How to Form Affirmative and Negative Commands in Spanish
Let’s go! Do the chores. Don’t take the blame. Do not go there.
What do all these sentences have in common? They’re all affirmative and negative commands!
Whether you’re bossy or not, it’s essential to be able to give commands in any languages you speak.
In Spanish, many types of commands exist:
- formal and informal commands,
- singular and plural commands,
- nosotros commands, and
- affirmative and negative commands, which are the focus of this blog post.
Prepare yourself to learn everything you need to know about forming and using affirmative and negative commands in Spanish!
Informal Affirmative and Negative Commands
Another word for Spanish commands is “imperatives,” and we use them to give direct orders by addressing someone (or a group). Both affirmative and negative commands in Spanish are most often in the second person informal (tú, vosotros).
Commands exist most often in the informal, or familiar tú, form. We use them to address a friend, peer, relative, child, coworker, classmate, or another individual in a casual setting.
You use affirmative tú commands to tell someone to do something:
Toma mi abrigo.
Take my coat.
Contrarily, to tell somebody not to do something, you would use a negative tú command:
No tomes mi abrigo.
Don’t take my coat.
Why is the affirmative informal command of tomar “toma,” while the negative informal command is “tomes”? This section will explain the differences in detail.
How to Form the Affirmative Second Person Informal (tú)
The affirmative tú (you) command is a cinch to learn! It conjugates the same as the third-person singular indicative form of the Spanish present tense.
In most cases, it’s a simple matter of dropping the –r from the infinitive verb—except for -IR verbs, where the ending changes from i to e.
Let’s look at a few examples:
For the -AR verb hablar (to talk), the command is habla.
Habla con tu hermana.
Talk with your sister.
For the -ER verb leer (to read), the command is lee.
Lee las dos páginas.
Read the two pages.
And for the -IR verb vivir (to live), the command is vive.
Vive tu propia vida.
Live your own life.
Pro Tip: Use exclamation points to show urgency with a written command. This is helpful since informal commands look the same as the third-person singular in the present tense.
Or you can include the name of the person you are commanding, followed by a comma.
Come la sopa.
She eats the soup.
¡Come la sopa!
Eat the soup!
Perla come la sopa.
Perla eats the soup.
Perla, come la sopa.
Perla, eat the soup.
How to Form the Negative Second Person Informal Commands (tú)
On the other hand, to form a negative command, use the tú form of the present subjunctive.
Here are a few examples of informal negative commands:
For the -AR verb saltar (to jump), the negative command is no saltes.
No saltes en la cama.
Don’t jump on the bed.
For the -ER verb correr (to run), the negative command is no corras.
No corras en la biblioteca.
Don’t run in the library.
For the -IR verb escribir (to write), the negative command is no escribas.
No escribas tu nombre en la hoja.
Don’t write your name on the sheet.
Explore more variety of commands:
Formal Affirmative and Negative Commands
We use formal commands to show polite respect when speaking with acquaintances, elders, or authority figures. Form these commands using the same conjugation as third-person (usted) form of the present subjunctive.
How to Form Affirmative Usted Commands
Here are a few examples of singular formal commands, or usted commands:
Deme la cuenta, por favor.
Give me the bill, please.
Cierre la puerta.
Close the door.
How to Use Negative Usted Commands
For negative formal commands, a negative word (typically no) precedes the affirmative formal command as long as it doesn’t have a pronoun (se, le, me).
Examples without a pronoun:
No pase por esa tienda.
Do not go by that store.
No ponga sus zapatos aquí.
Do not put your shoes here.
No nade en la piscina hasta mañana.
Do not swim in the pool until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, if you are using a pronoun, you will have to rearrange the sentence: Deme la cuenta becomes no me de la cuenta. Read more below!
Plural Affirmative and Negative Commands in Latin America
Throughout Latin America (but not in Spain), use these commands to address any group of people, regardless of age or social standing. Why? Latin Americans use ustedes for both the informal and formal plural, while Spaniards apply vosotros to plural commands.
Damas y caballeros, pasen adelante por favor.
Ladies and gentlemen, please come in.
Chicas, vengan más temprano la próxima vez.
Girls, come earlier next time.
Estudiantes, abran sus libros a la página número 11.
Students, open your books to page 11.
¡Coman el postre!
Eat the dessert!
Pronoun Placement in Formal Affirmative and Negative Commands
Pronouns attach to the end of affirmative commands. If the command form of the verb has more than one syllable (which is usually the case) and you attach a pronoun to it, the first vowel in the word gets an accent mark.
See the difference here:
Traiga la maleta. (no accent mark)
Bring the suitcase.
Tráigamela. (2 pronouns: me, la)
Bring it to me.
Look at it!
Cómpremelo, por favor.
Buy it for me, please.
As I mentioned previously, if your command uses a pronoun, you will place it between the negative word and the command form in negative formal commands.
No se levante antes de terminar la carta.
Don’t get up before you finish the letter.
Nunca les compre comida chatarra a los niños.
Never buy junk food for the kids.
Nunca se lo compre a ellos.
Never buy it for them.
Irregular Informal Affirmative and Negative Commands
Spanish verbs with irregular third-person singular forms in the present tense are also irregular in the affirmative informal imperative form. The only exceptions are the following 8 verbs, which have irregular affirmative command forms.
1. Decir (to say, to tell)
Tú command form: di
Dime cuál es tu color favorito.
Tell me your favorite color.
2. Hacer (to do, to make)
Tú command form: haz
Haz las camas en esta habitación.
Make the beds in this room.
3. Ir (to go)
Tú command form: ve
Ve a la escuela.
Go to school.
4. Poner (to put, to place)
Tú command form: pon
Pon este plato en la cocina.
Put this dish in the kitchen.
5. Salir (to go out, to leave)
Tú command form: sal
Sal de mi casa.
Get out of my house.
6. Ser (to be)
Tú command form: sé
Sé un buen alumno.
Be a good student.
7. Tener (to have)
Tú command form: ten
8. Venir (to come)
Tú command form: ven
Ven a mi fiesta de cumpleaños.
Come to my birthday party.
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