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Spanish Imperative: Forming Formal Commands of Spanish Verbs

The imperative mood is a verb conjugation in the Spanish language that refers to verbs in the present tense, simple aspect, imperative mood, and active voice. The Spanish imperative allows speakers to make direct commands, express requests, and grant or deny permission. Unlike in English, Spanish commands have both informal and formal forms. Informal forms address and vosostros. Formal forms address Usted and Ustedes. The following sections explain the formation of the formal imperative mood of Spanish verbs that Spanish language learners must understand and master.

Formal Commands of -ar Spanish Verbs

Like most of the verb conjugations in the Spanish language, the imperative mood is formed through the process of inflection. Inflection is usually defined as the modification of the form of a word through affixation. Verbs in the formal imperative mood in Spanish are formed by affixing formal imperative suffixes to the end of the stem of the simple present form of the verb. The conjugation patterns for regular -ar Spanish verbs in the formal imperative are as follows:

  • singular informal affirmative – simple present stem + e – baile
  • singular informal negative – simple present stem + e – no baile
  • plural informal affirmative – simple present stem + en – bailen
  • plural informal negative – simple present stem + en – no bailen

For example:

  • Hable más lentamente. “(You) Speak more slowly.”
  • Bailen hoy. “(You all) Dance today.”
  • No escribe la carta. “(You) Do not write the letter.”
  • No compre el anillo. “(You) Do not buy the ring.”
  • Almuerzen. “(You all) Eat breakfast.”
  • No canten. “(You all) Don’t sing.”

Note that the endings for the formal imperative are identical to the endings for the Spanish present subjunctive.

Formal Commands of -er Spanish Verbs

As with other conjugations, the formal commands of -er Spanish verbs take different suffixes from -ar Spanish verbs. The conjugation patterns for regular -er Spanish verbs in the formal imperative are as follows:

  • singular informal affirmative – simple present stem + a – beba
  • singular informal negative – simple present stem + a – no beba
  • plural informal affirmative – simple present stem + an – beban
  • plural informal negative – simple present stem + an – no beba

For example:

  • Coma. “(You) Eat.”
  • No corran. “(You all) Don’t run.”
  • Aprendan el vocabulario. “(You all) Learn the vocabulary.”
  • No esconda. “(You) Don’t hide.”
  • Tengan las manzanas. “(You all) Have the apples.”
  • No hagan la cama. “(You) Don’t make your bed.”

Note that, if a verb is irregular in the simple present, then the stem for the formal imperative is also irregular.

Formal Commands of -ir Spanish Verbs

Like some other conjugations, the formal commands of -ir Spanish verbs take identical suffixes to -er Spanish verbs. The conjugation patterns for regular -ir Spanish verbs in the formal imperative are as follows:

  • singular informal affirmative – simple present stem + a – abra
  • singular informal negative – simple present stem + a – no abra
  • plural informal affirmative – simple present stem + an – abran
  • plural informal negative – simple present stem + an – no abran

For example:

  • Escriba. “(You) Write.”
  • No aplauda. “(You) Don’t applaud.”
  • Duerman. “(You all) Sleep.”
  • No interrumpan. “(You all) Don’t interrupt.”
  • No diga. “(You) Do not tell.”
  • No vengan. “(You all) Don’t come.”

Note that, if a verb is a stem-changing verb in the simple present, then the stem for the formal imperative is also stem-changing.

The imperative mood allows speakers of Spanish to make direct commands, to express requests, and to grant or deny permission. Spanish language students must learn to form the formal imperative forms of Spanish verbs in order to fully use and understand verbs the Spanish language.

For the conjugation patterns of the informal or familiar Spanish imperative, please read Spanish Imperative: Forming Informal Commands of Spanish Verbs. For the conjugation patterns for nosotros commands, please read Spanish Imperative: Forming Nosotros Commands of Spanish Verbs.

Note: I have studied Spanish as a foreign language. Please feel free to correct any mistakes that I have made in my Spanish.

References

Ramboz, Ina. 2008. Spanish verbs & essentials of grammar (Verbs and Essentials of Grammar Series), 2nd edn. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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