:   Je:g konsekvent holdt op med 
            'I consistently stopped'

02          å svare jam’ det ka du 
            'answering, well you can'

03          læse på firstclass= 
            'read that on first class'

04          °har jeg også skrevet°<·hh heh ↑hehh 
            'I’ve written that too heh hehh'

05          bare sån jeg gider ikk bare 
            'like I just don’t want to'

06   Dorte: mm

07   Mia:   •hhh å såd’n:  
            'and like'
08          •hhh {Jam’n: å::h ved=  
            'well oh do you know' ((mocking voice)) 

09          =Hvornår a det så blevet rykk↑et 
            'when has it been moved'

10          til, det der som vi sku læse 
            'to the thing we had to read'

11          til i dag fordi at det >(ved j)
            'for today because I don’t know'
12          (m j)< Det sku vi jo åbenbart ikk 
            'apparently we didn’t'

13          ha i dag °ø:rh° >Ska 
            'have that today'
14          vi slet ikk ha< ↑undervisning 
            'are we not supposed to have class' 

15          i den her uge ↑Nåh¿
            'this week at all?' ((<--end of mocking voice)) 

16          (1.2) 

17   Mia:   {M 

18   Sus:   Bare skriv= 
            PRT write.IMP 
            'Just write'

19          =[Det↑ved [↓jeg ikk→ 
            'I don’t know'

20   Mia:   [( )[ he= 

21   Mia:   =↑herh hrh hehr- °hrh hh °(ø)° 

22   Mia:   £Fint£↘ 

23          (0.5) 

24   Sus:   Det ved jeg ikk↘ 
            'I don't know'

25          Jeg har [nok å gøre med mine= 
            'I don’t know I have enough with my own'

26   Mia:   [°°( )°° °(he he) 

27   Sus:   =tre bør[n↘ 
            'three kids'

28   Mia:   [J:a,(h)hh 

29   Mia:   ↑hi hi He(h)l ↓ærlig↘ 
            'hee hee honestly'

M doesn’t get much response to her story, neither verbally nor with gestures such as nodding. 

When the story ends, S responds in lines 18-19 with the imperative construction Bare skriv Det ved jeg ikk (‘Just write I don’t know’), and then elaborates on this proposed solution by comparing the students to M’s children. 

M quickly accepts this proposal with Fint (‘Fine’) in line 22 and Helt ærlig (‘Yes honestly’) in lines 28-29. 

The solution is presented as being easy with the word bare, and this is evidenced by the fact that S didn’t join in with responses throughout M’s story. It shows that the problem conveyed in the story was perceived as being less challenging than how M construed it. 

Sources and further reading: 

Heinemann, T. & Steensig, J. (2017) is a thorough review of the expression bare + imperative along with two other imperative constructions. 

Sorjonen, M-L., Raevaara, L. & Couper-Kuhlen, E. (2017) is a book about imperatives and their function in conversations in different languages. 

Relevant entries

Forms > Word classes/Parts of speech > Verbs

Forms > Word classes/Parts of speech > Adverbs

Functions > Actions Directive actions and responses > Suggestions