Imperative Constructions

Another type of construction that lacks a voiced subject is the imperative construction. The imperative is often called the command mood, though it's not used solely for commands, but also in making requests. When you request, ask, or demand something addressing yourself directly to someone, you are using the imperative.

The imperative mood's concern with the present should make it a fairly easy mood to master. Simply plug in the appropriate endings and place the command within exclamation marks (…!) for emphasis.

Note that there are only tú, usted, nosotros, vosotros, and ustedes forms in the command mood, because you must address a “you” (nosotros form, to be explained in greater detail, is a “let's …” construction). However, the tricky thing is that endings vary depending on whether the command is positive (do!) or negative (don't!).

Tú in the Imperative

The best way to approach the imperative is by learning the tú form. That's because it's the most obvious type of command—you are much more likely to use the imperative with somebody you know well, or somebody who is younger than you.

Positive Commands Addressed to Tú
–AR Verb –ER Verb –IR Verb
Camina! (Walk!) Bebe! (Drink!) Recibe! (Get!)
Negative Commands Addressed to Tú
–AR Verb –ER Verb –IR Verb
No camines! No bebas! No recibas!
(Don't walk!) (Don't drink!) (Don't get!)

It is understandable if you find these a little confusing. The positive command endings are the same for the imperative tú form as they are for the indicative present-tense él/ella/usted form: camina, bebe, recibe.

Whereas the positive imperatives for tú take the same form as the indicative present-tense conjugations of the more formal usted, negative imperatives of tú seem to invert the present-tense tú conjugation endings. Caminar takes on the –es ending, and beber and recibir take on the –as ending: no camines, no bebas, no recibas.

There are only a few verbs that have irregular positive–tú command conjugations—that is, verbs that don't simply follow the rules outlined here. These verbs are listed in the following table.

Irregular Verbs

Vosotros/Vosotras in the Imperative

There is also a vosotros/vosotras form for the imperative mood. To make a positive vosotros command, drop the final r of the verb's infinitive and replace it with a d: caminad, bebed, recibid.

The only exception to this rule is the verb ir (to go): the positive form in the command mood is id:

Id a casa ahora mismo! Go home immediately!

To make negative vosotros commands, use the present-tense verb endings, but switch the endings of –ar and –eri–ir verbs, as you've done with the negative tú commands: no caminéis, no bebáis, no recibáis.

To review the vosotros/vosotras command conjugations, see the following table:

Positive Commands Addressed to Vosotros/Vosotras

–AR Verb –ER Verb –IR Verb
¡Caminad! (Walk!) ¡Bebed! (Drink!) ¡Recibid! (Get!)

Negative Commands Addressed to Vosotros/Vosotras

–AR Verb –ER Verb –IR Verb
¡No caminéis! ¡No bebáis! ¡No recibáis!
(Don't walk!) (Don't drink!) (Don't get!)

Usted/Ustedes and Nosotros/Nosotras in the Imperative

The commands or requests addressed to usted, ustedes, nosotros, and nosotras approach the imperative in the same way as the negative tú/vosotros/vosotras commands. That is, you add –e, –en, and –emos endings to the –ar verbs, and -a, -an, and –amos endings to the –er and –ir verbs. This rule applies to both positive and negative commands.

Positive Commands to Usted, Ustedes, and Nosotros/Nosotras

Negative Commands to Usted, Ustedes, and Nosotros/Nosotras

In the nosotros/nosotras form, the commands may be translated in the form of “let's …” This means Caminemos! translates to “Let's walk!”; Bebamos! is “Let's drink!”; and Recibamos! may be translated as “Let's receive (something)!”

Irregular Nosotros/Nosotras Conjugations

Some verbs undergo a spelling accommodation in the nosotros/nosotras form of the imperative. Verbs that end in –car, –gar, and –zar follow a base consonant change from c to qu, g to gu, and z to ce, respectively (see the following tables for details).

Consonant Change in –CAR Verbs

Verb English Imperative Nosotros/Nosotras Form
abarcar to take on abarquemos
buscar to look for busquemos
practicar to practice practiquemos
sacar to take out saquemos

Consonant Change in -GAR Verbs

Verb English Imperative Nosotros/Nosotras Form
apagar to turn off apaguemos
entregar to hand over entreguemos
jugar to play juguemos
llegar to arrive lleguemos

Consonant Change in -ZAR Verbs

Verb English Imperative Nosotros/Nosotras Form
abrazar to embrace abracemos
almorzar to eat lunch almorcemos
empezar to begin empecemos
rezar to pray recemos

Another group of irregular verbs belong to the –ir category, and the spelling-accommodation changes involved concern the verb's base vowel. The changes usually occur as follows: from e to i, and from o to u (see the following two tables).

Vowel Change from E to I

Verb English Imperative Nosotros/Nosotras Form
advertir to warn advirtamos
medir to measure midamos
mentir to lie, deceive mintamos
pedir to ask, request pidamos

Vowel Change from O to U

Verb English Imperative Nosotros/Nosotras Form
dormir to sleep durmamos
morir to die muramos

Object Pronouns in Commands

As you learned in Chapter 13, object pronouns generally precede the verb:

Lo vi en la calle. I saw him on the street.
Lo hice a las nueve de la mañana. I did it at nine in the morning.

In positive commands, the object pronoun is attached to the verb of command:

Estúdialo ahora mismo! Study it right now!
Bébanlo después de comer! Drink it after eating!
Abrámoslo mañana! Let's open it tomorrow!
Escúchame! Listen to me!
Dame la blusa! Give me the blouse!
Dámela! Give it to me!

In some cases, when you add additional syllables to a word, you also need to add an accent mark—unless you intend to pronounce it differently. For example, take a look at Dame! and Dámela! According to accent rules, a word that ends in a vowel should be accented on the next-to-last syllable. When you add la, you also need to add an accent mark over the a in order to keep the pronunciation “DAH-meh-lah” (and not “dah-MEH-lah”). Note that in the last example the indirect object me (to me) precedes the direct object la (it).

In the negative, however, the object pronouns precede the imperative verb (though, once again, the indirect object comes first, followed by the direct object). Take a look at the following examples:

No me escuches! Don't listen to me!
No me des la blusa! Don't give me the blouse!
No me la des! Don't give it to me.

Reviewing the Imperative

Translate the following sentences, using the information you have just learned. Use your English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English dictionary to look up words you don't already know. Then, check your answers.

1. Listen (you, informal/singular) to the news!

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2. Let's decide on a movie!

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3. Wait (you, formal/singular) for me at the door!

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4. Come (you, informal/singular) here!

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5. Don't cry (you, informal/plural)!

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6. Look for (you, formal/singular) the key!

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7. Don't put (you, informal/plural) it (masculine) here!

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8. Let's travel to Mexico together!

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9. Don't buy (you, formal/singular) it for her!

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10. Bring (you, formal/plural) it to me!

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