Optative Sentence Example and Definition: What Is an Optative Sentence?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on September 7, 2022

When writing in the English language, it is most certainly handy to be aware of the different types of sentences that exist, and which ones to use in which circumstances. An optative sentence is one of those types.

An optative sentence is a sentence that expresses a wish or a desire. An example of such a sentence is "May all your dreams come true!". It is usually said with much enthusiasm and is often used for blessings or curses.

If you'd like to know more about these particular sentences, what their meaning is, and when and how to use them, this article is for you.

What is an Optative Sentence?

An optative sentence is a sentence that expresses a wish or desire. It is used a lot in literature and poetry to provide an opportunity for the writer to show their emotions and feelings through writing, while also describing what they would like to happen in the story. 

It’s also used in spoken language, but less often. Except perhaps in prayer, where it’s quite common since it expresses a wish.

You might also use an optative sentence to express a curse. For example:

  • May a frog jump out of a mouth each time you speak!
  • I curse you to fall asleep for a thousand years!

The optative sentence typically begins with words like ‘let’, ‘may’, or ‘wishing’.

Optative often uses old-style English. If it sounds weird to say it, but you probably wouldn’t be surprised to see it in a Shakespeare book or the Bible, then it’s probably optative!

Interesting fact: Did you know that few languages have an optative mood in their grammar palette? Some that do are Albanian, Ancient Greek, Kazakh, Japanese, Finnish, Nepali, and Sanskrit.

'Optative' Definition: What Does 'Optative' Mean?

We find word definitions helpful in adding a layer to our understanding of a grammatical concept. So let’s dive into the meaning of the word ‘optative’.

The word ‘optative’ is an adjective, meaning it has a descriptive quality. According to the definition, it describes something that has a hopeful, or wishful quality. Therefore, it can be used for anything that can have that sort of quality. For instance, a mood could be optative; so could a sentence or a verb.

The word dates back to the 15th century and comes from the Latin optāre ‘to desire’.

Examples of Common Optative Phrases

Here are some examples of optative phrases that you might have heard before:

  • Long live the Queen!
  • Let there be light!
  • May the best man win!
  • God help us!

Differences Between Optative Sentences and Other Types of Sentences

There can be some confusion between optative sentences and other types of sentences because they can be quite similar. Let’s dive into some types of sentences that could be confused with the optative sentence, and understand the differences (and similarities).

Difference Between an Optative Sentence and an Imperative Sentence

The imperative sentence is a sentence that conveys a command, request, or order. It allows us to instruct a person to do something. Here are some examples:

  • Please sit down.
  • Tommy, leave your friend alone!
  • If you’ve already heard this story, stop me now.

The optative sentence can sometimes be confused with an imperative sentence because it appears to convey a request. 

Take, for example, the popular optative phrase ‘May the best man win’, it certainly seems that we are commanding the best man to win. But of course, we have no such power as to ensure that the best man wins. That is not in our control. 

And that is the difference between an optative and an imperative sentence: the optative conveys a wish - something outside of our control - and the imperative conveys a command - something we can control.

Difference Between an Optative Sentence and a Conditional Sentence

A conditional sentence can be used to express something that we would be able to do or have if the circumstances were right. Alternatively, to describe a hypothetical situation. Here are a few examples of conditional sentences:

  • If I were rich, I’d buy a mansion.
  • If she were here, I’d tell her how I feel.

As you can see, these sentences express a wish, so in a way, they’re similar to an optative sentence. To confuse matters even further, the verb in an optative sentence can often be conjugated the same way as the verb in an optative sentence: the subjunctive tense.

So what is the real difference between the two? 

Though quite subtle, there is indeed a distinction between an optative sentence and a conditional sentence.

A conditional sentence expresses a hypothetical situation and doesn’t necessarily reveal anything about the author’s feelings about the situation (although sometimes it can). An optative sentence expresses a wish and therefore always reveals the speaker’s feelings or emotions. 

Difference Between an Optative Sentence and an Exclamatory Sentence

Another type of sentence that resembles somewhat an optative sentence is an exclamatory sentence.

This kind of sentence is used to denote the speaker’s enthusiasm in a situation. For example:

  • This is the best day ever!
  • What an incredible view!
  • I’m so glad I came!

It’s used to state a fact that the speaker is observing. It can sometimes reveal the wishes of the speaker, so in that way, it’s similar to an optative sentence. It also tends to end with an exclamation mark, which is another similarity it shares with an optative sentence. However, it is not confined to only expressing a wish or desire, whereas an optative sentence is.

Interestingly, note that an exclamatory sentence doesn’t need to be a full sentence in the grammatical sense. For instance, imagine you dropped your glass of water on the floor and it shattered, you might exclaim: “Oh, no!”

Tense Vs Sentence Vs Mood

We’ve described several grammatical concepts in this article, so wanted to round up by giving you a brief detail of what these mean so that you can buff up your understanding of English grammar.


A tense refers to the way that you conjugate your verbs. For instance, the present indefinite is a tense. So are the past indefinite, the conditional, and the future tenses. The list goes on. 

Tenses reveal to the reader or listener essential elements about the meaning of the sentence, such as when it takes place and whether or not it’s ongoing or has ended.

Here are a few examples of different tenses:

  • I feel happy today  → verb in the present tense
  • I’ve been feeling happy lately  → verb in the present perfect continuous tense
  • I felt happy yesterday  → verb in past indefinite tense

Types of Sentence

In the English language, there are a number of different types of sentence that help the speaker expresses themself in such a way that it conveys the intention accurately. 

An optative sentence is one of those. Earlier, we went over a few others, such as conditional, exclamatory, and imperative. There is certainly more than that. Each type of sentence needs to pair with the correct verb tense in order to be understood in the intended sense.

For example, the following conditional sentence pairs with the subjunctive tense:

I would love to go to the party.

Sometimes, the sentence type and verb tense share the same name. Such is the case in the following example, where the imperative tense can be found in the imperative sentence:

Get over here right this second.

To give a final example, this exclamatory sentence uses the present continuous tense:

I’m having the best day ever!

To Conclude

May this article grant you the understanding you needed to use an optative sentence whenever you please!

We just had to conclude on an optative sentence, we hope you don’t mind.

To summarize, an optative sentence is used to express one wishes, hopes, desires, or even a curse. It is a gateway into the speaker or author’s feelings and emotions. 

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and start using optative sentences yourself!

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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