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How to make basic commands in Spanish

There are patterns in forming commands. It isn't as difficult as you may think but it may be a little challenging to begin with. There are ways to avoid the formation of commands and some things are quite straightforward to do.
This is a cut-down version of an article I have previously written. If you want to know more, see this article.

There are familiar commands (tú and vosotros), polite commands (usted and ustedes) and a let's ... from the nosotros form but I will only show you the polite and the "let's ..." forms.


There is a pattern in forming commands. For regular (or regular sounding) verbs, take whatever you use for the usted form and swap an 'e' for an 'a' or an 'a' for an 'e'. This makes a polite command:

Polite (usted) commands - when speaking to one person
hablar = to speak
habla = you are speaking
¡hable! = speak! (command)
¡no hable! = don't speak! (command)
correr = to run
corre = you are running
¡corra! = run! (command)
¡no corra! = don't run! (command)
escribir = to write
escribe = you are writing
¡escriba! = write (command)
¡no escriba! = don't write! (command)
Add a 'usted' after it if you wish to express more politeness e.g. siéntese usted = please sit down

What about when you are talking to a group of people? The 'you all' form (ustedes) ends in an n. The command form does too. Just add an 'n' to the swapped letter:

Polite (ustedes) commands - when speaking to two or more people
¡hable! = speak!, ¡no hable! = don't speak!
¡hablen! = speak!, ¡no hablen! = don't speak!
¡corra! = run!, ¡no corra! = ¡don't run!
¡corran! = run!, ¡no corran! = ¡don't run!
¡escriba! = write!, ¡no escriba! = don't write!
¡escriban! = write!, ¡no escriban! = don't write!
Add a 'ustedes' after it if you wish to express more politeness e.g. siéntense ustedes = please sit down (you two / you all)

The nosotros form for all verbs end in -mos. So do the commands so just add a 'mos' to the swapped letter. They translate as "let's ..."

Let's ... (from the nosotros form)
hable = speak, no hable = don't speak
hablemos = let's speak
no hablemos = let's not speak
corra = run, no corra = don't run
corramos = let's run
no corramos = let's not run
escriba = write, no escriba = don't write
escribamos = let's write
no escribamos = let's not write
In fact, the positive form 'let's ...' is even EASIER than this. It is often replaced with 'vamos a ...'
Vamos a comer algo = let's eat something
Vamos a visitar a su amigo = let's visit your friend

Just be aware that when you write regular sounding verbs, you will need to decide how to keep the regular sounds that you hear e.g.
elegir = to elect has a gutteral sound from the g.
elija = elect (polite 'usted' command) - a 'j' is used because you would loose that gutteral sound with a 'g' before an 'a'.

buscar = to search
busca = you search
busque = search (polite 'usted' command) - keep that 'k' sound by changing the c to a qu. C before e or i has that 'th' sound. Experiment by saying it with and without the spelling changes.
There are other spelling changes but if a verb sounds regular, then reading, hearing and speaking them is as easy to use as regular verbs. It's writing them that may be a bit tricky.see the article on pronouns

Where to position pronouns

Basically, with negative commands, they always go in front of the command. For positive commands, they always attach to the end (see the article on pronouns).
Remember that when they attach to the verb, you may need an accent to force the stress in the same place:
Escribir = to write
¡ Escriba! = write! (a command in the polite usted form)
¡Escríbalo! = write it! (a command in the polite usted form)
¡ No lo escriba! = don't write it! (a command in the polite usted form)

Perdonar = to pardon (forgive)
Perdona = you pardon
¡Perdone! = pardon! (a command in the polite usted form)
¡Perdóneme! = pardon me! (as in forgive me)

Dar = to give
Da = you give
¡Dé! = give! (a command in the polite usted form)
¡Deme! = give me!
¡Démelo! = give me it!
¡No me lo dé! = don't give it to me!
It just so happens that dé requires an accent to distinguish it from the word 'de' in writing but some Spaniards (incorrectly) miss the accent out sometimes when writing on the internet because they know what they mean.

The nosotros form misses out a letter in positive commands in these circumstances:
If you add 'nos' to 'mos' in reflexive verbs then it becomes a little hard to say so miss out the 's'
vamos = let's go
vámonos = let's leave (vamos + nos = vamonos)

Also avoid 'ss' with a command ending in -mos + se (this happens when you use 'se' instead of 'le' which both mean 'to him, from them etc. See the article on pronouns if you don't understand that bit):
Enviar = to send
Enviemos = let's sent
Enviemos + se + los = Enviémoselos = Let's send them to him


There are almost always exceptions to rules. The most common verbs have exceptions.
There are some "yo go" verbs, that is verbs that end in 'go' in the yo form e.g. tengo = I have, pongo = I put, oigo = I hear etc. In commands, these "yo go" verbs become "ga":
Tener = To have
Tengo = I have
Tenga = Have, tengamos = let's have, tengan, tengas, no tengáis etc.
This also affects verbs that end in these verbs such as contener = to contain (con + tener). Contengo = I contain, Contenga = contain.

This pattern is seen for these forms:
Form An example
you (polite)
tener = to have
tengo = I have
¡tenga paciencia! = have patience!
¡no tenga paciencia! = don't have patience!
you all (polite)
decir = to say / tell
digo = I say / tell
¡diga! (a command in the usted form)
¡digan la verdad! = tell the truth!
¡no digan la verdad! = don't tell the truth!
we, but meaning
let's... in a command
poner = to put
pongo = I put
ponga (a command in the usted form)
pongamos la mesa = let's set the table
no pongamos la mesa = let's not set the table
Check them when you come across them.

There are some verbs that act a bit like this too. They have a c→zc change:
conocer = to know (a person / place)
conozco = I know
These -zco verbs change to -zca in a similar way to the "yo go" verbs:
Form An example
usted agradecer = to thank / to be grateful
agradezco = I thank
¡agradezca! = thank!
¡no agradezca! = don't thank!
ustedesestablecer = to establish
establezco = I establish
¡establezca! = establish! (a command in the usted form)
¡establezcan! = establish!
¡no establezcan! = don't establish!
nosotrosaparecer = to appear / to show up
aparezco = I appear
aparezca = appear (a command in the usted form)
aparezcamos = let's show up
no aparezcamos = let's not show up

I have a little bit of trouble with the commands for 'ir' so here's a list of them:
Form Positive
usted vaya = go no vaya = don't go
nosotros vamos = let's go no vayamos = let's not go
ustedes vayan = (you all) go no vayan = don't you all go

You may also see a 'se' use in forms and recipes e.g. póngase en el curry los tomates = put some tomatoes in the curry. Don't worry about this form, I'm just mentioning it in case you see it. Incidentally, the plural of el curry is los curries.
There are other exceptions regarding forming commands in countries outside of Spain but I am not listing them here.

Really easy commands

For general instructions on signs, in documents and sometimes even in speech you may hear or read the unchanged verb (the infinitive) instead of a command:
Ver página cinco = see page five
empujar = push
tirar = pull

This form is also used as a replacement for the vosotros command (hablad, llamad etc.) but it sounds familiar or even slovenly to some people so say the correct form.

You can avoid the command form using these polite ways:
"podría usted" = could you please
¿Podría usted recogerme en la estación? = Could you please pick me up at the station?
"haga el favor de" = do the favour of
Haga el favor de subirse al tren = Please get on the train
"le importaría" = literally: it would be concerning to you
¿Le importaría llegar a las dos? = Would you mind arriving at two o'clock?
"quisiera hacerme el favor de" = would you want to do me the favour of
¿Quisiera hacerme el favor de mandarme un correo electrónico cuando averigüe lo que pasó? = Would you send me an email when you find out what happened?
Making a statement in to a question
¿Me da una bebida? = Would you give me a drink please? ("me da una bebida" as a statement means "you are giving me a drink")
Note that the plural forms also work for these (add an 'n' to the verb) e.g. hagan el favor de ...
You could also just use the present tense for commands but this could sound angry "¡Te vas en seguida o me voy a llamar a la policía!" = You are going away right now or I will call the police!

Let him... / tell him ... - third-person imperatives

An easy way of saying "tell them to ..." is simply to use 'que' and the usted or ustedes command:
Que llamen mañana = tell them to call tomorrow (llamar = to call)
Que llame mañana = tell him to call tomorrow

[ENGLISH]Have you found an error or do you want to add more information to these pages?
You can contact me at the bottom of the home page.

[ESPAÑOL] ¿Ha encontrado un error o tiene información adicional?
Puede mandarme un mensaje al final de la página principal

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