What is the imperative?
The imperative - Easy Learning Grammar Italian
An imperative is the form of the verb used to give orders and instructions,
for example, Sit down!; Don’t go!; Let’s start!
1 Using the imperative
- In Italian, you use a different form of the imperative depending on whether
- telling someone to do something
- telling someone not to do something
- speaking to one person or more than one person
- speaking to someone you call tu
- speaking formally
- The pronouns tu, Lei (the formal way of saying you) and voi all have their own forms of the imperative, although you don’t actually use these pronouns
when giving orders and instructions. There is also a formal plural form of the imperative.
- You can also use a form of the imperative to make suggestions. This form
is like let’s in English.
2 How to tell someone to do something
- You make the imperative of regular verbs by adding endings to the verb stem, which is what is left when you take away the –are, –ere or –ire. There are different endings for –are, –ere and –ire verbs:
- The endings for –are verb imperatives are –a (tu form), –i (lei form), –iamo (let’s), –ate (voi form) and –ino (polite plural). For example, aspettare → aspett- → aspetta.
Meaning: to wait
|aspetta!||Aspetta, Marco!||Wait, Marco!|
|aspetti!||Aspetti, signore!||Wait, Sir!|
|aspettiamo||Aspettiamo qui.||Let’s wait here.|
|aspettate!||Aspettate, ragazzi!||Wait, children!|
|aspettino!||Aspettino un attimo, signori!||Wait a moment, ladies and gentlemen!|
- The endings for –ere verb imperatives are –i (tu form), –a (lei form), –iamo (let’s), –ete (voi form) and –ano (polite plural). For example, prendere → prend- → prendi.
|Imperative of prendere||Example||Meaning: to take|
|prendi||Prendi quello, Marco!||Take that one, Marco!|
|prenda||Prenda quello, signore!||Take that one, Sir!|
|prendiamo||Prendiamo quello.||Let’s take that one.|
|prendete||Prendete quelli, ragazzi!||Take those ones, children!|
|prendano||Prendano quelli, signori!||Take those ones, ladies and gentlemen!|
- The endings for most –ire verb imperatives are –isci (tu form), –isca (lei/Lei form), –iamo (let’s), –ite (voi form) and –iscano (polite plural). For example, finire → fin- → finisci.
- Note that sci is pronounced like she; sca is pronounced ska.
Meaning: to finish
|finisci||Finisci l’esercizio, Marco!||Finish the exercise, Marco!|
|finisca||Finisca tutto, signore!||Finish it all, Sir!|
|finiamo||Finiamo tutto.||Let’s finish it all.|
|finite||Finite i compiti, ragazzi!||Finish your homework, children!|
|finiscano||Finiscano tutto, signori!||Finish it all, ladies and gentlemen!|
- The endings for verbs that do not add –isc to the stem, such as partire (meaning to leave), dormire (meaning to sleep) aprire (meaning to open) and sentire (meaning to listen) are –i, –a, –iamo, –ite and –ano.
|Dormi, Giulia!||Go to sleep, Giulia!|
- For more information on Regular –ire verbs, see The present simple tense.
- Some of the commonest verbs in Italian have irregular imperative forms.
Here are the forms for some important verbs:
|(tu)||da’! or dai!||di’!||sii!||fa’! or fai!||va’! or vai!|
|Sii bravo, Paolo!||Be good, Paolo!|
|Faccia pure, signore!||Carry on, sir!|
|Dite la verità, ragazzi!||Tell the truth, children!|
- For more information on the imperatives of Irregular verbs, see Verb tables in the
- There are familiar and polite forms of the imperative.
- The –iamo form is used to translate let’s.
3 Where do pronouns go?
- In English, pronouns such as me, it and them always come after the imperative, for example Watch me!; Take it!; Give them to me!
- In Italian pronouns come AFTER the imperative in the tu and voi forms:
- The pronoun joins with the imperative to make one word.
|Guardami, mamma!||Look at me, mum!|
|Aspettateli!||Wait for them!|
- When the imperative is only one syllable mi becomes –mmi, ti becomes
–tti, lo becomes –llo and so on.
|Fallo subito!||Do it immediately!|
- When the pronouns mi, ti, ci and vi are followed by another pronoun they become me-, te-, ce- and ve-, and gli and le become glie-.
|Mandameli.||Send me them.|
|Daglielo.||Give it to him.|
TipIn Italian you always put the indirect object pronoun first.
- For more information on Indirect object pronouns, see Object pronouns.
- Pronouns also come AFTER the –iamo form of the imperative, joining onto it
to make one word.
|Proviamolo!||Let’s try it!|
|Mandiamogliela!||Let’s send it to them.|
- Pronouns come BEFORE the lei form of the imperative and the polite plural form.
|Mi dia un chilo d’uva, per favore.||Give me a kilo of grapes please.|
|La prenda, signore.||Take it, sir.|
|Ne assaggino un po’, signori!||Try a bit, ladies and gentlemen!|
|Si accomodi!||Take a seat!|
- For more information on Reflexive verbs, see Reflexive verbs.
- Pronouns come after the tu, voi and –iamo forms of the imperative.
- Pronouns which come after the imperative join onto it to make one word.
- Pronouns come before the polite imperative, and do not join onto it.
4 How to tell someone NOT to do something
- When you are telling someone you call tu NOT to do something:
- use non with the infinitive (the –are, –ere, –ire form) of the verb
|Non dire bugie Andrea!||Don’t tell lies Andrea!|
|Non dimenticare!||Don’t forget!|
- For more information on the Infinitive, see The Infinitive.
- if there is also a pronoun, join it onto the infinitive, or put it in front
|Non toccarlo! OR|
|Non lo toccare!||Don’t touch it!|
|Non dirglielo! OR|
|Non glielo dire!||Don’t tell him about it!|
|Non farmi ridere! OR|
|Non mi far ridere!||Don’t make me laugh!|
|Non preoccuparti! OR|
|Non ti preoccupare!||Don’t worry!|
|Non bagnarti! OR|
|Non ti bagnare!||Don’t get wet!|
- Note that the infinitive usually drops the final e when the pronoun joins onto it.
- In all other cases, to tell someone not to do something:
- use non with the imperative
|Non dimenticate, ragazzi.||Don’t forget, children.|
|Non abbia paura, signora.||Don’t be afraid, madam.|
|Non esageriamo!||Don’t let’s go too far!|
- join pronouns onto the end of the voi and –iamo forms of the imperative
|Non guardateli!||Don’t look at them.|
|Non ditemelo!||Don’t say it to me!|
|Non mangiamoli tutti.||Don’t let’s eat them all.|
|Non diamoglielo.||Don’t let’s give it to them.|
- put pronouns in front of the lei and polite plural forms of the imperative
|Non li guardi, signora.||Don’t look at them, madam.|
|Non si preoccupino, signori.||Don’t worry, ladies and gentlemen.|
- To tell a person you call tu not to do something, use non with the infinitive.
- To tell all other people not to do something use non with the imperative.
- To say Let’s not use non with the –iamo form.