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The conjugation tables of irregular Latin verbs that I have seen do not give any imperative forms for the verb velle. The verb nolle has the imperative forms noli and nolite, and they are fairly common. I found no hits for the forms voli, volite and velite in a corpus search, and all hits for veli seem to be from the noun velum. Have the imperative forms of velle ever been used in Latin of any era? If yes, what are they?

There are some rare cases where one might want to use such imperatives. I heard a nice speech in Finnish in December, and it made use of similar imperatives at a key point. To get an idea of how the situation, consider the following fictive speech excerpt:

I could ask you to serve your country. But I will not. The most important thing is not that you always succeed or that you even try in every single situation, but that you always want to do the best for your country. Want to serve your country!

I am not asking how to work around the seemingly missing imperatives; that is covered in another question. I am asking whether they are really missing. Do ask for details if the question is not clear enough.

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    I would venture to say that "want" lacks an imperative in English, too, but I think it's the better choice here, since "have the desire!" is easily translated "Studium habe(te)!" Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 20:36
  • @JoelDerfner Writing that order in English was not exactly within my comfort zone, so I won't oppose to a native speaker editing it into something more idiomatic and intuitive – while keeping an imperative verb in a similar manner. There's no issue in Finnish, though...
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 21:52
  • Okay, I've edited. Feel free to revert if you don't like it. The Finnish verb for "want" has an imperative? Fascinating! I wonder how many other languages there are like this. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 22:23
  • @JoelDerfner Aeschylus uses the aorist imperative of "ἐθέλω": "θέλησον"
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 22:44

1 Answer 1

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There is no imperative of velle in Latin.

It's possible that it used to be vel, but that would have been especially archaic. From Lewis and Short:

old imperative of volo properly, "will, choose, take your choice;" "hence."

However, as fdb points out in the comments, Lewis and Short might be outdated on this. De Vaan derives it instead from the 2nd singular form.

The conjunction vel retains the original 2s. *welsi > *well > vel. The 2s. vis is explained from *ueiH-s 'you wish' to the root *uiH- 'to strive after' by Meiser 1998.

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    Vel looks like a singular. Does Lewis and Short give a plural? Velte?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 6:36
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    Current etymological thinking (e.g. de Vaan) is that “vel” is not an imperative, but the old form of the 2nd sing. *wel-si > *well > *vel “if you wish”.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 11:09
  • In any event, whatever the etymology, the Romans did not perceive "vel" as a verbal form, but as a conjunction.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 11:14
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    @JoonasIlmavirta I should have made that clearer. When I said "you cannot use it for your purpose," I meant that it cannot be used in Latin as an imperative. I was merely mentioning its origins, not its function. There is no imperative for velle in use in ancient Latin.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 13:43
  • Thanks for the clarification! If the conclusion is that there never really was an imperative, could you make it more explicit in your answer? It makes sense that vel is the closest thing to an imperative there ever was, but I did misinterpret at first.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 13:47

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