"Doesn't talk please VS Don't talk please"


Why can't we use "doesn't talk" instead of "don't talk"? when referring to he/she why is "doesn't talk" wrong?

e.g. When you are talking in class and your teacher said: "don't talk please." Why didn't she use "doesn't talk" in that case?

Ice Girl

Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 4 045

3Can you show some context? He doesn't talk is absolutely fine, and don't talk as well. But don't talk is an order you give someone, and you always address an order to someone (second person!), never to a "he or she" (third person). – oerkelens – 2014-10-17T11:25:05.637

Can you please try explain what you mean, as the grammar and logic of your sentence construction is mixing up your confusion. – Tushar – 2014-10-17T11:27:03.467

@oerkelens I feel that "He don't talk" is actually misused here as the word "don't" is a shortened form of "do not" therefore stating "He do not talk" is actually a misconstruction. – Tushar – 2014-10-17T11:28:31.590

2Ok, so you are asking about the imperative (order) indeed. Well, the trick is you cannot give an order to "he", you always give an order to a "you" - you always address someone, singular or plural. The verb form is the same for the imperative as for the second person: "don't". – oerkelens – 2014-10-17T11:39:08.003



When someone gives a command like this, it is called an "imperative sentence". The subject of the sentence is an implied "you", and so you use the form of the verb that goes with "you". In this case, "[You] do not talk." "Doesn't" is used with the third person singular, such as "he". But you can't give a command to a third person, that is, you can't give orders to someone other than the person you are talking to. So we don't use the third person for imperatives, always the second.


Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 51 729

exactly, that's what I was about to write! :) – Maulik V – 2014-10-17T13:28:59.037

You have the right answer. Not sure why you're not upvoted the most. The implied subject is "you". The teacher is instructing you (or the whole class including you) to keep quiet. – ADTC – 2014-10-17T14:35:22.577

5@ADTC: It's correct, but a bit misleading, because it makes it sound like you would say (to borrow sanchises's example below) *"Are quiet, Lisa!" instead of the correct "Be quiet, Lisa!" – ruakh – 2014-10-17T18:56:50.393

2@ruakh Exactly. The simple fact is that the imperative is different from the second person form of a verb, and indeed always takes the form of the bare infinitive, NOT the second person. Rather, it's just that the second person usually, but not always, takes the form of the bare infinitive. – Sanchises – 2014-10-18T09:41:44.480

@sanchises: The affirmative imperative always takes the form of the bare infinitive. But this question is actually about the negative imperative, which does not. (We say "Don't talk!", even though the bare infinitive is not talk.) – ruakh – 2014-10-18T17:44:37.973

@ruakh Well, of course, the imperative takes the imperative, which is no surprise. However, we DO NOT use the second person (be quiet, not are quiet)! This may work for most verbs, but not all. So, no, it is not exactly the infinitive, but it's always based on the infinitive, with the special extra that you can contract it. – Sanchises – 2014-10-20T15:37:35.117

@sanchises: It's not a matter of contraction. You also can't say to do not talk. It's its own thing -- the imperative just works a bit differently from anything else. – ruakh – 2014-10-20T17:00:16.043


The phrase you are using is called an 'imperative'. We use the imperative when we command other people to do something. For example,

Be quiet, Lisa!


Eat your breakfast, Timmy!

In English, the imperative is mostly the same as the bare infinitive form, but can be contracted. Since the infinitive in question is 'to do', you should use "don't talk" and not "doesn't talk". This because 'don't' is the contraction of 'do not', and 'doesn't' is the contraction of 'does not'.


Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 1 041

I have a question, due to the grammatical and sentence construction issues that were identified in the question when it was posted, how does your answer take into consideration the clarified meaning of the question? – Tushar – 2014-10-17T11:34:08.043

@Tushar: good comprehensive reading, I guess, because as I understand the edited question, this answer is bang on :) – oerkelens – 2014-10-17T11:36:52.340

@oerkelens :) well you have half of it bang on. You kind of had to focus on the usage of contractions and how contractions in this case work hand in hand with imperatives. Look at my answer for example. – Tushar – 2014-10-17T11:40:34.890

1@Tushar The question made it obvious to me that the problem was not the use of contractions, but the use of imperatives (especially the question title). I edited in some information about contractions to be more complete. – Sanchises – 2014-10-17T12:27:46.133

Well good work. I'm just glad some section of the internet reached a conclusion without ripping each other's heads off. – Tushar – 2014-10-17T12:31:39.007

It's coincidental that "the imperative is the same as the infinitive form". The imperative implies a deleted *subject* "you" (singular or plural), which is what dictates the conjugated verb form. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-10-17T12:44:07.000

@FumbleFingers And yet we say 'Be quiet', and not 'Are quiet', even though you'd say 'You are quiet'. So definitely the infinitive, not an elision of 'you'. – Sanchises – 2014-10-17T13:13:40.473

1It saddens me you used Be quiet, Lisa over Shut up, Meg. – TMH – 2014-10-17T13:52:21.927

Your answer contradicts itself somewhat: "don't" isn't the infinitive form. (One says "not to do" or "to not do", never *"to don't".) Affirmative imperatives use the infinitive form. Negative imperatives use "don't" (or "do not") plus the infinitive form -- to the point that we even say (e.g.) "don't be quiet", which is ungrammatical except as an imperative. – ruakh – 2014-10-17T18:59:13.097

@FumbleFingers The implied subject does not change the fact that the imperative is used over the second person form of the verb. The citation you give means that you do not have to provide the subject yourself, i.e., you don't usually say "Don't you talk!". – Sanchises – 2014-10-18T09:37:29.793

@sanchises: It just so happens I was at Dunkirk ferry port a few days ago and my daughter asked me what the Mangez, Buvez sign over a building meant. After telling her about the basic verbs (awkward with irregular boire/buvez), I said they ended with *-ez* because they were imperatives addressed to *you*. Seeing your answer later, I mistakenly assumed the English equivalent involved some kind of "degenerate conjugation" (akin to subjunctive), but on reflection now I think it may as well be called an "infinitive" form. Always at least an implied subject "you", though. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-10-18T12:30:09.840

@ruakh I don't think it was worded that way in this answer. It says that "do" as an imperative is the same as the bare infinitive "do". Afterwards, we can negate it by adding "not". – Dan Getz – 2014-10-20T01:28:41.770

1@DanGetz: But that's just as wrong, and for the same reason. The helping verb do doesn't have a bare infinitive; one can say "If you disagree, do speak up", but one cannot say *"If anyone disagrees, I'd ask them to do speak up". – ruakh – 2014-10-20T03:23:20.860

(Which, incidentally, means that even my own statement above -- "Affirmative imperatives use the infinitive form" -- is an oversimplification.) – ruakh – 2014-10-20T03:25:39.480


Ice Girl, according to situation given in your question the teacher is telling the students to do something or NOT do something. This type os sentence is called a command or an order - it is also described as an imperative sentence form (as pointed out by sanchises and others).

This type of sentence (command/order/imperative) requires the verb to be in the BARE infinitive form (INFINITIVE FORM: to talk; BARE INFINITIVE: talk). So the teacher says:

Talk, please!
Write, please!
Stop that!
Get out!
Be quiet!

When the teacher tells you NOT to do something that is called the NEGATIVE form of the sentence. The negative form needs an auxiliary (helping) verb. The helping verb is the PRESENT INDICATIVE form of the verb to do. As correctly pointed out by oerkelens this must be the second person singular/plural - that is, DO.

So for the negative forms of commands the teacher says:

Don't talk, please! - or - Do not talk, please!
Don't write!
Don't stop!
Don't be quiet!

Hope that helps!

Hilton Chapman

Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 51

Use bold, not CAPS. No need to greet asker, write non-answer content or sign your name. The post should purely be an answer. – ADTC – 2014-10-17T14:38:06.930

The same form of the verb is used, but it doesn't make much sense to say imperatives use the infinitive form of a verb. Instead, let's call this the plain form of the verb and say that it's used in both infinitive and imperative constructions. – snailplane – 2014-10-17T16:07:10.963


Simply put. Words like "Doesn't, Don't, Can't, Won't" are all contractions. The reason they are used is to shorten the sentence speaking/writing length. Therefore when wondering why a specific contraction is preferred over the other I'd suggest you look at the full form and then ask. For example.

Don't talk Thomas! = Do not talk Thomas!


Doesn't talk Lisa! = Does not talk Lisa!

So it means that the second contraction is actually incorrect as saying "Does not talk Lisa" is not an Imperative form which is used to command others to do something.


Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 320

The asker is asking why it's incorrect. – ADTC – 2014-10-17T14:39:50.130


Because it is in imperative mood, which does not have tenses. Especially it does not have present tense, in which we add "-s" in third person singularis.

Imperative is made in form: [Infinitive without 'to'] + [rest of sentence (objects &c.)]


Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 101


Answers here tend to mix up two different aspects: one being imperative/indicative, another being 2nd person/3rd person. I'm not versed well enough in Early Modern English to know whether it sported a 3rd person imperative like Kaiserzeit German, but if it did, it would have been somewhat like "Talk he not to me, commoner!" in analogy to the German "Spreche Er mich nicht an, Gemeiner!".

Of course, neither modern English nor German use anything but the second person in their imperative nowadays, but the difference in ending between "doesn't" and "don't" cannot be mainly attributed to 2nd/3rd person difference since "does" never worked as an imperative even for 2nd person.


Posted 2014-10-17T11:09:06.577

Reputation: 1

1English has third-person imperatives: "Nobody move!" This is neither "Nobody, move!" with a vocative nor "Nobody moves!" with the usual present singular third-person -s inflection. – snailplane – 2014-10-19T01:28:04.927