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How to make commands (the imperative) 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.

There are familiar commands (tú and vosotros), polite commands (usted and ustedes) and a let's ... from the nosotros form. If you are familiar with the present subjunctive, commands should be simple because all negative commands are the same as the present subjunctive.

A↔E

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 - positive or negative
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 - positive or negative
¡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 ... (nosotros form) - positive or negative
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


The NEGATIVE forms for tú (the familiar version of 'you') and vosotros (the familiar version for 'you all') also can be used in this way. Add an 's' for the tú form:
hablar = to speak
habla = you speak
¡hable! = speak! (polite 'usted' command)
¡no hables! = don't speak! (familiar 'tú' command)
correr = to run
corre = you run
¡corra! = run! (polite 'usted' command)
!no corras¡ = don't run! (familiar 'tú' command)
escribir = to write
escribe = you write
¡escriba! = write! (polite 'usted' command)
¡no escribas! = don't write! (familiar 'tú' command)

The NEGATIVE forms for vosotros are made the same way as you would in the present tense. You can either think of the -mos form and replace it with 'is' like in the present tense, or you can do the same as you are doing here, adding an 'is' to the usted form:
hablar = to speak
habla = you speak
¡hable! = speak! (polite 'usted' command)
¡no habléis! = don't speak! (familiar 'vosotros' command)
correr = to run
corre = you run
¡corra! = run! (polite 'usted' command)
¡no corráis! = don't run! (familiar 'vosotros' command)
repartir = to write
escribe = you write
¡escriba! = write! (polite 'usted' command)
¡no escribáis! = don't write! (familiar 'vosotros' command)
Note that you often need an accent to force the stress in to the same place as it would be in the nosotros ("we ...") form.

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

buscar = to search
busca = you search
busque = search (usted form) - keep that 'k' sound by changing the c to a qu. C before e or i has that 'th' sound.

Exceptions with POSITIVE commands (the ones without 'no' in front) of the tú and vosotros forms

For the tú form, you can remember how to do it in two ways.
Either take the tú form in the present tense and drop the 's' OR you can think "don't swap the a and e over":

Positive tú commands:
entrar = to enter
entras = you enter
¡entra! = enter!
barrer = to sweep
barres = you sweep
¡barre! = sweep!
dormir = to sleep
duermes = you sleep
¡duerme! = sleep!
There may be some confusion with some of the present tense here (technically habla could mean 'you speak' or 'speak' as a command), but in context, you should be able to understand what someone is saying to you.

The vosotros (you all) command is taken from the unchanged verb which ends in -r (called the infinitive). Replace the r with a d:
Positive vosotros commands:
entrar = to enter
¡entrad! = (you all) enter!
barrer = to sweep
¡barred! = (you all) sweep!
dormir = to sleep
¡dormid! = (you all) sleep!


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
¡Escribe! = write! (a command in the familiar tú form)
¡Escríbelo! = write it! (a command in the familiar tú form)
¡No lo escribas! = don't write it! (a command in the familiar tú 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 and vosotros forms miss out a letter in positive commands in these circumstances:
If you add an 'os' to the vosotros form, you miss out the d:
levantarse = to get up (literally: to lift oneself up )
levantad + os = levantaos = get up
One exception is with "go away" = idos which is
ir = to go
irse = to leave
id = go (a command in the vosotros form)
id + os = idos = go away

If you add 'nos' to 'mos' 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:
Enviar = to send
Enviemos = let's sent
Enviemos + se + los = Enviémoselos = Let's send them to him

Exceptions

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
Negative tú hacer = to do / make
hago = I do / make
¡haga! (a command in the usted form)
¡no lo hagas! = don't do it!
usted tener = to have
tengo = I have
¡tenga paciencia! = have patience!
¡no tenga paciencia! = don't have patience!
nosotrosponer = 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
negative
vosotros
oír = to hear
oigo = I hear
¡oiga! (a command in the usted form)
¡no oigáis música! = don't listen to music!
ustedesdecir = 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!
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
Negative tú aparecer = to appear / to show up
aparezco = I appear
¡aparezca! = appear! (a command in the usted form)
¡no aparezcas! = don't show up!
usted agradecer = to thank / to be grateful
agradezco = I thank
¡agradezca! = thank!
¡no agradezca! = don't thank!
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
negative
vosotros
desobedecer = to disobey
desobedezco = I disobey
¡desobedezca! = disobey! (a command in the usted form)
¡no desobedezcáis! = disobey!
ustedesestablecer = to establish
establezco = I establish
¡establezca! = establish! (a command in the usted form)
¡establezcan! = establish!
¡no establezcan! = don't establish!


Here are some positive commands in the tú form. Note that most of them are these "yo go" verbs too without the 'go' bit:
decir = to say, ¡di! = say!
hacer = to do / make, ¡haz! = make!
ir = to go, ¡ve! = go! (there may be some possible confusion with the verb ver = to see)
poner = to put, ¡pon! = put!
salir = to leave, ¡sal! = leave!
ser = to be (permanently), ¡sé! = be! (there may be some possible confusion with sé = I know)
tener = to have (a possession), ¡ten! = have!
venir = to come, ¡ven! = come!

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.

I have a little bit of trouble with the commands for 'ir' so here's a list of them:
Form Positive
command
Negative
command
ve no vayas
usted vaya no vaya
nosotros vamos no vayamos
vosotros id no vayáis
ustedes vayan no vayan

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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