Spanish Imperative Mood (Commands) Explained For Beginners
- Jada LòpezSpanish teacher, translator🎓 B.A., Translation and Interpreting English and Spanish, Universidad de Granada🎓 M.A., Formación de Profesores de Español como Lengua Extranjera (ELE), Universidad Pablo de Olavide
Passionate language teacher and translator. Wife, mother of 3 and amateur surfer.
A Spanish imperative verb, or the imperative mood, is referred to as el imperativo in Spanish, and is used for giving orders or commands.
In other words, Spanish speakers use the imperative mood and a particular set of verbs to tell someone to do something or, in other situations, not to do something.
It’s also ideal if you want to give someone advice or request information from someone.
For instance, if you’re going to tell someone to study more often, you might say:
Tengo un consejo. ¡Estudia más!
What are the 2 different types of Spanish imperative verbs?
There are two main kinds of Spanish imperative verbs: the positive imperative and the negative imperative.
In Spanish these are called the imperativo positivo and the imperativo negativo.
What is the imperativo positivo?
The imperativo positivo is a Spanish verb, command, or order that tells someone to complete an action or do something.
For example, if you’ve got to tell someone to eat something, you should use the imperativo positivo, which, in this case, would be the verb come (pronounced co-meh).
And there are particular verb conjugations you should use for situations like these.
How do you conjugate Spanish positive imperative verbs?
How you conjugate the Spanish imperative verb depends on your sentence’s subject.
What does this mean in terms of Spanish imperative verb forms? It means there are five potential Spanish imperative conjugation types to master instead of the three in English because Spanish has formal pronouns too.
Let’s look at these examples using the verb correr (meaning “to run”).
|English pronoun||Spanish pronoun||English imperative verb “to run”||Spanish imperative verb correr|
Although this is just one example of one verb, Spanish infinitive verbs can end in an ar an er or an ir, which can affect how you conjugate them in the positive and negative imperative forms.
For example, if your infinitive verb ends in an ar, you can remove the ar and replace it with a when forming the positive imperative tú form.
The rest of the conjugations will feature different endings.
Let’s consider the example verb bailar and the endings to remember:
- Tú = ¡Baila! (-a)
- Usted = ¡Baile! (remove the -ar and replace it with an -e)
- Nosotros = ¡Bailemos! (remove the -ar and replace it with -emos)
- Vosotros = ¡Bailad! (remove the -ar and replace with -ad)
- Ustedes = ¡Bailen! (remove the -ar and replace with -en)
If the infinitive verb ends with an er or an ir, the ending of the imperative verbs is different.
Let’s consider the verb comer and the endings to remember:
- Tú = ¡Come! (remove the -er and replace with an -e)
- Usted = ¡Coma! (remove the -er and replace with an -a)
- Nosotros = ¡Comamos! (remove the -er and replace with an -amos)
- Vosotros = ¡Comed! (remove the -er and replace with an -ed)
- Ustedes = ¡Coman! (remove the -er and replace with an -an)
You may also have noticed that you can conjugate the imperative form for the plural first person (nosotros and nosotras), the second person (tú), and the plural second person (vosotros and vosotras), as well as the formal modes of address usted and ustedes.
But what are the rules for conjugating these different verbs? Let’s take a look.
How do you conjugate the second-person singular Spanish imperative?
If you want to conjugate the singular, second-person Spanish imperative (tú version), use the third-person singular of the indicative present tense.
For example, to say “run!” in Spanish, when addressing the second person (tú), remember from your Spanish course that the third person, indicative present tense of this verb, is corre.
In other words, the indicative third-person present is always identical to the tú second-person imperative.
It’s a fast hack to learn two verbs at once!
Third person indicative = Corre
Second person imperative = Corre
How do you conjugate the first-person plural Spanish imperative?
Need the rule for conjugating the plural first-person Spanish imperative (nosotros form)?
You can use the present subjunctive, first-person plural verb form.
For example, to say “let’s listen” in Spanish, remember that the first person plural present subjunctive form of “listen” is the same as the nosotros version of the Spanish imperative (escuchemos).
Learn these both at once to save time and learn faster.
First-person plural present subjunctive = Escuchemos
First-person plural imperative = Escuchemos
How do you conjugate the second-person plural Spanish imperative?
If you’re looking for a shortcut to remember how to conjugate the second-person plural Spanish imperative (vosotros form), it works by using the infinitive verb form and swapping the -r with the letter -d.
For example, to tell a group of people to “walk”, remember that the infinitive verb form is andar and replace the -r with the letter -d.
This quick and easy formula gives us the imperative verb andad.
Second person plural imperative = Infinitive verb with the letter -r replaced with a -d.
How do you conjugate the third-person singular (formal) Spanish imperative?
The fastest way to conjugate the third person singular (formal usted) Spanish imperative is to remember that it’s identical to the third person present subjunctive.
For instance, to tell someone you don’t know to “look” at something, remember the third person present subjunctive is mire.
To put it simply, with this hack, you can learn two Spanish verb forms simultaneously as the third person present subjunctive is identical to the usted Spanish imperative.
Third person present subjunctive = Mire
Third person singular (formal) Spanish imperative = Mire
How do you conjugate the third-person plural (formal) Spanish imperative?
The simplest way to conjugate the third-person plural (formal) Spanish imperative is to use the plural third-person present subjunctive.
Both of these verbs are identical.
For example, if you want to tell a group of people to “sing”, remember that the plural third person present subjunctive verb is canten.
It’s the same as the ustedes Spanish imperative.
Plural third person present subjunctive = Canten
Plural third person (formal) Spanish imperative = Canten
Does a Spanish imperative verb exist for the pronouns yo, el, ellos, ella or ellas?
No, there is no Spanish imperative verb for the pronouns yo, el, ellos, ella or ellas.
The reason is that we don’t use imperatives for the first or third person.
We can’t give ourselves orders; our closest to this is the present indicative tense, which would be yo como.
These verbs also don’t exist in English.
What is the imperativo negativo?
The imperativo negativo is a Spanish command that tells someone not to do something.
This command always features the Spanish negation no (pronounced noh) before the main verb. For example, if you’ve got to tell someone not to run near a swimming pool, you would use the negation no and the verb corras, giving the person the instruction no corras.
How do you conjugate negative Spanish imperative verbs?
Again, the conjugation of negative Spanish imperative verbs will depend on the subject of your sentence.
There are five potential verb conjugations for negative Spanish imperatives because the Spanish language features formal pronouns or modes of address.
|English pronoun||Spanish pronoun||English imperative verb “to run”||Spanish imperative verb correr|
|You||Tú||Don’t run!||¡No corras!|
|We||Nosotros/Nosotras||Let’s not run!||¡No corramos!|
|You||Vosotros/Vosotras||Don’t run||¡No corráis!|
Now that we’re finished with the table let’s start with my hacks for the Spanish negative imperatives.
How do you conjugate the second-person singular Spanish negative imperative?
If you want to conjugate the second-person singular form of the Spanish negative imperative, use the present subjunctive second-person singular.
In other words, if you want to say, “Don’t run!” just remember that you can use the same verb for the tú form of the Spanish imperative and the second-person singular present subjunctive. Add the negation word no, which will give you ¡no corras!.
Second person singular present subjunctive = Corra
Second person singular Spanish negative imperative = No corras
How do you conjugate the first-person plural Spanish negative imperative?
Conjugating the first person plural Spanish negative imperative is straightforward. Follow the rules for the first person plural positive imperative, but add the negation no before the verb.
First-person plural Spanish negative imperative (nosotros form) = No + first-person plural positive imperative
How do you conjugate the second-person plural Spanish negative imperative?
If you need to conjugate the second-person plural Spanish negative, use the present subjunctive second-person plural verb and add the negation.
For instance, if you want to say “don’t swim”, add the negation before the present subjunctive second person plural verb nadéis, and you get ¡no nadéis!.
Second person present subjunctive = Nadéis
Second person plural negative imperative = No nadéis
How do you conjugate the third-person singular (formal) Spanish negative imperative?
It’s not too difficult to conjugate the third-person singular (formal) Spanish negative imperative.
Use the same rules as the third person singular (usted) positive imperative, but add the negation no before the verb.
Third person singular (formal) Spanish imperative = No + third person singular Spanish positive imperative
How do you conjugate the third person plural (formal) Spanish negative imperative?
When conjugating the third person (formal, ustedes) Spanish negative imperative, don’t forget that it’s the same verb as the present subjunctive third person plural.
If you want to tell someone, “Don’t drive!” remember that the present subjunctive third person plural is conduzca. With this in mind, you must add the negation no before the word.
Third person plural present subjunctive = Conduzca
Third person plural (formal) negative imperative = No conduzca
What is an example of a Spanish imperative verb?
To master Spanish imperative verbs, it helps to look at examples, so let’s consider the following dialogue to better understand them.
Can you spot the imperatives here?
Profesora: Chicos, ¡no habléis tan alto!
Estudiantes: Vale. ¡No nos pongas deberes!
Profesora: Hoy tenéis muchos deberes. Concentraos en la tarea cuando llegéis a casa.
Estudiantes: No nos gustan las tareas. ¡No nos des mucho!
Estudiante: Ayúdame, porfa. No entiendo esta pregunta.
Profesora: Vale, te ayudaré ahora.
As you can see, imperative verbs are conjugated in different forms, depending on the subject of the sentence.
In the first and third sentences, the teacher speaks to the students. When she instructs them not to speak so loud, she uses the vosotros (second person plural) negative imperative no habléis.
When she asks the students to focus on the homework when they get home, she again uses the second person plural, negative imperative concentraos.
When the students address the teacher, they use the second person singular, negative imperative no nos pongas and no nos des because they are speaking to one person and the subject of the sentence requires the second person (tú) form.
But note that when one student asks for help, she uses the positive imperative to get the teacher’s attention.
She uses the verb ayudame, meaning “help me”.
How do you form imperative verbs with reflexive pronouns in Spanish?
It’s common to use imperative verbs with reflexive pronouns in Spanish.
Looking at the example dialogue above, you’ll notice that two verbs contain Spanish pronouns. The verbs are concentraos and ayudame.
Adding reflexive pronouns to the nosotros first person plural positive imperative
When we use the positive imperative in Spanish, it’s possible to add the reflexive pronoun to the end after removing the -s in the first-person plural imperative.
For example, if you want to say “Let’s go!” you should use the verb ¡vamos! remove the -s and add the reflexive pronoun nos.
This gives us ¡vamonos!
In some sentences, you can add the direct object pronoun lo to be more specific when giving instructions.
For instance, if you want to say, “button it [your coat] up”, you can add the direct object pronoun lo to the verb abrígate, giving you abrígatelo.
This rule works with other verbs like bébetelo (drink it), cómetelo (eat it) and escríbetelo (write it).
What are the main irregular imperative forms?
There are some irregular imperative forms that you may have to memorize.
Here’s a short list of the key ones to keep in your mind:
|Spanish verb||Tú form||Usted form||Nosotros form||Vosotros form||Ustedes form|
Spanish imperative verbs are the best starting point
As babies, we generally start out learning imperative verbs in our native language.
A single Spanish verb in the imperative can stand on its own in a sentence, so it’s a great starting point for learning verbs.
Which tips do you have for studying the Spanish imperative?
Share them below!
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