B1 Level. El imperativo/ The imperative

Updated: Mar 12, 2020

Commands are used when ordering, or telling someone to do something. This is often referred to as the “imperative” form of the verb. Below you will find a clear and complete explanation about the conjugation rules of the verbs in imperative and the uses of this mode in Spanish. You can test what you have learned in the exercise section.

How is the imperative formed?

The first thing to think about is who we are addressing and the situation in which we are addressing. The situation or context in which we move can vary, that is, it can be an informal situation, or a formal situation. Informal, or familiar, speech is used among friends, coworkers, relatives, or when addressing a child. Formal speech is generally used to be polite or to express respect. For that reason, the formal commands are often referred to as polite commands. By the time we use the imperative, the forms we basically use most often are four: tú/ vosotros(informal), usted, ustedes y nosotros (formal).


Tú- Informal

The form of the imperative we use the most is "tú," so it must be the first one we pay attention to. To form the imperative for "tú" there is a little trick. The trick is to think of the present indicative in the 3rd person singular (él/ella/usted).

For this we apply my TPD theory (Tengo (we have)-Pienso (we think)-Digo (we say)).

For example


The verb «estirar».  

We have:      tú  +  estirar

We think:    «él / ella / usted»  in present indicative (él/ella/usted estire)

We say:       (tú)   estira

Ex. Estira la pierna, hacia arriba/ Stretch your leg up.

Vosotros - Informal

The form of the "usted" imperative is even easier. Simply delete the root from the verb in infinitive and then add ad, ed or id.


Estirad la pierna hacia adelante./ Stretch your leg forward.

Comed toda la comida./ Eat all the food.

Escribid un libro./ Write a book

FORMAL SITUATIONS Usted & Ustedes- Formal

The formal commands are formed the same way as the present subjunctive:

Start with the yo form of the present indicative.Then drop the -o ending. Finally, add the following endings:

-ar verbs: -e (for Ud.), -en (for Uds.)

-er and -ir verbs: -a (for Ud.), -an (for Uds.)

An imperative verb can always be accompanied by words of courtesy, such as "por favor." However, we must not forget that in Spanish the tone in which something is said communicates almost as much as the content of the same statement.

Example: Llevanos hacia la estación, por favor!

Also note that the subject pronouns Ud. and Uds. may or may not be used. Using them adds a degree of formality or politeness to the command.



Hable Ud.

Speak (sir). (more respectful)



Coma Ud.

Eat (sir). (more polite)

Uses of the imperative

The imperative serves to:

- make suggestions or proposals;

- give orders;

- give advice;

- make requests.

The imperative negative, to tell someone not to do something, we put “no” in front of the relevant form the present subjunctive).

More fun example in this video.

Let's see the imperative work in context by watching this video “Mi receta de gazpacho”. In this video we will learn how to prepare a gazpacho. Watch the video and then practice with the exercises below. Complete the blank space with the food vocabulary (Word bank) provided. Pay attention to the meaning of each sentence. Notice that you can use the words more than once.

Finally, remember you can contact your tutor for any question you have about the Spanish commands. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet, book 30 minutes free trail class today.

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