The verbal form of 'dorma' in the aria Nessun dorma from Puccini's Turandot recently struck me as strange given that there is nothing to trigger a subjunctive preceding the verb.

My question is first what form of dormire is being used: formal imperative, present subjunctive or some other form?

Second, how should this line best be understood given the form?

  • 3
    This absolute use of subjunctive mood in Italian, not “triggered” by another proposition, is known as congiuntivo esortativo.
    – DaG
    Sep 19 '16 at 7:37

It's the subjunctive used for denoting desire or will:

(I want that) nobody be sleeping (tonight)


Nobody should be sleeping

The imperative properly has only the second person (singular and plural); in the other persons it's substituted with the corresponding forms of the present subjunctive. So you can consider it as the imperative as well.

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