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Teach Students How to Form Commands in French

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 7/12/2012

Students studying French need to know how to form commands. The lesson includes the formation of the imperative and learning the positive, negative and irregular imperative forms. Teachers will find activities for students on using French commands and ways to evaluate their knowledge.

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    Grade Level, Objectives, Description

    • Grades: One through twelve
    • Objectives: Students will be able to understand how both positive and negative imperatives are formed. Students will also learn the four verbs with irregular imperative forms, and at the same time be introduced subtly to subjunctive mood.
    • Description: In your French lesson on commands, ask your students to read instructions for a recipe, or think of someone giving directions on the street. Tell them this is what is called the imperative or command form of the verb.
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    1. Recipe:

    préparez — prepare

    salez et poivrez — season with salt and pepper

    hachez — chop

    ajoutez — add

    2. Directions:

    allez — go

    continuez — continue

    suivez — follow

    montez — go up

    descendez — go down

    passez — pass

    tournez — turn

    traversez — cross

    prenez — take

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    Formation of Imperative

    The imperative or command form in French is formed from the second person singular tu, the plural vous, and the first person plural nous of the present indicative tense. The final s of the second person singular of -er verbs is deleted, as well as the subject pronoun tu.

    parle — speak

    parlons — let’s speak

    parlez — speak

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    1. Point out to students that in the negative form, the negation goes around the verb: ne in front and pas after — the same as in non-imperative sentences:

    Ne prends pas ce livre.

    Do not take this book.

    Ne mangez pas si vite.

    Do not eat so quickly.

    2. Pronominal verbs (verbs preceded by me, te, se, nous, vous and se use the stressed pronouns toi, nous and vous after the verb connected by a hyphen:

    Dépêchez-vous — Hurry!

    3. Object pronouns: direct and indirect object pronouns and the pronouns y and en also follow the verb in affirmative imperatives, and are attached to the verb by a hyphen:

    Gardez-les — Keep them

    4. If the affirmative imperative is followed by an infinitive, the pronouns which follow the imperative are not linked to it by a hyphen:

    Venez me voir ce soir — Come see me this evening

    5. If the affirmative imperative is not followed by an infinitive, use moi and toi instead of me and te, and attach them to the imperative by a hyphen:

    Assieds-toi — Sit down

    Suivez-moi — Follow me

    6. When the affirmative imperative is followed by more than one pronoun, follow this order: verb + direct object + y/en

    Donnez-le-lui — Give it to him

    7. An infinitive may also be used to express a general instruction:

    Servir frais — serve cold


    in a public notice: Ne stationner pas ici — No parking here

    8. Point out that some imperatives are irregular. Students will learn that the verbs être, avoir and savoir are irregular:

    être (to be)

    sois — be

    soyons — let’s be

    soyez — be

    avoir (to have)

    aie — have

    ayons — let’s have

    ayez — have

    savoir (to know)

    sache — know

    sachons — let’s know

    sachez — know

    9. When students learn the imperative forms of the verbs être and avoir, they are already introduced to the first person singular and plural, and the second person plural forms of the subjunctive which is used in subordinate clauses:

    je sois

    nous soyons


    nous ayons

    Students are also introduced to the first person singular of savoir in the subjunctive

    je sache

    10. The fourth irregular verb vouloir (to want) only uses the imperative form for vous:

    Veuillez accepter mes sentiments — Please accept my regards.

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    Assessment / Evaluation

    To ensure the objectives were identified, present students with oral practice of the French lesson on commands:

    Apprenez votre leçon!

    Ne parlez pas si fort!

    Also give students written sentences to put in the imperative form:

    Nous allons au muséeAllons au musée

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    Students can also be assessed orally by role playing and asking and giving each other directions in the street. They can also compose recipes with vocabulary you provide at the start of the activity. Monitor both activities giving corrections where necessary.