Easy Learning French

The imperative - Easy Learning Grammar French

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

1 Using the imperative

  • In French, there are two forms of the imperative that are used to give instructions or orders to someone. These correspond to tu and vous.
  • There is also a form of the imperative that corresponds to nous. This means the same as let’s in English. It is not used as often as the tu and vous forms.

2 Forming the present tense imperative

  • For regular verbs, the imperative is the same as the tu, nous and vous forms of the present tense, except that you do not say the pronouns tu, nous and vous. Also, in the tu form of -er verbs like donner, the final -s is dropped.
Pronoun-er verbs: donnerMeaning-ir verbs: finirMeaning-re verbs: attendreMeaning
tudonnegivefinisfinishattendswait
nousdonnonslet’s givefinissonslet’s finishattendonslet’s wait
vousdonnezgivefinissezfinishattendezwait
Donne-moi ça!Give me that!
Finissez vos devoirs et allez vous coucher.Finish your homework and go to bed.
Attendons le bus.Let’s wait for the bus.
TipWhen a tu imperative comes before en or y, the final -s is kept to make the words easier to pronounce. The s is pronounced like the z in the English word zip:
Vas-y!Go on!
Donnes-en à ton frère.Give some to your brother.

3 Where to put the object pronoun

  • An object pronoun is a word like la (meaning her/it), me/moi (meaning me) or leur (meaning to them) 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, you put the object pronouns BEFORE the verb.
Ne me dérange pas.Don’t disturb me.
Ne leur parlons pas.Let’s not speak to them.
Ne le regardez pas.Don’t look at him/it.
  • If you are telling someone TO DO something, you put the object pronouns AFTER the verb and join the two words with a hyphen. The word order is the same as in English.
Excusez-moi.Excuse me.
Aide-nous.Help us.
Attendons-la.Let’s wait for her/it.
  • Orders and instructions telling someone to do something may contain direct object and indirect object pronouns. When this happens, the pronouns go in this order:
DIRECTINDIRECT
lemoi
laBEFOREtoi
leslui
 nous
 vous
 leur
Prête-les-moi!Lend them to me! or Lend me them!
Donnez-la-nous!Give it to us! or Give us it!

4 Imperative forms of irregular verbs

  • avoir (meaning to have), être (meaning to be), savoir (meaning to know) and vouloir (meaning to want) have irregular imperative forms.
Pronounavoirêtresavoirvouloir
tuaiesoissacheveuille
nousayonssoyonssachonsveuillons
vousayezsoyezsachezveuillez
Sois sage.Be good.
Veuillez fermer la porte.Please shut the door.
Key points
  • The imperative has three forms: tu, nous and vous.
  • The forms are the same as the tu, nous and vous forms of the present tense, except that the final -s is dropped in the tu form of -er verbs.
  • Object pronouns go before the verb when you are telling someone not to do something, but after the verb with a hyphen when you are telling someone to do something.
  • avoir, être, savoir and vouloir have irregular imperative forms.

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