The most common Illocutions across the world’s languages are the Declarative (statement), the Interrogatives (question), and the Imperative (command). The Imperative has already been introduced under the category of Order, since the Imperative, as used to issue commands or make suggestions, is distinct from other verb forms in Cree. However, there are no specific verb forms dedicated to the Declarative or Interrogative in Cree. Both Independent Order and Conjunct Order verbs can be used to make statements and to ask questions, and their use as one or the other will be dependent on the syntax of the clause (i.e. on the combination of a verb with other particles and particular choice of word (or constituent) order). Still, more can be said here about the uses of the Imperative, Independent and Conjunct Orders, and their subdivisions.


The Imperative Order is truly Illocutionary, and is generally used to give commands (when directed to one or more addressees):

e.g.    mīciso!              “Eat!” (said to one addressee, i.e., one of you)

          mîcisok!             “Eat!” (said to more than one addressee; e.g. two of you, seven of you, all of you, etc.”)

However, it can also include the speaker along with the addressee(s) in providing a suggestion:

e.g.    mīcisotān!         “Let’s eat!” (including both speaker and addressee(s); e.g., all of us)

Such forms are technically called Hortatives, but they are generally included within the Imperative paradigms in Cree.

In addition to the basic or Immediate Imperative (and Hortative) forms, which request immediate action, Cree also has what is called the Delayed Imperative, allowing for the same basic forms but indicating action to be taken at a later time:

e.g.    mīcisohkan!       “Eat later!” (said to one addressee, i.e., one of you)

          mîcisohkēk!       “Eat! later” (said to more than one addressee; e.g. two of you, seven of you, all of you, etc.”)

          mīcisohkahk!     “Let’s eat later!” (including both speaker and addressee(s); e.g., all of us)

The Delayed Imperative has been treated like tense-marking (cf. Ellis 1970), similar to future Tense, which is marked quite differently on other verbs.


Independent Order verbs are typically found in main clauses, both as Declaratives and Interrogatives (especially in Yes-No or Polar Questions, less commonly in Content Questions). Historically, the Independent was divided into Indicative and Dubitative Modes. The Independent Indicative is the basic form and, for many contemporary speakers, the only Independent form still in common use. This is because Independent Dubitative Mode forms, expressing doubt or uncertainty (i.e. epistemic modality), are no longer current in Plains Cree, having largely been replaced by the use of the free floating particle ētikwē. Thus, the Indicative Mode is the only common form of the Independent Order in use (with examples available for each verb class in the approrpriate sections under Verb Class). The loss of the Dubitative Mode has led to the terms Independent, Indicative and Independent Indicative being used fairly interchangeably, some simply using Indicative Mode in preference to Independent at all. This is, in part, also made possible by the concurrent loss of the Dubitative Mode of the Conjunct Order.


The Conjunct Order has the most subdivisions of all verb types in Cree. Conjunct forms are most commonly associated with subordinate clauses, but some Conjunct forms can function as main clauses, particularly in Interrogative (Content Questions) and Declarative Focus constructions. Historically, the Conjunct was divided into three main Modes: the Indicative, the Dubitative, and the Subjunctive. Confusingly, some also use the term Subjunctive in place of Conjunct. Despite differences, all of these Conjunct forms share a common pattern of person marking, which groups them together within the Conjunct Order.

The Subjunctive Mode of the Conjunct consists of two related forms (both taking the final suffix -i), which have been referred to as the Subjunctive and the Iterative (cf. Wolfart 1973), the former being much more common than the latter. Subjunctive forms typically express if or when conditional statements and as such are also referred to as Future Conditional forms (cf. Okimāsis 2021):

e.g.    apiyahki             “if/when we (inclusive) sit (in the future)”

The less common Iterative forms are virtually the only verb form that maintains the old initial change forms (e.g. a > ē):

e.g.    ēpiyahki             “whenever we (inclusive) sit”

Iterative forms are not restricted to future time, or to any particular timeframe, and can thus be referred to as the Timeless Conditional.

Regardless of whether the term used is Subjunctive (and Iterative) or (Future/Timeless) Conditional, many do not group these under the heading of Conjunct at all. Thus, we need only worry about the Indicative and Dubitative Modes of the Conjunct. And as in the Independent Order, the Conjunct Dubitative Mode has largely been lost in contemporary Plains Cree. Thus, the term Conjunct Order Indicative Mode seems rather bloated to most and is often reduced to simply Conjunct (or indeed, the inaccurate “Subjunctive”).

Still, there are many contemporary divisions within the Conjunct as marked by such preverbs as ē-, kā-, ka- ~ ta- which have arisen from older historical patterns which need to be recognized. Descriptions of these will be found elsewhere in this grammatical description (see in particular sections on Preverbs, Tense, Aspect, and Modality).

Basic Illocutionary or Mode Terminology

Historical Grammatical Divisions

Contemporary Term



Tense / Submode





Independent and/or Indicative










unchanged (Subjunctive)

Future Conditional


Timeless Conditional




Immediate Imperative



Delayed Imperative