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Spanish Imperative: Forming Informal 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 makes direct commands, expresses requests, and grants or denies permission. Unlike in English, Spanish commands have both informal (familiar) and formal forms. Informal forms address and vosostros. Formal forms address Usted and Ustedes. The following sections explain the formation of the informal imperative mood of Spanish verbs that Spanish language learners must understand and master.

Informal Commands of -ar Spanish Verbs

As with most verb conjugations in the Spanish language, the imperative mood is formed through the process of inflection. Inflection is the modification of the form of a word through affixation. Verbs in the informal imperative mood in Spanish are formed by affixing informal 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 informal imperative are as follows:

  • singular informal affirmative – simple present stem + a – baila
  • singular informal negative – simple present stem + es – no bailes
  • plural informal affirmative – simple present stem + ad – bailad
  • plural informal negative – simple present stem + éis – no bailéis

For example:

  • Ayúdame. “(You) Help me.”
  • No fuméis. “(You all) Don’t smoke.”
  • Cantad. “(You all) Sing.”
  • No almuerzes. “(You) Do not eat lunch.”
  • Sueña. “(You) Dream.”
  • Empiezad. “(You all) Begin.”

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

Informal Commands of -er Spanish Verbs

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

  • singular informal affirmative – simple present stem + e – bebe
  • singular informal negative – simple present stem + as – no bebas
  • plural informal affirmative – simple present stem + ed – bebed
  • plural informal negative – simple present stem + áis – no bebáis

For example:

  • Come. “(You) Eat.”
  • No corráis. “(You all) Don’t run.”
  • Aprended el vocabulario. “(You all) Learn the vocabulary.”
  • No escondas. “(You) Don’t hide.”
  • Tenged las manzanas. “(You all) Have the apples.”
  • No hagas la cama. “(You) Don’t make your bed.”

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

Informal Commands of -ir Spanish Verbs

As with many other conjugations, the informal commands of -ir Spanish verbs take slightly different suffixes in one or more persons and numbers from -er Spanish verbs. The conjugation patterns for regular -ir Spanish verbs in the informal imperative are as follows:

  • singular informal affirmative – simple present stem + e – abre
  • singular informal negative – simple present stem + as – no abras
  • plural informal affirmative – simple present stem + id – abrid
  • plural informal negative – simple present stem + áis – no abráis

For example:

  • Escribe. “(You) Write.”
  • No aplaudas. “(You) Don’t applaud.”
  • Vived. “(You all) Live.”
  • No interrumpáis. “(You all) Don’t interrupt.”
  • No digas. “(You) Do not tell.”
  • No vengáis. “(You all) Don’t come.”

Irregular Tú Commands

Unlike regular informal Spanish imperative forms, some verbs have irregular singular affirmative imperative forms. The eight Spanish verbs with irregular affirmative commands in the imperative mood are:

  • decir – di
  • hacer – haz
  • ir – ve
  • poner – pon
  • salir – sal
  • ser – sé
  • tener – ten
  • venir – ven

The other three forms of these eight verbs are regular in the imperative mood. However, note that all of these verbs have irregular simple present forms.

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 familiar or informal imperative forms of Spanish verbs in order to fully use and understand verbs the Spanish language.

For the conjugation patterns of the formal or Spanish imperative, please read Spanish Imperative: Forming Formal 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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