Imperative Commands in Spanish Grammar

What is the Imperative in Spanish Grammar?

The Imperative (imperativo), also imperative commands, express demands, orders and requests addressed to one or more people directly. There are different conjugations for the , usted, ustedes, nosotros and vosotros forms.

Learn about imperative commands in Spanish grammar with Lingolia’a grammar rules. Master the conjugation of all verb types and forms then test your grammar skills in the exercises.

Example

Pasajero: Paremos un taxi. ¡Taxi!

Conductor: ¡Subid!

Pasajero: ¡Llévanos a la estación!

Conductor: Abrochaos los cinturones.

Pasajero: ¡Listo, vámonos! Pero no conduzcas rápido, por favor.

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When to Use the Imperative in Spanish Grammar

We use the imperative to:

    • make suggestions or proposals;
      Example:
      ¡Paremos un taxi!Let’s stop a taxi!
    • give orders;
      Example:
      ¡Subid!Get in!
      ¡Llévanos a la estación!Drive us to the station!
    • give advice;
      Example:
      Si tienes prisa, pide un taxi.If you are in a rush, order a taxi.
    • make requests;
      Example:
      Dime la dirección.Tell me the address.

Verbs in the imperative are often used together with polite phrases such as por favor. However, it is important to remember that in Spanish the tone of voice can communicate almost as much meaning as the content of the sentence itself.

Example:
¡Llévanos a la estación, por favor!Drive us to the station, please.

How to conjugate the Imperative in Spanish Grammar

The imperative form in Spanish exists for the first person plural (nosotros/-as), the second person singular and plural (tú, vosotros/-as) and the polite form usted in singular and plural (usted/-es). The imperative is always conjugated without a personal pronoun and in the present tense, in either the indicative or the subjunctive mood.

2nd person singular (tú)

To conjugate the imperative in the 2nd person singular (tú) we use the 3rd person singular form of the present indicative. However, to form a negative imperative, we use the 2nd person singular form of the present subjunctive. The personal pronoun is not used.

positive form
indicative (3rd person singular)
negative form
subjunctive (2nd person singular)
hablar ¡Habla!Speak! ¡No hables!Don’t speak!
aprender ¡Aprende!Learn! ¡No aprendas!Don’t learn!
escribir ¡Escribe!Write! ¡No escribas!Don’t write!

Irregular imperative forms in the 2nd person singular

infinitive imperative translation
decir di Say!
hacer haz Do/Make ...!
ir ve Go!
poner pon Put ...!
salir sal Go out!
ser Be ...!
tener ten Take!
venir ven Come!

2nd person plural (vosotros/vosotras)

To conjugate the positive imperative for the 2nd person plural (vosotros) we take the infinitive and replace the -r with a -d.
In the negative form, we take the 2nd person plural of the present subjunctive, omitting the personal pronoun.

positive form
replace infinitive-r with d
negative form
subjunctive (2nd person plural)
hablar ¡Hablad!Speak! ¡No habléis!Don’t speak!
aprender ¡Aprended!Learn! ¡No aprendáis!Don’t learn!
escribir ¡Escribid!Write! ¡No escribáis!Don’t write!

¿«idos» or «iros»?

The imperative form of the verb irseto leave has caused controversy among experts of Spanish grammar. The rule states that when conjugating the imperative, the second person plural of the verb (vosotros) loses the final -d when we add the pronoun os. However, the verb irse is an exception to this rule because it is such a short word. In contemporary Spanish, the conjugation recommended by the Real Academia Española (RAE) is «idos»:

irse:
id + os = idos

However, in everyday spoken Spanish you will hear the form «iros», which the RAE has deemed valid due to its widespread use.

3rd person singular (usted)

To conjugate the imperative in the polite form (usted), we use the 3rd person singular of the present subjunctive for both the positive and negative forms, omitting the personal pronoun.

positive form
subjunctive (3rd person singular)
negative form
subjunctive (3rd person singular)
hablar ¡Hable!Speak! ¡No hable!Don’t speak!
aprender ¡Aprenda!Learn! ¡No aprenda!Don’t learn!
escribir ¡Escriba!Write! ¡No escriba!Don’t write!

3rd person plural (ustedes)

To conjugate an imperative in the polite form in plural, we use the 3rd person plural of the present subjunctive, omitting the personal pronoun.

positive form
subjunctive (3rd person plural)
negative form
subjunctive (3rd person plural)
hablar ¡Hablen!Speak! ¡No hablen!Don’t speak!
aprender ¡Aprendan!Learn! ¡No aprendan!Don’t learn!
escribir ¡Escriban!Write! ¡No escriban!Don’t write!

1st person plural (nosotros/nosotras)

To conjugate the imperative in the 1st person plural (nosotros) we use the 1st person plural form of the present subjunctive for both the positive and negative forms, omitting the personal pronoun.

positive form
subjunctive (1st person plural)
negative form
subjunctive (1st person plural)
hablar ¡Hablemos!Let’s speak! ¡No hablemos!Let’s not speak.
aprender ¡Aprendamos!Let’s learn! ¡No aprendamos!Let’s not learn.
escribir ¡Escribamos!Let’s write! ¡No escribamos!Let’s not write.

Reflexive Verbs

In the positive form of the imperative, the reflexive pronoun (and also the object pronoun) is attached to the verb. Remember:

  • in the first person plural we omit the s;
    Example:
    ¡Abrochémonos el cinturón!Let’s fasten our seatbelts! (not: abrochémosnos)
  • in the second person plural we omit the d;
Example:
¡Abrochaos el cinturón!Fasten your seatbelts! (not: abrochados)

In negative imperatives, reflexive pronouns appear after the negation no and before the verb;

Example:
No te abroches el cinturón.Don’t fasten your seatbelt.
positive form negative form
¡Abróchate!Fasten up!/¡Abróchatelo!Fasten it (the safety belt) up! ← abrocha + te (+ lo) → ¡No te (lo) abroches!Don’t fasten it up!
¡Abróchese!/¡Abróchaselo!Fasten (it) up! (polite form, singular) ← abroche + se (+ lo) → ¡No se (lo) abroche!Don’t fasten (it) up!
¡Abrochémonos!/¡Abrochémonoslo!Let’s fasten (it) up! ← abrochemos+ nos (+ lo) → ¡No nos (lo) abrochemos!Let’s not fasten (it) up!
¡Abrochaos!Fasten up!/¡Abrocháoslo!Fasten it up! ← abrochad + os (+ lo) → ¡No os (lo) abrochéis!Don’t fasten (it) up!
¡Abróchense!Fasten up! (polite form, singular)/¡Abróchenselo!Fasten it up! ← abrochen + se (+ lo) → ¡No se (lo) abrochen!Don’t fasten (it) up!

If a reflexive verb in the imperative appears together with a direct object pronoun, this is placed after the reflexive pronoun in a positive sentence. In a negative sentence the direct object pronoun appears after the reflexive pronoun and before the verb.

Example:
Abróchate el cinturón.Fasten your seatbelt. → Abróchatelo.Fasten it.
No te abroches el cinturón.Don’t fasten your seatbelt. → No te lo abroches.Don’t fasten it.

Direct and Indirect Objects in the Imperative

When forming a sentence in the imperative that uses direct or indirect object pronouns (DO or IO), the pronouns are attached to the end of the verb.

Example:
Cerrar la ventana. (DO) → Ciérrala.Close it. (2nd person singular)
Comprar un helado a ella. (IO) → Cómprale un helado.Buy her an ice cream. (2nd person singular)
Comprar un helado a ella. (DO + IO) → Cómpraselo.Buy her one. (2nd person singular)

If the sentence is negative, the pronouns come before the verb.

Example:
No la cierres.Don’t close it.
No le compres un helado.Don’t buy her an ice cream.
No se lo compres.Don’t buy her it.

If the verb is also reflexive, in a positive imperative the reflexive pronoun is attached to the end of the verb first, followed by the direct object pronoun.

Example:
Abrócharse el cinturón. (DO) → Abróchatelo.Fasten it. (2nd person singular)

In the case of a negative imperative, the reflexive pronoun comes after the negation no followed by the direct object pronoun.

Example:
No te lo abroches.Don’t fasten it. (2nd person singular)

Alternative Forms

The form a + infinitive can replace the imperative in the 2nd person singular and plural:

Example:
¡A callar!Be quiet!
¡A correr!Run!