The Spanish Imperative: How to make Commands in Spanish

How to make Commands in Spanish (The Spanish Imperative)

MAURA
¡Para! Relájate… Mira este video hasta el final y aprende español ahora y para siempre… Repite después de mi: Maura es la mejor profesora de español.

(Stop! Relax… Watch this video until the end and learn Spanish now and forever…
Repeat after me: Maura is the best Spanish teacher.)

Maura soy yo, una de las profesoras de Spring Spanish. (Maura is me, one of the teachers at Spring Spanish.) And if you haven’t guessed it yet, today you’re learning how to use the imperative in Spanish.

Also, useful outside of hypnosis ;). As always, you’re going to learn through chunks, so presta mucha atención (pay close attention) (yes, another imperative), y ¡empecemos!

1. What’s the imperative mood?

So, primero lo primero (first things first). What does this mood do apart from hypnotizing people? Check out the following example and let’s see what you gather from that:

AMANDA
Llámame cuando llegues. Y llévate medias extra que eso siempre falta. Y por favor ponte protector todos los días.
(Call me when you arrive. And take extra socks with you, that’s always needed. And please wear sunscreen every day.)

MAURA
¡Que sí! Déjame terminar de hacer la maleta en paz y después revísala tú y así te quedas tranquil.
(Yes! Let me finish packing the suitcase in peace and then you check it and that way you’ll rest easy.)

AMANDA
Ok. Ten en cuenta que puede que haga más frío del que parece.
(Ok. Keep in mind that it may be colder than it seems.)

MAURA
Amanda…

AMANDA
Vale, vale. “Cállate, Amanda”. Ya entendí.
(Okay, okay. “Shut up, Amanda.” I got it.)

As you can see, we’re both basically telling each other what to do. More specifically, this imperative mood works for: instructions, orders, petitions and advice towards one or more people. It is one of those regularly used moods you can find in everyday conversations and many more scenarios like: classes of any kind, any place you get a service from and almost every piece of advertisement.

Let’s go through examples for each so you can see it even more clearly.

a. Instructions

  • Encoge los hombros, respira profundo y déjalos caer. (Shrug your shoulders, take a deep breath, and let them fall.)
  • Pon el audífono correspondiente en cada oreja y deja presionado hasta que el aparato emita un pitido. (Put the corresponding earphone in each ear and press and hold until the device beeps.)
  • Separa el cabello en tres secciones iguales y cubre la del medio con las laterales, alternando lados mientras trenzas. (Separate the hair into 3 equal sections and cover the middle section with the side sections, alternating sides while braiding.)

b. Orders

  • ¡Déjame en paz! (Leave me alone!)
  • No me llames más nunca, olvídate de mi. (Don’t call me ever again, forget about me.)
  • Aguanta esto. (Hold this.)

For this last one, there are almost as many versions as countries in Latin America. Some people say coge esto (catch this), some agarra esto (grab this), some toma esto (take this). I mostly use aguantar (hold). Also, use the first two order chunks if you ever have a very telenovela type of breakup with a Spanish speaker.

c. Petitions

  • Hazme el favor de pasarme la cartera. (Do me a favor and pass me my purse.)
  • Dame un limón, porfa. (Give me a lemon, please.)
  • Porfis ven y cuéntame qué pasó. (Please come and tell me what happened.)

Essentially, petitions are orders made nicely.

d. Advice

  • Llámala cuanto antes porque estaba súper molesta cuando la vi. (Call her as soon as possible because she was super upset when I saw her.)
  • Pregúntale a tu tía, ella seguro puede recomendarte un buen terapeuta. (Ask your aunt, she can surely recommend a good therapist.)
  • Búscalo en YouTube, debe haber un buen tutorial a juro. (Search for it on YouTube, there should be a good tutorial for sure.)

Chunk Alert!

You have got to learn a juro (for sure, lit.: by force) because you’re learning Spanish with me and Venezuelans use this all the freaking time. Yo no soy para nada la excepción. (I am not at all the exception.) I believe only Colombians use it as well. Here in Spain and even in Mexico they use the equivalent: a huevo (for sure, lit.: by egg), for example. It’s the same concept: something that has to be, must be, definitely is.

If you want to use a juro and feel like a true Venezuelan/Colombian, just put it at the beginning or at the end of anything that has to be, like: Con este video tienes que aprender a usar el imperativo a juro. (With this video you have to learn how to use the imperative for sure.) Also a juro (for sure), go get our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit through that link in the description, if you haven’t done it yet.

2. The imperative mood in the present tense

Before we jump into the conjugation, be sure to stick till the end because we’ll cover some of the most common chunks in the imperative we natives use on a constant basis.

AMANDA
Está bien, pero mete un suéter más grueso por si acaso.
(That’s fine, but pack a thicker sweater just in case.)

MAURA
Está muy bien. ¿Algo más Señorita Amanda Preocupación?
(That’s very good. Anything else Miss Amanda Worry?)

AMANDA
Lo último, asegúrense de revisar qué moteles tienen en la vía por si se cansan de manejar.
(Lastly, be sure to check which motels are on the road in case you get tired of driving.)

AMANDA
Eso está listo y nosotros también. Ahora ya quédese tranquila, por favor.
(That’s ready and so are we. Now stay calm, please.)

From this dialogue we get:

  • Mete un suéter más grueso por si acaso. (Pack a thicker sweater just in case.)
  • Asegúrense de revisar qué moteles tienen en la vía. (Be sure to check which motels are on the road.)
  • Ahora ya quédese tranquila. (Now stay calm.)

The main thing for you to get here is that since we are talking about instructions, orders and the sort, this mood only conjugates itself like you saw in the dialogue, around tú, usted and ustedes. (You, formal you and plural you.)

La única otra cosa que puedes hacer es hacerlo negativo o afirmativo. (The only other thing you can do is make it negative or affirmative.) Let’s put all of this into a little table so you can see it clearly, but remember, it’s not meant for you to memorize. Focus on the many chunks used in this lesson instead. Pick your favorites, try using them and detecting them when you’re listening to Spanish and you’ll be better off.

Here’s that table. Let’s get very dramatic and use olvídate de mí (forget about me) as our sample chunk, shall we?

PronounVerbAffirmative ChunkNegative Chunk
(You)Olvídate¡Olvídate de mí!¡No te olvides de mí!
Usted (Formal you)Olvídese¡Olvídese de mí!¡No se olvide de mí!
Ustedes (Plural you)Olvídense¡Olvídense de mí!¡No se olviden de mí!

This chunk in the negative actually stops being so dramatic and it’s more the type of thing you tell people to ask them to include you in something. Like, if someone is counting the people that are coming to a dinner party, you can say: ¡No se olviden de mí! (Don’t forget about me!) to ask them to include you.

4. Super common chunks in the imperative

AMANDA
¡Maura!

MAURA
¡¿Qué?!
(What?!)

AMANDA
¡Ven!
(Come!)

MAURA
Ya voy. Por fa ponle la comida al gato que ya es la hora.
(I’m coming. Please give the cat food since it’s time.)

AMANDA
Ok, dame un segundo y se la pongo.
(Ok, give me a second and I’ll give it to him.)

So, all of these verbs in the imperative show up in my life almost on a daily basis:

  • Ven. (Come.)
  • Ponle la comida al gato. (Give the cat food.)
  • Dame. (Give me.)

You can use ven y dame (come and give me) on their own or specify even more. Common combinations could be:

  • Ven rápido. (Come quick.)
  • Dame un beso. (Give me a kiss.)
  • Ponle orégano a la salsa. (Put oregano in the sauce.) Or any ingredient to anything you’re cooking.

There’s a couple that are just as useful but made no sense in the dialogue.

  • Llámame. (Call me.)
  • Toma. (Take this.)
  • Avísame. (Let me know.)

Again, these too work well on their one, but you can pair them up with many things, such as:

  • Llámame cuando llegues. (Call me when you get there.)
  • Avísame cuando sepas. (Let me know when you know.)
  • Toma, porfa. (Take this, please.)

Toma (take this) might be the hardest one to pair up. It took me a while to think of something actually common to put next to it. I think the usual will definitely be to use it on its own.

As a little practice, I’ll advise this:

Google the following: anuncios publicitarios en español imperativo (Spanish advertisements  in imperative), check the examples and write down all the imperatives you can find. These will certainly be some of the most common and you can now add them to your imperative repertoire.

Now, the imperative is quite a straightforward mood that will certainly make you feel like a native but, of course, there are other moods, granted more complex ones, that can elevate that feeling even more.

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