How to Form the Imperative Mood in Spanish
If you’ve ever taken a Spanish class, you’ve learned the imperative mood in Spanish right off the bat. You hear sentences in Spanish using the imperative mood from the first lesson. For example:
Abran sus libros.
Open your books.
Repite, por favor.
Escuchen con atención.
Read this article to understand the grammar behind these sentences so that you can start using the imperative mood in Spanish correctly.
Key Facts about the Imperative Mood in Spanish
What does the imperative mood in Spanish mean? When do you use it?
You use the imperative mood in Spanish when you need to tell somebody what to do. It involves giving an order or a command.
It is a mood and not a tense. Why? Because you use it to express wants and desires. It is one of the three moods in Spanish (along with the indicative and the subjunctive), but the imperative cannot be used in different tenses.
As you know, the most common use of the imperative mood in Spanish is to give orders and commands.
But not always. You’ll see that it’s also common to use the imperative in Spanish to make an offer or to apologize:
Ven a mi exhibición.
Come to my exhibition.
Disculpe, ¿puedo pasar?
Excuse me, can I pass?
You also use it to call somebody’s attention in a conversation:
Oye, ¿has cerrado la casa?
Hey, did you lock the house?
Mira, podemos hacerlo así.
Look, we can do it like this.
Remember, that the imperative mood in Spanish is for direct commands and orders, which aren’t always well received. You can’t, for example, tell your teacher: Explícamelo. (Explain it to me.)
To sound more polite, it’s preferable to use the conditional tense.
¿Podría explicarmelo, por favor?
Could you explain it to me, please?
Check out: What is the Conditional Tense in Spanish?
How to Form the Imperative Mood in Spanish
Before you learn how to form it, you need to know what types of forms of commands exist in Spanish.
Affirmative and Negative Tú Commands
Formal Singular and Plural Commands (Usted, ustedes)
You do it.
You all do it.
Veámoslo de cerca.
Let’s take a closer look.
Imperative Mood Conjugation Chart for usar (to use)
The imperative mood endings for -ar verbs look like this:
|Tú usa / no uses||Nosotros/as usemos|
|Usted use||Ustedes usen|
Usalo con precaución.
Use it with caution.
No lo uses si tomas medicines.
Do not use it if you take medicine.
Usted úselo cuando quiera.
Use it whenever you want.
Usémoslo como ejemplo.
Let’s use it as an example.
Usenlo cuando gusten.
Use it whenever you like.
Imperative Mood Conjugation Chart for vivir (to live)
The imperative mood endings for -er and -ir verbs look like this:
|Tú vive / no vivas|
|Usted viva||Ustedes vivan|
Vive como quieras.
Live as you wish.
No vivas con miedo.
Don’t live in fear.
Usted vívalo con alegría.
Live it with joy.
Vivamos la vida plenamente.
Live life to the fullest.
Ustedes vivan la experiencia y disfruten el día.
Live the experience and enjoy the day.
As you have probably noticed, some forms use different endings than others. The usted, ustedes, and nosotros forms use the subjunctive mood in the commands, while the tú form uses the indicative mood for affirmative commands and the subjunctive mood for negative ones.
Let’s look at the two cases in detail.
1. Usted, ustedes, and nosotros Commands
Remember, the present subjunctive forms go with the formal orders—usted and ustedes—and the nosotros forms accompany both affirmative and negative commands.
If you haven’t learned about the subjunctive mood yet, it’s easy to form the endings.
You just need to take the first person singular form, drop the final -o, and change the conjugation endings for the usted, ustedes, and nosotros.
For the -ar conjugation, use the -er endings, and for the -er and -ir conjugations, use the -ar endings.
- Usted hable
- Ustedes hablen
- Nosotros hablemos
- Usted coma
- Ustedes coman
- Nosotros comamos
Ámense los unos a los otros.
Love one another.
Cante usted primero.
Hablemos de nosotros.
Let’s talk about us.
Beba el agua lentamente.
Drink the water slowly.
Rompamos el silencio.
Let’s break the silence.
Have you noticed that the nosotros command is more of a suggestion that includes the speaker? You always translate it with “let’s…”
There are some irregular forms for the verbs that don’t end in -o in the first person singular in the present indicative tense. Here are the five you should memorize:
- Ser (to be): sea, sean, seamos
- Estar (to be): esté, estén, estemos
- Ir (to go): vaya, vayan, vayamos
- Saber (to know): sepa, sepan, sepamos
- Dar (to give): dé, den, demos
No sean tímidos.
Don’t be shy.
Esté tranquilo. No pasa nada.
Be calm. It’s all right.
Vaya con Dios.
Go with God.
Let’s control ourselves.
Déme la mano.
Give me your hand.
2. Tú Commands
The tú commands are appropriate for informal and friendly relationships.
Affirmative Tú Commands
To form affirmative tú commands, you need to use the third-person singular (él, ella, usted) in present indicative form.
comer – come
to eat – eat
amar – ama
to love – love
beber – bebe
to drink – drink
Ama a tu hermana. No pelees tanto con ella.
Love your sister. Don’t fight with her so much.
Bebe la medicine.
Drink the medicine.
There are only 8 imperative mood Spanish irregular verbs for the affirmative tú commands that you need to learn:
|decir (to say)||di|
|hacer (to do)||haz|
|ir (to go)||ve|
|poner (to put)||pon|
|salir (to leave)||sal|
|ser (to be)||sé|
|tener (to have)||ten|
|venir (to come)||ven|
Dime que me quieres.
Tell me you love me.
Do it right.
Ve con tu mamá.
Go to your mom.
Ponte el abrigo.
Put your coat on.
Sal de aquí ahora mismo.
Get out of here right now.
Negative Tú Commands
If you want to order somebody who is your equal not to do something, you’ll use negative tú commands.
Place no (don’t) or nunca (never) before the imperative form in the present subjunctive form.
No lo hagas.
Don’t do it.
Nunca pierdas tiempo.
Don’t waste time.
The irregular forms are the same five verbs you already got to know in the usted, ustedes, and nosotros section.
|ser (to be)||no seas|
|estar (to be)||no estés|
|ir (to go)||no vayas|
|saber (to know)||no sepas|
|dar (to give)||no des|
No estés triste.
Don’t be sad.
Nunca vayas ahí
Never go there.
The Imperative Mood in Spanish and Pronouns
You might have noticed in the imperative mood examples in Spanish above that the pronoun position in the sentences with imperatives varies. It depends on whether the imperative is in the affirmative or negative form.
If the command is affirmative, you should attach the pronouns at the end of the imperative. It works for direct object pronouns, indirect object pronouns, reflexive pronouns, and double object pronouns.
With double pronouns, don’t forget to add a written accent to the second to last syllable of the imperative. You should also do it if you only add one pronoun, but the imperative verb itself is two syllables or longer.
Dilo. (direct object pronoun)
Dime. (Indirect object pronoun)
Prepárate. (Reflexive pronoun)
Pásamelo. (Double object pronouns)
Pass it to me.
If the command is negative, it’s even easier. You need to put the pronouns in front of the imperative, and they come as separate words, so no need to worry about accents.
No lo digas. (direct object pronoun)
Don’t say it.
No me digas. (Indirect object pronoun)
Don’t tell me.
No te prepares todavía. (Reflexive pronoun)
Don’t get ready yet.
No me lo pases. (Double object pronouns)
Don’t pass it to me.
Imperative Mood in Spanish Quiz
1. Ana, __________ mi mano.
2. Amor, no __________ tu tarea para el último momento.
3. Señor, __________ aquí.
4. __________ ahora mismo. (nosotros)
5. __________ usted después.
6. No me lo __________ tan difícil, Juan.
7. Niño, no __________ esto, por favor.
8. __________ lo más rápido posible chicos.
9. Mamá, __________ valiente.
10. __________ todos las respuestas por correo.
Practice Imperative Mood Sentences in Spanish
Now that you know it, you’ll hear sentences in Spanish using imperative mood everywhere. You can watch an episode of your favorite series in Spanish, put the subtitles on, and try to note the imperative sentences.
After improving your listening comprehension skills, you should focus on production. Remember that your goal is to use Spanish and talk to other people in Spanish. (Did you know that there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the U.S. alone?)
To start using the imperative mood in Spanish in a conversation right now, sign up for a free trial class with one of our professional, native-speaking teachers from Guatemala and practice giving orders and commands.
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