Ten Spanish Imperatives to Use with Kids
While telling our kids what to do is generally just another parental chore, teaching them to follow our instructions in Spanish can actually be fun! Giving commands in another language is possible through the use of Spanish imperatives. This type of verb conjugation tends to be a bit complicated with four separate distinctions, but here we simplify it to how you will speak to your child using one form, the tú form. Learning ways to use commands with your child will increase daily Spanish use, improve their listening skills, and enrich their lesson experiences with Spanish instruction.
In English, it is much more common to use the “soft imperative” that goes something like this: “Could you come here?” instead of blurting out, “Come here!” However, in Spanish, while the soft imperative can be used (¿Podrías venir acá?), it is much more common to hear the unsoftened version: ¡Ven acá! and it is not rude. Keep in mind for this article, we are using the tú form instead of the usted form.
Do or Don’t
Imperative verbs can be affirmative or negative. In order to make affirmative imperative, you use the 3rd person indicative form. This rule applies to all regular verbs. For example:
|Infinitive||3rd Person Indicative||Example|
|Tomar (to take) – AR verb||Toma||Toma el libro. (take the book.)|
|Comer (to eat) – ER verb||Come||Come las verduras. (Eat the vegetables.)|
|Cerrar (to close) – stem changing verbs||Cierra||Cierra la puerta. (Close the door.)|
In order to make a negative imperative, you use the subjunctive tú form. For example:
|Infinitive||Subjunctive tú form||Example|
|Tomar (to take) – AR verb||Tomes||No tomes la moneda. (Don’t take the coin.)|
|Comer (to eat) – ER verb||Comas||No comas el dulce. (Don’t eat the candy.)|
|Cerrar (to close) – stem changing verbs||Cierres||No cierres la caja. (Don’t shut the box.)|
Now that you know how the imperative is formed in both affirmative and negative forms using any regular verb, you can practice using your favorite verbs with your child!
The irregular verbs, however, do not follow a predictable pattern. They are many very useful verbs that are irregular in this sense and so they must be memorized. That is why our Top 10 Commands are all irregular!
Top 10 Commands to Use with Kids
Here is a list of the top 10 most useful imperatives to use with your child:
Infinitive: Salir – Go out
Negative: No salgas – Don’t go out
Infinitive: Traer – Bring
Negative: No traigas – Don’t bring
Infinitive: Tener – Take/Hold
Negative: No tengas – Don’t take/hold
Infinitive: Hacer – Do/Make
Negative: No hagas – Don’t do/make
Infinitive: Decir – To say/tell
Negative: No digas – Don’t say/tell
Infinitive: Poner – Put
Negative: No pongas – Don’t put
Infinitive: Dar – Give
Negative: No des – Don’t give
Infinitive: Ir – Go
Negative: No vayas – Don’t go
Infinitive: Venir – Come
Negative: No vengas – Don’t come
Infinitive: Ser – To be
Negative: No seas – Don’t be
As you can see, the affirmative imperative form is irregular and you will simply have to memorize it and use it often with your little one to help them learn it, too. The negative imperative form is, as we learned above, made from the subjunctive tú form. Here are some ways to use your new command words in example instruction scenarios:
Sal del cuarto.
Get out of the room.
No salgas de la cocina.
Don’t go out of the kitchen.
Trae el lápiz.
Bring the pencil.
No traigas los crayones.
Don’t bring the crayons.
Haz la cara primero.
Make the face first.
No hagas eso.
Don’t do that.
Di la frase.
Say the phrase.
No digas la palabra.
Don’t say the word.
Pon el papel en la mesa.
Put the paper on the table.
No pongas la mano ahí.
Don’t put the hand there.
Give it to me.
No me lo des.
Don’t give it to me.
No vayas lejos.
Don’t go far.
Come with me
No vengas todavía.
Don’t come yet.
No seas así.
Don’t be like that.
Some more useful phrases:
Recoge tus juguetes – pick up your toys
Bajate de allí – get down from there
Limpia tu cuarto – clean your room
Lava los trastes – wash the dishes
Vístete – get dressed
Improve with Imperatives
By teaching your child to follow your instructions in Spanish, they will be much more likely to use these words on their own. It will bolster their listening skills, improve their memory of commonly-used verbs, and it may just make your child love following instructions! Give your child a chance to use their new knowledge of imperatives with a native Spanish speaker by signing up for a free online class. Your child is guaranteed to speak Spanish after the first class!
Want more Spanish tips and lessons for kids? Check these out!
- From Singular to Plural: How To Make Spanish Sentences Plural
- Spanish Grammar Exercises for Beginners with Answer Keys
- 5 Essential Conjugation Charts for Improving Your Grammar Skills
- The Top 5 Spanish Grammar Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore
- Connecting the Dots: Why Spanish Conjunctions Are Essential for Fluency
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- 10 Essential Ways to Use “Que” in Spanish
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I wish that someone would have introduced me to Spanish when I was a toddler.
To try to learn in my 50’s is pretty difficult especially since I had never heard the language when I was a kid.
I feel the same way William! I started learning Spanish when I was 25 and it wasn’t an easy ride (it was still fun, though). Luckily, I started learning the language after I moved to Guatemala so I was immersed in it and that helped a lot. You should try to find a way to speak to native Spanish speakers and you’ll start picking up the language SUPER fast. I am certain of it!