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Learning How to Form Spanish Commands

written by: lwitkop • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 10/10/2012

Understanding Spanish commands can help you communicate your wishes or just help you better understand your teacher's directions. When speaking of tenses and moods, commands are referred to as the imperative mood. As with other verb forms, there are several rules to follow.

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    Forming Spanish Commands

    First, it is important to remember that Spanish has two forms of the second person pronoun, or "you". is the familiar second person pronoun, while usted (Ud.) is the formal second person pronoun. In addition, there are separate pronouns for the second person plural familiar (the less commonly used vosotros) and the second person plural familiar (ustedes/Uds.). In some cases, there is also a difference between the negative and affirmative form of a command.

    All commands begin with the stem of the verb. The stem is what remains when you remove the –ar, -ir or –er of the infinitive, so the stem of hablar (to talk/speak) would be habl. However, in the case of irregular and stem-changing verbs, it may be easier to think of it as taking the first person singular or yo form of the verb and dropping the –o ending. Once you have the stem, add the appropriate ending to form the command.

    Command endings for -ar verbs

    Affirmative familiar singular

    -a

    Habla con ella. / Talk to her.

    Negative familiar singular

    -es

    No cierres la puerta. / Don't close the door.

    Affirmative and negative formal singular

    -e

    No fume en el colegio. / Don't smoke in the school.

    Affirmative familiar plural

    -ad

    Tomad un lápiz. / Take a pencil.

    Negative familiar plural

    -éis

    No lo neguéis. / Don't deny it.

    Affirmative and negative formal plural

    -en

    Tomen los libros de la mesa. / Take the books off the table.

    Command endings for -er and –ir verbs

    Affirmative familiar singular

    -e

    Escribe una carta a tu abuela. / Write a letter to your grandma.

    Negative familiar singular

    -as

    No comas la torta. / Don't eat the cake.

    Affirmative and negative formal singular

    -a

    Tenga cuidado. / Be careful.

    Affirmative familiar plural

    -ed for –er verbs and –id for –ir verbs

    Seguid las instrucciones. / Follow the instructions.

    Negative familiar plural

    -áis

    No pidáis más tiempo. / Don't ask for more time.

    Affirmative and negative formal plural

    -an

    No vengan hasta las dos. / Don't come until two o'clock.

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    Irregular Commands

    When using second person familiar affirmative commands, the following verbs have irregular forms:

    decir – di

    hacer – haz

    ir – ve

    poner – pon

    salir – sal

    ser – sé

    tener – ten

    venir – ven

    All other forms of these verbs follow the usual rules for forming Spanish commands.

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    Continued practice with forming and understanding commands in Spanish will help you develop your overall language fluency.

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