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I was listening to song Играть, чтобы жить, by Павел Пламенев. Something is really bothering me in the lyrics. I understand the song well, vocabulary is not a problem for me here. Except this:

Ты сам себе сказал:
- Встать!

Shouldn't it be...?

Ты сам себе сказал:
- Встань!

After all it is an imperative, there is even an exclamation mark, isn't it? What do I am missing?

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Both forms are correct.

"Встань" - is for "[you,] stand up!" - it's the imperative form. "Встать!" is the infinitive form that also can be used in modern Russian as an imperative. The difference is that infinitive imperative is more command-like, hard and generally speaking more offensive.

A policemen can shout out: "Встать!", but mother would tell her son: "Встань". A lover can ask: "Смотри мне в глаза", a detective can yell at the suspect: "В глаза мне смотреть!".

The other difference is the встань is for a singular you ("ты" in Russian), for referring group of people - or just being polite - one should use встаньте. "Встать" is correct both for "ты" and "вы".

UPD: as of what's the difference between встать and вставать - this is perfectly covered here.

  • Thank you @shabunc, no grammar book I've searched had this information. I was inclined to guess that, but also in need of someone to confirm it. – C. Bohok Oct 23 '17 at 16:02
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    @C.Bohok I think by using infinitive form the ordering side stresses total absence of personal communication, only formal interaction based upon authority/power non-equivalence. That is why it sounds more harsh. It is "chemically pure" bossing around, while in imperative form it is more or less mixed with some person-to-person link. – Arioch Oct 24 '17 at 8:51

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