The Imperative: Affirmative Commands in Spanish

Use the imperative to tell someone what to do in a direct and straightforward way.

The use of the imperative in Spanish is very straightforward. It is a direct way of telling someone what to do, whether it is instructions, advice, or recommendation. In fact, the imperative is all about commands, and you will not be relying on: 1) words such as “should” or “have to,”; 2. the conditional (“Would you get me that?”); 3. the subjunctive (“If I were you…”). 

When a tourist asks you for directions, use the imperative. When you tell a friend how to make that amazing family dish, use the imperative. Although you can use the imperative with children, generally it is best to rely on the conditional when telling adults what to do, especially those with whom you don’t have a close relationship. 

You might be wondering what exactly do I mean by a direct command. “Do that” would be a direct command, as opposed to saying, “Tell him to do that,” which would be indirect and require the subjunctive. 

The imperative is an entirely different mood. Remember that these are four moods in Spanish: indicative, subjunctive, imperative, and conditional. Instructors will generally teach the imperative before the subjunctive for two reasons. The first reason why is because, as mentioned above, the imperative is very simple, especially when compared to the subjunctive. The second reason is because once you know how to conjugate verbs in the imperative mood, you can use this for the subjunctive. In fact, imperatives for usted (singular formal second person), nosotros (plural first person), and ustedes (plural second person) all derive from their respective subjunctive forms in the present tense. This is true for both the affirmative as well as negative commands. This will make your transition into the subjunctive much smoother. 

Although some instructors and linguists choose not to include nosotros as part of the imperative, I believe it is fair to include it. After all, you are giving a direct command to someone, even if you are part of that group. However, please note that the imperative is not the only form of nosotros commands. Ir + a is another option, as in Vamos a bailar = Let’s go dancing.

Conjugating the imperative AR verbs

such as esperar, which means to wait

Subject pronoun

Imperative

Tú 

espera

Usted 

espere

Nosotros 

esperemos

Vosotros 

esperad

Ustedes 

esperen



ER verbs

such as comprender, which means to understand

Subject pronoun

Imperative

Tú 

comprende

Usted 

comprenda

Nosotros 

comprendamos

Vosotros 

comprended

Ustedes 

comprendan

IR verbs

such as decidir, which means to decide. The conjugation is the same as with er verbs.

Subject pronoun

Imperative

Tú 

decide

Usted 

decida

Nosotros 

decidamos

Vosotros 

decidid

Ustedes 

decidan

Tricks to remember the conjugation Tú

You have two ways of remember the imperative conjugation for : 1. Use the same conjugation as present indicative for él/ella (singular third person); or 2. Use the form from present indicative, and simply drop the s.

Verb

Translation

Present indicative él/ella

Present indicative tú 

Imperative

viajar 

to travel

viaja

viajas

viaja

aprender

to learn

aprende

aprendes

aprende

escribir

to write

escribe

escribes

escribe

Usted

Usted is trickier. First, remember that none of the conjugations end in i. Next, remember that the ending of the verb will correlate with the opposite vowel. If it is an ar verb, drop the ar, and add an e. If it is an er/ir verb, drop the er/ir, and add an a.

Verb

Translation

Present Tense

Imperative

viajar 

to travel

viaja

viaje

aprender

to learn

aprende

aprenda

escribir

to write

escribe

escriba

Nosotros

For nosotros, the same rule as with usted applies. Simply go with the opposite vowel. If it is an ar verb, drop the ar, and add emos. If it is an er/ir verb, drop the er/ir, and add amos.

Verb

Translation

Present Tense

Imperative

viajar 

to travel

viajamos

viajemos

aprender

to learn

aprendemos

aprendamos

escribir

to write

escribimos

escribamos

Vosotros

Drop the r off the infinite form of the verb and add a d. Note vosotros imperative in the affirmative is a completely unique form. 

Verb

Translation

Present Tense

Imperative

viajar 

to travel

viajáis

viajad

aprender

to learn

aprendéis

aprended

escribir

to write

escribís

escribid

Ustedes

You have two options with ustedes. Option 1: Drop the ar/er/ir ending in the infinitive form and add the opposite vowel to the ending + n. For example, the verb beber (to drink) would become beba + n = beban. The verb asistir (to assist, to attend) would become asista + n = asistan. Option 2, also the simplest option: If you know the imperative for usted, add an n.

Verb

Translation

Present Tense

Imperative usted

Imperative ustedes

viajar 

to travel

viajan

viaje

viajen

aprender

to learn

aprenden

aprenda

aprendan

escribir

to write

escriben

escriba

escriban

Stem-changing verbs

These are verbs in the yo, tú, él/ella/usted, nosotros, ustedes forms whose ending will be regular, but the stem itself will change in the following way in the present indicative: 

E ➡➡I

E ➡➡EI   

O ➡➡UE

Stem-changing verbs will remain as such in the imperative. Nosotros retains its regular stem, with the exception of ir verbs, which become either e i or e o. For the verb dormir, the change is o

Verb

Translation

Imperative 

dormir

to sleep

durmamos

medir

to measure

midamos

mentir

to lie

mintamos

pedir 

to ask for, request

pidamos

repetir

to repeat

repitamos

servir 

to serve

sirvamos

vestir

to dress 

vistamos

 

Let’s look at some examples with other stem-changing verbs using the tú, usted, vosotros, and ustedes forms. 

E ➡➡I, such as the verb pedir.

Subject pronoun

Present Indicative

Imperative 

Tú 

pides

pide

Usted 

pide

pida

Ustedes 

piden

pidan

 

E ➡➡EI, such as the verb pensar (to think)

Subject pronoun

Present Indicative

Imperative 

Tú 

piensas

piensa

Usted 

piensa

piense

Nosotros

pensamos 

pensemos

Vosotros 

pensáis

pensad

Ustedes 

piensan

piensen

 

O ➡➡UE, such as recordar (to remember)

Subject pronoun

Present Indicative

Imperative 

Tú 

recuerdas

recuerda

Usted 

recuerda

recuerde

Nosotros 

recordamos

recordemos

Vosotros 

recordáis

recordad

Ustedes 

recuerdan

recuerden

 

Other irregular verbs.

Note that vosotros is not listed because all verbs remain regular for affirmative commands.  

Verb

Translation

Tú 

Usted 

Nosotros 

Ustedes 

Decir 

to say

di 

diga

digamos

digan

Hacer 

to do

haz 

haga

hagamos

hagan

Ir 

to go

ve

vaya

vayamos

vayan

Poner

to put

pon

ponga

pongamos

pongan

Tener

to have

ten 

tenga

tengamos

tengan

Saber 

to know

sabe

sepa

sepamos

sepan

Salir 

to exit, go out

sal 

salga

salgamos

salgan

Ser 

to be

sea

seamos

sean

Venir

to come

ven

venga

vengamos

vengan

The placement of pronouns

All pronouns are attached to the end of the verb in the imperative. 

Reflexive pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are me (yo); te (tú); se (él/ella/usted); nos (nosotros); os (vosotros); se (ellos/ellas/ustedes).

For reflexive pronounsand only for reflexive pronounsnosotros and vosotros follow these rules. For nosotros: Treat the verb as a non-reflexive, drop the s, and add the pronoun. For example: afeitarse afeitemos afeitémonos

For vosotros: Treat the verb as a non-reflexive, drop the d, and add the pronoun. For example: afeitarse afeitad afeitáos. You can also choose to simple take the final r on the infinite form and add the pronoun os. 

Verb

Translation

Tú 

Usted 

Nosotros 

Vosotros

Ustedes 

bañarse

to bathe

báñate

báñese

bañémonos

bañáos 

báñense

cepillarse

to brush

cepíllate 

cepíllese

cepillémonos

cepilláos

cepíllense

quitarse

to take off

quítate

quítese

quitémonos

quitáos

quítense

Direct object pronouns

The direct object pronouns are me (yo); te (tú); lo/la (él/ella/usted); nos (nosotros); os (vosotros); los/las (ellos/ellas/ustedes).

The examples below use the singular third person direct object pronoun lo. In this case, lo means “it.” 

Verb

Translation

Tú 

Usted 

Nosotros 

Vosotros

Ustedes 

prometer

to promise

promételo

prométalo 

prometámoslo

prometedlo 

prométanlo

dar

to give

dalo

delo

demoslo

dadlo

denlo

explicar

to explain 

explícalo

explíquelo

expliquémoslo

explicadlo

expliquénlo

Indirect object pronouns

The direct object pronouns are me (yo); te (tú); le (él/ella/usted); nos (nosotros); os (vosotros); les (ellos/ellas/ustedes).

The examples below use the singular third person indirect object pronoun le. 

Verb

Translation

Tú 

Usted 

Nosotros 

Vosotros

Ustedes 

prometer

to promise

prométele

prométale

prometámosle

prometedle

prométanle

dar

to give

dale

dele

démosle

dadle

denle

explicar

to explain 

explícale

explíquele

expliquémosle

explicadle

explíquenle

Indirect object pronouns + direct object pronouns

When the direct and indirect object pronouns are used in the same sentence, they are always next to one another. In the affirmative commands, they are attached. The indirect object pronoun always comes first. When these two pronouns are together, and when the indirect object pronoun is singular or plural third person, instead of le or les, se will be used.

The examples below use the singular third person indirect object pronoun le. 

Note that because the nosotros form ends with an s and se also starts with an s, only one s is used. Spanish does not use ss. 

Verb

Translation

Tú 

Usted 

Nosotros 

Vosotros

Ustedes 

prometer

to promise

prométeselo

prométaselo

prometámoselo

prométedselo

prométanselo

dar

to give

dáselo

déselo

démoselo

dadselo

dénselo

explicar

to explain 

explícale

explíquele

expliquémoselo

explicadselo

explíquenselo

Share this article with your network :

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Join our mailing list!

Learn a new language with Diáfano

Tell us a little bit about what you're looking for with this quick form. We will be in touch soon.

* indicates required
Irma Cedeno

Linguist

5/5

(48 Reviews)

About Instructor

Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.

Curriculum

For those with no prior experience with Spanish. 9-week course.

For those who can hold a minimal conversation in Spanish, ask for directions, etc.

For those who are conversational and can express emotions in Spanish

For those who are conversational and can express emotions in Spanish. The course is designed to get you to full fluency.

Upcoming Courses

Beginner
May 1st - May 30th
Advanced Beginner
May 1st - May 30th
Intermediate
May 1st - May 30th
Advanced
May 1st - May 30th