Easy Learning Spanish

The imperative - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish

What is the imperative?
An imperative is a form of the verb used when giving orders and instructions, for example, Sit down!; Don’t go!; Let’s start!

1   Using the imperative

  • In Spanish, the form of the imperative that you use for giving instructions depends on:
  • whether you are telling someone to do something or not to do something
  • whether you are talking to one person or to more than one person
  • whether you are on familiar or more formal terms with the person or people
  • These imperative forms correspond to the familiar and vosotros/vosotras and to the more formal usted and ustedes, although you don’t actually say these pronouns when giving instructions.
  • For more information on Ways of saying ‘you’ in Spanish, see Pronouns.
  • There is also a form of the imperative that corresponds to let’s in English.

2   Forming the imperative: instructions not to do something

  • In orders that tell you NOT to do something and that have no in front of them in Spanish, the imperative forms for , usted, nosotros/nosotras, vosotros/vosotras and ustedes are all taken from a verb form called the present subjunctive. It’s easy to remember because the endings for -ar and
    -er verbs are the opposite of what they are in the ordinary present tense.
  • In regular -ar verbs, you take off the -as, -a, -amos, -áis and -an endings of the present tense and replace them with: -es, -e, -emos, -éis and -en.
-ar verbtrabajarto work
form
usted form
nosotros/as form
vosotros/as form
ustedes form
¡no trabajes!
¡no trabaje!
¡no trabajemos!
¡no trabajéis!
¡no trabajen!
Don’t work!
Don’t work!
Let’s not work!
Don’t work!
Don’t work!
  • In regular -er verbs, you take off the -es, -e, -emos, -éis and -en endings of the present tense and replace them with -as, -a, -amos, -áis and -an.
-er verbcomerto eat
form
usted form
nosotros/as form
vosotros/as form
ustedes form
¡no comas!
¡no coma!
¡no comamos!
¡no comáis!
¡no coman!
Don’t eat!
Don’t eat!
Let’s not eat!
Don’t eat!
Don’t eat!
  • In regular -ir verbs, you take off the -es, -e, -imos, -ís and -en endings of the present tense and replace them with -as, -a, -amos, -áis and -an.
-ir verbdecidirto decide
form
usted form
nosotros/as form
vosotros/as form
ustedes form
¡no decidas!
¡no decida!
¡no decidamos!
¡no decidáis!
¡no decidan!
Don’t decide!
Don’t decide!
Let’s not decide!
Don’t decide!
Don’t decide!
  • A number of irregular verbs also have irregular imperative forms. These are shown in the table below.
dar to givedecir to sayestar to behacer to do/makeir to go
form¡no des!
don’t give!
¡no digas!
don’t say!
¡no estés!
don’t be!
¡no hagas!
don’t do/make!
¡no vayas!
don’t go!
usted form¡no dé!
don’t give!
¡no diga!
don’t say!
¡no esté!
don’t be!
¡no haga!
don’t do/make!
¡no vaya!
don’t go!
nosotros form¡no demos!
let’s not give!
¡no digamos!
let’s not say!
¡no estemos!
let’s not be!
¡no hagamos!
let’s not do/make!
¡no vayamos!
let’s not go!
vosotros form¡no deis!
don’t give!
¡no digáis!
don’t say!
¡no estéis!
don’t be!
¡no hagáis!
don’t do/make!
¡no vayáis!
don’t go!
ustedes form¡no den!
don’t give!
¡no digan!
don’t say!
¡no estén!
don’t be!
¡no hagan!
don’t do/make!
¡no vayan!
don’t go!
poner to putsalir to leaveser to betener to havevenir to come
form¡no pongas!
don’t put!
¡no salgas!
don’t leave!
¡no seas!
don’t be!
¡no tengas!
don’t have!
¡no vengas!
don’t come!
usted form¡no ponga!
don’t put!
¡no salga!
don’t leave!
¡no sea!
don’t be!
¡no tenga!
don’t have!
¡no venga!
don’t come!
nosotros form¡no pongamos!
let’s not put!
¡no salgamos!
let’s not leave!
¡no seamos!
let’s not be!
¡no tengamos!
let’s not have!
¡no vengamos!
let’s not come!
vosotros form¡no pongáis!
don’t put!
¡no salgáis!
don’t leave!
¡no seáis!
don’t be!
¡no tengáis!
don’t have!
¡no vengáis!
don’t come!
ustedes form¡no pongan!
don’t put!
¡no salgan!
don’t leave!
¡no sean!
don’t be!
¡no tengan!
don’t have!
¡no vengan!
don’t come!
  • Note that if you take the yo form of the present tense, take off the -o and add the endings to this instead for instructions NOT TO do something, some of these irregular forms will be more predictable.
digoI saynegative imperative stemdig-
hagoI donegative imperative stemhag-
pongoI putnegative imperative stempong-
salgoI leavenegative imperative stemsalg-
tengoI havenegative imperative stemteng-
vengoI comenegative imperative stemveng-

3   Forming the imperative: instructions to do something

  • In instructions telling you TO DO something, the forms for usted, nosotros and ustedes are exactly the same as they are in negative instructions (instructions telling you not to do something) except that there isn’t a no.
trabajar to workcomer to eatdecidir to decide
usted form¡Trabaje!¡Coma!¡Decida!
nosotros/as form¡Trabajemos!¡Comamos!¡Decidamos!
ustedes form¡Trabajen!¡Coman!¡Decidan!
  • There are special forms of the imperative for and vosotros/vosotras in positive instructions (instructions telling you to do something).
  • The form of the imperative is the same as the form of the ordinary present simple tense, but without the final -s.
trabajar¡Trabaja!
to work Work!
comer¡Come!
to eat Eat!
decidir ¡Decide!
to decide Decide!
  • The vosotros/vosotras form of the imperative is the same as the infinitive, except that you take off the final -r and add -d instead.
trabajarTrabajad!
to work Work!
comerComed!
to eat Eat!
decidir Decidid!
to decide Decide!
  • There are a number of imperative forms that are irregular in Spanish. The irregular imperative forms for usted, nosotros/nosotras and ustedes are the same as the irregular negative imperative forms without the no. The and vosotros/vosotras forms are different again.
dar
to give
decir
to say
estar
to be
hacer
to do/make
ir
to go

form
¡da!
give!
¡di!
say!
¡está!
be!
¡haz!
do/make!
¡ve!
go!
usted
form
¡dé!
give!
¡diga!
say!
¡esté!
be!
¡haga!
do/make!
¡vaya!
go!
nosotros/as
form
¡demos!
let’s give!
¡digamos!
let’s say!
¡estemos!
let’s be!
¡hagamos!
let’s do/make!
¡vamos!
let’s go!
vosotros/as
form
¡dad!
give!
¡decid!
say!
¡estad!
be!
¡haced!
do/make!
¡id!
go!
ustedes
form
¡den!
give!
¡digan!
say!
¡estén!
be!
¡hagan!
do/make!
¡vayan!
go!
poner
to put
salir
to leave
ser
to be
tener
to have
venir
to come

form
¡pon!
put!
¡sal!
leave!
¡sé!
be!
¡ten!
have!
¡ven!
come!
usted
form
¡ponga!
put!
¡salga!
leave!
¡sea!
be!
¡tenga!
have!
¡venga!
come!
nosotros/as
form
¡pongamos!
let’s put!
¡salgamos!
let’s leave!
¡seamos!
let’s be!
¡tengamos!
let’s have!
¡vengamos!
let’s come!
vosotros/as
form
¡poned!
put!
¡salid!
leave!
¡sed!
be!
¡tened!
have!
¡venid!
come!
ustedes
form
¡pongan!
put!
¡salgan!
leave!
¡sean!
be!
¡tengan!
have!
¡vengan!
come!
  • Note that the nosotros/as form for ir in instructions TO DO something is vamos; in instructions NOT TO DO something, it is no vayamos.

4   Position of object pronouns

  • An object pronoun is a word like me (meaning me or to me), la (meaning her/it) or les (meaning to them/to you) that is used instead of a noun as the object of a sentence. In orders and instructions, the position of these object pronouns in the sentence changes depending on whether you are telling someone TO DO something or NOT TO DO something.
  • If you are telling someone NOT TO DO something, the object pronouns go BEFORE the verb.
¡No me lo mandes!Don’t send it to me!
¡No me molestes!Don’t disturb me!
¡No los castigue!Don’t punish them!
¡No se la devolvamos!Let’s not give it back to him/her/them!
¡No les contestéis!Don’t answer them!
  • If you are telling someone TO DO something, the object pronouns join on to the end of the verb. An accent is usually added to make sure that the stress in the imperative verb stays the same.
¡Explícamelo!Explain it to me!
¡Perdóneme!Excuse me!
¡Dígame!Tell me!
¡Esperémosla!Let’s wait for her/it!
  • Note that when there are two object pronouns, the indirect object pronoun always goes before the direct object pronoun.
  • For more information on Stress, see Stress.

5   Other ways of giving instructions

  • For general instructions in instruction leaflets, recipes and so on, use the infinitive form instead of the imperative.
Ver página 9.See Forming plurals.
  • vamos a with the infinitive is often used to mean let’s.
Vamos a ver.Let’s see.
Vamos a empezar.Let’s start.
Key points
  • In Spanish, in instructions not to do something, the endings are taken from the present subjunctive. They are the same as the corresponding endings for -ar and -er verbs in the ordinary present tense, except that the -e endings go on the -ar verbs and the -a endings go on the -er and -ir verbs.
  • For -ar verbs the forms are: no hables ( form); no hable (usted form); no hablemos (nosotros/as form); no habléis (vosotros/as form); no hablen (ustedes form)
  • For -er verbs the forms are: no comas ( form); no coma (usted form); no comamos (nosotros/as form); no comáis (vosotros/as form); no coman (ustedes form)
  • For -ir verbs the forms are: no decidas ( form); no decida (usted form); no decidamos (nosotros/as form); no decidáis (vosotros/as form); no decidan (ustedes form)
  • In instructions to do something, the forms for usted, nosotros/as and ustedes are the same as they are in instructions not to do something.
  • The forms for and vosotros/as are different:
  • the form is the same as the corresponding form in the ordinary present tense, but without the final -s: trabaja; come; decide
  • the vosotros/as form is the same as the infinitive but with a final -d instead of the -r: trabajad; comed; decidid
  • A number of verbs have irregular imperative forms.
  • The object pronouns in imperatives go before the verb when telling someone not to do something; they join onto the end of the verb when telling someone to do something.

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