The Imperative in Spanish: How to Form and Use It | Newsdle

The Imperative in Spanish: How to Form and Use It


If you love Spanish dramas and songs as much as I do, you've probably noticed that actors frequently use the imperative mood to emphasize their scenes. But how do you form and when do you use the imperative in Spanish? 

The Imperative Mood at a Glance 

You can use the imperative mood, also called the imperative tense, to provide instructions, make requests, give orders and make suggestions in Spanish.  

It can be used both in formal and casual situations but, either way, make sure you know if your verb is regular or irregular!  

Spoiler alert: I hope you’re getting on well with the presente indicativo and subjuntivo presente? Yes, you’ll need both of them to form and use the imperative. 

How?! Why?! When?! No worries, we'll go into great detail in this extensive guide.  

I’ve got you covered!

How to Form the Imperative Mood 

First things first: you can use the imperative with "tú", "nosotros", "vosotros" and the third-person in both singular and plural forms.  

Now that this is clear, let's break down the affirmative imperative according to each pronoun to be used: 

  • Affirmative Imperative: Tú 

Forming affirmative imperatives for "tú" is relatively straightforward but... focus! 

To form regular "tú", we use the third-person singular form of the present indicative 

This rule is valid for all regular -AR, -ER, -IR verbs. 

Tú + present indicative third-person singular = Imperative mood 

Here’s a table to visualise the rule. 


Presente indicativo 



Tú hablas español. 

¡(Tú) Habla español! 

Taken from present indicative: Ella habla español. 


Tú comes una manzana. 

¡(Tú) Come la manzana! 

Taken from present indicative: Ella come una manzana. 


Tú vives en Francia. 

¡(Tú) Vive en Francia! 

Taken from present indicative: Ella vive en Francia 



We will soon explore how to form irregular imperatives but there are some verbs which can be called the “grey zone” verbs.  

These are usually regular BUT if the verb in the present tense of the indicative is a verb with a vowel change, the irregularity is also maintained in the imperative for the rule above explained. 


  • DORMIR (Pres:Ella duerme → Imp: ¡(Tú) Duerme!) or 
  • CERRAR (Pres.: Ella cierra la puerta→ Imp.: ¡(Tú) Cierra la puerta!) 
  • And many others. 
  • Affirmative Formal Imperative: Usted 

Understanding the difference between formal and informal imperatives is crucial in Spanish, but it’s easier done than said.

It simply follows the general rule "tú" / "usted". In fact, the affirmative imperative "tú" is also called informal imperative and it is used with friends, family, or in casual situations. 

However, in case you need to give orders or make requests to someone you are on formal terms you should use "usted" instead of "tú" and the verb form is slightly different.  

To form regular affirmative imperative with Usted, we use the third-person singular form of the present subjunctive (subjuntivo presente).  

This rule is valid for all regular -AR, -ER, -IR verbs. 

Usted + present subjunctive third-person = Imperative mood  

And here’s the table to visualise the rule: 


Subjuntivo presente 



Ella hable español. 

¡(Ud.) Hable español! 


Ella coma una manzana. 

¡(Ud.) Coma una manzana! 


Ella viva en Francia. 

¡(Ud.) Viva en Francia! 


Important: Do you remember the rule for the “grey zone” verbs? Like DORMIR and CERRAR? 
Well, the same rule goes for Usted. 

  • DORMIR (Subj:Ella duerma → Imp: ¡(Ud) Duerma!) or 
  • CERRAR (Subj.: Ella cierre la puerta→ Imp.: ¡(Ud.) Cierre la puerta!)

The TWO frequently asked question on Usted: 

1. What if I need to use the imperative for él/ella? Does it exist? 

Not only it does exist, but it’s the same rule applied for Usted. You’ll only need to remember that Ud. is for formal context only and when you are referring directly to a person. 


Subjuntivo presente 



Ella hable español. 

¡(Ud.) Hable español! 

¡(Él) Hable español! 

¡(Ella) Hable español! 


Ella coma una manzana. 

¡(Ud.) Coma una manzana! 

¡(Él) Coma una manzana! 

¡(Ella) Coma una manzana! 


Ella viva en Francia. 

¡(Ud.) Viva en Francia! 

¡(Él) Viva en Francia! 

¡(Ella) Viva en Francia! 


2. What about Ustedes? Can I use it in an imperative mood? 

Yes, absolutely and you simply need to follow the main rule applied to Usted - so get your imperative from the subjuntivo presente.  

In addition to this… you guessed it! You can use the same rule with ellos and ellas. 


Subjuntivo presente 



Ellos hablen español. 

¡(Uds) Hablen español! 

¡(Ellos) Hablen español! 

¡(Ellas) Hablen español! 


Ellos coman una manzana. 

¡(Uds.) Coman una manzana! 

¡(Ellos) Coman una manzana! 

¡(Ellas) Coman una manzana! 


Ellos vivan en Francia. 

¡(Ud.) Vivan en Francia! 

¡(Ellos) Vivan en Francia! 

¡(Ellas) Vivan en Francia! 


Important: Now you know how to form the imperative for él/ella and ellos/ellas. HOWEVER, the imperative for the third-person subjects is rarely use as it might create confusion. Curious to know how to avoid this mistake? Keep reading, you’ll find a dedicated paragraph to this. 

  • Nosotros and Vosotros Imperatives 

It’s not all about “tú” and "usted"! The imperative mood also extends to group commands.  


When giving commands to a group including yourself (nosotros), simply use the present subjunctive form of the verb.  

Nosotros + present subjunctive third-person = Imperative mood 

And here’s the table to visualise the rule: 


Subjuntivo presente 



Nosotros hablemos español. 

¡(Nosotros) Hablemos español! 


Nosotros comamos una manzana. 

¡(Nosotros) Comamos la manzana! 


Nosotros vivamos en Francia. 

¡(Nosotros) Vivamos en Francia! 



When addressing a group without yourself included (vosotros), the form is similar to the present tense indicative, but without the subject pronoun. For instance, "Comed más frutas" (Eat more fruits). 

Vosotros + infinitive-R + d = Imperative mood 

And here’s the table to visualise the rule: 








¡(Vosotros) Hablad español! 




¡(Vosotros) Comed la manzana! 




¡(Vosotros) Vivid en Francia! 


Affermative Imperative: a Brief Recap 

Before we move on with the negative imperative and other features of this important mood, let’s recap and digest all these pieces of information first. 

Affirmative Form 

Hablar (-ar verbs) 

Comer (-er verbs) 

Vivir (-ir verbs) 






















  • Irregular Imperatives (Affirmative) 

While regular verbs follow clear patterns in the imperative mood, some verbs are irregular and require unique conjugations.  

These verbs have irregular imperative forms that must be memorised.  

Common irregular verbs include "ser" (to be), "ir" (to go), "decir" (to say), and "tener" (to have), among others. 

Example with IR: 

  • Tú ve 
  • Él/Ella/Usted vaya 
  • Nosotros vamos; vayamos 
  • Vosotros id 
  • Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes vayan 


  • Negative Imperatives 

Time to learn how to say 'Don't do this' or 'Don't go there' in Spanish. It's simpler than you think and… good news is this form applies to all verbs, whether regular or irregular! 

Creating negative imperatives in Spanish involves adding the word "no" before the verb, followed by the present subjunctive form.  

No + present subjunctive 

Negative Form 


(-ar verbs) 


(-er verbs) 


 (-ir verbs) 




No hables 

No comas 

No vivas 

No vayas 


No hable 

No coma 

No viva 

No vaya 


No hablemos 

No comamos 

No vivamos 

No vayamos 


No habléis 

No comáis 

No viváis 

No vayáis 


No hablen 

No coman 

No vivan 

No vayan 


Using the Imperative Mood in Different Contexts 

Mastering the imperative mood in Spanish opens the door to effective communication in a wide range of situations.  

Now that we've got the basics down, let's see how we can apply them in everyday situations.  

  • Giving Orders 

The imperative conveys authority and clarity. 

From "Listen up!" to "Take out the trash!, the imperative mood is the go-to form for giving direct commands or orders in Spanish. It’s widely used by people in a position of leadership or authority and it’s indispensable in professional settings, and it’s vital to understand when mum is fed up... you’d better listen to mum or the next step will be a chancla at your face! 

  • Making Suggestions 

Beyond commands, the imperative mood is also employed to make suggestions or give advice and it’s usually toned down, blending authority with a more considerate tone. For instance, suggesting "try it" ("prueba") or encouraging someone to "read this" ("lee esto") are instances where the imperative conveys a friendly, yet persuasive intent. 

  • Asking for Things 

Need to politely request something? The imperative can be used to ask for something in a direct yet respectful manner. For instance, when ordering food in a restaurant, using the imperative helps convey your request clearly and efficiently. Saying "bring me the menu" ("tráigame la carta") demonstrates confidence and courtesy. 

  • Expressing Politeness and Formality 

It might sound strange but the imperative mood can be used to express both politeness and formality, depending on the context and the relationship between the speaker and the listener. 

Because sometimes, a little courtesy goes a long way. 

To express politeness 

You can use softening expressions such as "por favor" (please) or "si te parece bien" (if you don't mind).  

You can also use the indirect imperative, which is formed by using the subjunctive mood of the verb and the preposition "que" (that).  

For example: 

"Dame el libro" (Give me the book), ⏬ 

"Me gustaría que me dieras el libro" (I would like you to give me the book). 

To express formality 

You should use the formal imperative mood. The formal imperative mood is formed by using the third-person singular conjugation of the verb.  

For example: 

"Ven aquí" (Come here),  

"Venga aquí" (Come here). 

  • Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish 

It's worth noting that while the imperative mood functions similarly across different Spanish-speaking regions, there can be subtle variations in usage between Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish. These distinctions often involve specific verb forms or regional expressions.  

Vosotros vs Ustedes in the imperative mood 

The vosotros pronoun is used to address a group of people informally in Spain. However, in most Latin American countries, the ustedes pronoun is used to address a group of people, regardless of formality. This means that the imperative mood of verbs conjugated with vosotros is rarely used in Latin America. 

Idiomatic expressions in the imperative mood 

In Castilian Spanish, the expression "Venga" is used to tell someone to hurry up. However, in many Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Argentina, the expression "Apúrate" is used to tell someone to hurry up. 

Common mistakes 

Even the best of us make a few missteps along the way and being aware of these common mistakes can help you navigate potential pitfalls in your language journey. 

Here are some pitfalls to avoid: 

  • Using the Imperative Mood with the Wrong Subject or Object Pronoun 

One common error arises from using the wrong object pronoun with the imperative mood.  

For example: 

"Cómete las verduras" (Eat your vegetables) 

"Cómetelos" (Eat them). 

"Cómetelas" (Eat them). 

Another example comes from using the wrong subject pronoun with the imperative: 

For example, if you want to say “Let’s speak”: 

"habla" with the pronoun "nosotros" is incorrect.  

("nosotros") "hablemos" . 

  • Using the Imperative Mood to Give Commands to Third-Person Subjects 

The imperative mood is primarily used with second-person subjects like "tú", "vosotros"(and "ustedes" for Latin American Spanish) to give commands.  

Using it with third-person subjects can lead to confusion. Instead, opt for alternative constructions using the subjunctive mood, such as "que él/ella hable" (let him/her speak). 

  • Using the Wrong Verb Form for the Imperative Mood 

Sometimes, learners inadvertently use the wrong verb form when attempting to give a command. Remember that the imperative mood is specific to each verb and may have irregular conjugations.  

So make sure to know exactly your present indicative and subjunctive present well and all related irregularities to ensure effective communication. 


There you have it!  

Mastering the imperative mood in Spanish is a game-changer for any communicator, beginner or pro. Now that you know the basics of forming affirmative and negative imperatives, navigating formal and informal usage, and avoiding common mistakes, you're well on your way to fluently expressing yourself in Spanish. 

But don't stop there! Keep your ears wide open any time you hear a native person speaking, whether it’s a friend, a teacher or an actor on TV in order to grasp all nuances of the imperative. 


Fabia Parodi

Fabia Parodi  

Fascinated by foreign languages and cultures, Fabia Parodi was determined to be a polyglot since she was a child. Fluent in Italian, English, French and Spanish and competent in Mandarin Chinese, Fabia is an experienced language teacher, translator and multicultural marketing specialist. 

When in class, she always make sure to include graded and authentic materials in her lessons to expose students to foreign cultures and to introduce a more natural use of the language they are learning. The two things she loves more than languages are travelling and exchanging stories with people from all over the world. 

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