Imperative mood in Spanish

The imperative mood is one of the more peculiar forms in Spanish. As a distinctive conjugation it exists only in the familiar and polite forms of the second person: tú/vosotros, usted/ustedes. It has different conjugations between affirmative and negative forms.

Imperative is not only for commands! Lets see:

  1. Giving commands:
    ¡Come pronto que llegas tarde!
  2. Giving permission:
    – ¿Puedo pasar?
    Sí, claro. Pase, pase.
  3. Offering something:
    Toma, aquí tienes unas galletas, son muy buenas.
  4. Giving advice:
    Toma leche de avena por las mañanas.
  5. Suggesting something:
    Hablemos de todo menos de política.

    J. L. Borges, Ilustración de Fernando Vicente
    Borges by Fernando Vicente

    El verbo leer, como el verbo amar y el verbo soñar, no soporta el modo imperativo. (J. L. Borges)




    Imperative in Spanish has only four forms:


    Affirmative imperative:


    For the familiar form of the second person “tú”, imperative is formed simply by dropping the final letter -s of the Present Indicative form:

    estudias ➡estudia        comes ➡come         cierras ➡cierra


    Attention! Some of the irregular verbs don’t follow this rule:

    poner ➡ pon         salir ➡ sal         hacer ➡ haz        tener ➡ ten         venir ➡ ven         decir ➡ di


    For the familiar form of the second person in plural, “vosotros/as”, imperative is formed simply by changing the final letter -r of the infinitive to a -d:

    estudiar ➡estudiad        comer ➡comed         cerrar ➡cerrad

    For the polite forms “usted” and “ustedes”, imperative is formed simply by changing the final letter a or e of the present indicative forms, to an e or a, and viceversa.

    estudia ➡ estudie           estudian ➡ estudien

    come ➡ coma           comen ➡ coman

    cierra ➡ cierre           cierran ➡ cierren


    Verbs SER and IR have special forms in imperative mood:


    Negative imperative



    For -ar verbs (1st conjugation), negative imperative is formed by changing the final letter a of the Present Indicative forms by an e.

    Hablar (infinitive)… Tú hablas (present indicative) = No hables (imperative)

    Dejar (infinitive)… Tú dejas (present indicative) = No dejes (imperative)

    Olvidar(infinitive)… Tú olvidas (present indicative)  No olvides (imperative)


    • For the -er/-ir verbs (2nd and 3rd conjugation), negative imperative is formed by changing the final letter e of the Present Indicative forms by an a.

    Comer (infinitive)… Tú comes (present indicative) = No comas (imperative)

    Perder (infinitive)… Tú pierdes (present indicative) = No pierdas (Imperative)

    Seguir (infinitive)… Tu sigues (present indicative) = No sigas (Imperative)


    For the moment we see a general vision of the Imperative mode. Inside we have exceptions in some forms, irregular forms as well that we will go deeper in the future. For the negative imperative we only study the second person “tú”. We will see “vosotros”, “usted” and “ustedes” in future posts. That was only an introduction to the Imperative in Spanish! 🙂


    The illustration above is Borges drawing by the artist Fernando Vicente. Borges’ quote says we can not force anyone to do things like read, love or dream. Those are verbs that don’t accept imperative forms because they cannot be commands!
    To see more illustrations by Fernando Vicente you can check his website.

    Read this article in Spanish: IMPERATIVO EN ESPAÑOL


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