The Imperative

Posted on 16. Jun, 2008 by in Spanish Grammar

The imperative mode is used to give orders, instructions, suggestions, and commands. Formal commands (using the pronouns usted and ustedes) are formed with the subjunctive form of the verb. Note that the vowel of the subjunctive ending is the reverse of that usually associated with the particular conjugation: -ar verbs have the vowel –e and –er verbs have the vowel –a.

Hablar – Hable Ud. / Hablen Uds.
Comer – Coma Ud. / Coman Uds.
Vivir – Viva Ud. / Vivan Uds.

The first singular of the present indicative serves as the root for the formation of the formal commands.

Pensar (pienso) – piense Ud. – piensen Uds.
Contar (cuento) – cuente Ud. – cuenten Uds.
Perder (pierdo) – pierda Ud. – pierdan Uds.

The following are irregular verbs:

Dar – dé Ud. – den Uds.
Estar – esté Ud. – estén Uds.
Ir – vaya Ud. – vayan Uds.
Ser – sea Ud. – sean Uds.
Saber – sepa Ud. – sepan Uds.

To form the negative imperative in formal commands you only have to place no before the verb.

Hable Ud. – No hable Ud.
Salgan Uds. – No salgan Uds.

The informal commands (using the pronouns and vosotros) is always the same as the third-person singular of the present indicative form of the verb. Note that the pronoun is usually omitted with the command form. To form the imperative with vosotros, take out the “r” in the infinitive and place a “d” instead.

Hablar – habla – hablad
Cantar – canta – cantad
Comer – come – comed
Aprender – aprende – aprended
Vivir – vive – vivid
Escribir – escribe – escribid
Pensar – piensa – pensad
Volver – vuelve – volved

The following verbs have irregular forms for the familiar command.

Tener– ten
Poner– pon
Venir – ven
Salir – sal
Hacer – haz
Ser – sé
Decir – di
Ir – ve

As with the formal commands, the subjunctive form of the verb is used for all negative informal commands.

Cantar – no cantes
Beber – no bebas
Escribir – no escribas
Dormir – no duermas
Ser – no seas
Ir – no vayas
Estar – no estés

In most Spanish-speaking countries there is no differentiation between the formal and familiar forms in the plural, and they all use the Uds. form. However, in Spain, vosotros is used for plural informal imperative forms.

To express the idea of let’s the first-person plural form of the subjunctive is used.

Hablemos. – Let’s speak.
Bebamos la cerveza. – Let’s drink the beer.
Salgamos pronto. – Let’s leave soon.

Nos vemos prontito.

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