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The Imperative Tense
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Video Lesson
Summary of Lesson
Defining the Imperative tense, and looking at when it is used in conversation.
Looking at the structure of imperative tense verbs when used in positive and negative sentences.
Looking at how let's can correspond to nosotros/as verb formations in the imperative tense.
A look at how direct and indirect object pronouns are used with imperative tense verbs.
   
  What you can learn from this lesson
   
Knowing in what situations and different types of sentence structures the imperative tense is commonly used.
Knowing which corresponding personal pronouns are used when forming the imperative tense, both in positive and negative sentences (tú - vosotros/as - usted/es).
Being able to correctly formulate imperative tense verbs that are regular and irregular in both positive and negative sentences.
Understanding how the imperative tense can be used to correspond to let's in English, and when a present tense form of the verb 'ir' can be used instead.
Knowing the position of direct and indirect object pronouns in both positive and negative sentences when using the imperative tense.
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PART 1

 

The first part of this lesson defines what the imperative tense is and explains in what situations it is used in both Spanish and English.

 

The imperative tense is actually a form of the present subjunctive tense but which is used in a different way. The imperative tense is used to give orders or instructions in both Spanish and English. The following is a typical example.

 

don't talk (speak)
personal pronoun  
tú no hables
usted no hable
vosotros/as no habléis
ustedes no hablen

talk (speak)
personal pronoun  
tú habla
usted hable
vosotros/as hablad
ustedes hablen

 

 

The imperative tense and gender

 

You will immediately see that the formation of the imperative tense in English is much more straightforward. When giving instructions or orders in English it does not matter who is being spoken to. The formation of the verb that is used to give the order or instruction is the same for all personal pronouns. In Spanish the formation of the verb used depends on who we are speaking to.

 

You will also notice that not all personal pronouns in Spanish are used when forming verbs in the imperative tense. This is because it doesn't make sense to give ourselves, he, she or they orders or instructions. (Part 4 of the lesson explains how nosotros/as corresponds to let’s in English.)

 

The imperative tense in negative and positive constructions

 

The imperative tense can be used to give both negative and positive orders and instructions. From the above example you can see that the word don’t is used in English when the negative form is used. In Spanish the word no is used.

 

However in Spanish it is more complicated because the formation of the verb that is used with the personal pronouns and vosotros/as is different depending on whether the order or instruction is positive or negative.

 

PART 2

 

The second part of the lesson looks at how the imperative tense is formed when giving either negative or positive orders or instructions.

 

Negative orders and instructions

 

If you have studied the lesson on the present subjunctive tense you will see that the formation of both regular and irregular verbs in this tense and the imperative tense are exactly the same.

 

Regular verb formations


personal pronoun trabajar comer escupir
  (to work) (to eat) (to spit)
no trabajes no comas no escupas
usted no trabaje no coma no escupa
vosotros/as no trabajéis no comáis no escupáis
ustedes no trabajen no coman no escupan
English translation
(all personal pronouns)
don't work don't eat don't spit

 

Things to note

 

1) In negative constructions the word no is always placed before the verb formation.

2) The verb endings are exactly the same as those endings in the present subjunctive tense.

3) The endings of the verbs are the reverse of the endings that are used in the present simple tense.

 

Irregular verbs in the imperative tense are the same as those irregular verbs in the present subjunctive tense. The formation of the irregular verb stems is also the same. Below is a list of some of the most common irregular verbs in both the imperative and present subjunctive tenses.


dar
decir
estar
hacer
ir
poner
saber
salir
ser
tener
venir

 

  usted vosotros/as ustedes
dar no des no dé no deis no den
decir no digas no diga no digáis no digan
estar no estés no esté no estéis no estén
hacer no hagas no haga no hagáis no hagan
ir no vayas no vaya no vayáis no vayan
poner no pongas no ponga no pongáis no pongan
saber no sepas no sepa no sepáis no sepan
salir no salgas no salga no salgáis no salgan
ser no seas no sea no seáis no sean
tener no tengas no tenga no tengáis no tengan
venir no vengas no venga no vengáis no vengan

Positive orders and instructions

 

The formation of verbs with positive orders or instructions is different for verbs that are formed with the and vosotros/as personal pronouns. Apart from this the only difference between positive and negative constructions is that the word no is not used before the verb.

 

Regular verb formations

 

personal pronoun trabajar comer escupir
  (to work) (to eat) (to spit)
no trabaja no come no escupe
usted no trabaje no coma no escupa
vosotros/as no trabajad no comed no escupid
ustedes no trabajen no coman no escupan
English translation
(all personal pronouns)
work eat spit

 

Things to note

 

1)      The formation of verbs with is done by removing the ending of the verb and adding a or e. This is the same as the present simple tense.

2)      The formation of verbs with vosotros/as is done by removing the ending of the verb and adding ad, ed or id.

 

The formation of irregular verbs in the imperative tense with positive constructions are not completely the same as those same irregular verbs in the present subjunctive tense. This is because of the changes that occur in the tú and vosotros/as forms. Below is a list of some of the most common irregular verbs and their respective formations.

dar
decir
estar
hacer
ir
poner
saber
salir
ser
tener
venir

 

  usted vosotros/as ustedes
dar da dad den
decir di diga decid digan
estar está esté estad estén
hacer haz haga haced hagan
ir ve vaya id vayan
poner pon ponga poned pongan
saber sabe sepa sabed sepan
salir sal salga salid salgan
ser sea sed sean
tener ten tenga tened tengan
venir ven venga venid vengan

PART 3

 

Part three of the lesson looks at how let’s in English can be translated using the imperative tense. You may have already come across how let’s can be translated into Spanish by uses the verb ir + a.


Vamos a hablar. Let’s talk or let’s go and talk.
Vamos a ver.   Let’s see or let’s go and see.
Vamos a decidir.    Let’s decide or let’s go and decide.

 

Another way let’s can be translated into Spanish is by using the imperative tense as follows:

 

Hablemos. Let’s talk
Veamos Let’s see
Decidamos   Let’s decide

Things to notice

 

1)      The formation of most verbs in the nosotros/as form of the imperative tense are the same as they are in the present subjunctive tense.

 

Negative formations with let’s

 

Sometimes we might want to say let’s not do something. In these situations the imperative tense can also be used as follows.

 

No hablemos.  Let’s not go.
No Veamos.   Let’s not see.
No Decidamos.  Let’s not decide.

 

The only difference here is that no is placed before the verb in its imperative form.

 

PART 4

 

The last part of the lesson looks at how object pronouns are used with verbs in the imperative tense.

 

Object pronouns

 

Object pronouns are either direct or indirect. In Spanish they are words like me, te, le, lo or la for example. For a fuller explanation of object pronouns take a look at the separate lesson on direct and indirect object pronouns.

 

The position of object pronouns with verbs in the imperative tense is different than with other verb tenses. This is because the position of the object pronoun depends on whether the imperative tense construction is positive or negative.

 

Positive constructions

 

In positive imperative tense verb constructions the object pronoun is always placed after the verb formation.

 

Dile. Tell him / her.
Dámelo.    Give it to me.
Háblame    Talk to me.
Cómpratelo. Buy it for yourself.

 

Things to notice

 

1)      The object pronoun always goes after the verb.

2)      Indirect object pronouns always go before direct object pronouns.

3)      Accents or tildes are often used with imperative tense verbs that have object pronouns added to them.

 

Negative constructions

 

In negative imperative tense verb constructions the object pronoun is always placed before the verb formation.

 

No le diga.   Don’t tell him / her.
No me lo dé. Don’t give it to me.
No me hable.   Don’t speak to me.
No te lo compres.  Don’t buy it for yourself.

 

Things to notice

 

1)      The direct object pronoun is always placed before the verb.

2)      Indirect object pronouns always go before direct object pronouns.

 

That concludes this lesson on the imperative tense. If you have not done so already watch the actual video for this lesson and then try one of the associated quizzes to test your understanding.

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The Imperative Tense
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