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Spanish Formal Imperative

The imperative mood in Spanish is used quite often, although it is often the last form to be learned. Fortunately, though, it is fairly simple, especially if you've already learned present subjunctive.

In this article we'll talk about how to conjugate the formal form of imperative commands and when to use them.

Conjugating formal commands

I said it was easy, and I wasn't kidding. One thing that makes the imperative mood simpler is that you can only give a command directly to other people, so that limits it to the , Usted, vosotros, and Ustedes pronouns. In this article we'll just cover the formal pronouns: Usted and Ustedes.

First, how do you conjugate these forms? Here are the steps:

  • Take the yo form of the present tense.
  • Drop the -o ending.
  • Add one of the following: -e / -en for -ar verbs, or -a / -an for -er and -ir verbs.

That's it!


Escuche Ud. las instrucciones. → Listen to the instructions.

¡Venga Usted! → Come!

Hablen Ustedes con el professor. → Speak with the professor.

To make it a negative command, just add no before:

No abra Ud. el libro todavía. → Don't open the book yet.

Don't forget to keep an eye out for verbs with stem changes, like -gar, -ger, -gir, -cer, and -cir verbs. If you've been playing Maestro Spanish regularly, these should be no problem for you.

If these look familiar, it's because it's the same as present subjunctive. I told you it would be easy!

What about pronouns? Those get connected to the end with non-negative commands:

Dele Ud. los zapatos → Give him the shoes.

With more than one syllable, you'll need an accent symbol:

Póngale el chaquete. → Put on your jacket.

Without this accent, the emphasis is placed on the -ga- syllable, which is wrong, since the verb part is ponga, with the accent on the po.

When to use the formal commands?

An age old struggle with beginner learners is when to use formal pronouns, so naturally the same issue comes up with commands. No less because commands feel so forceful.

Increasingly, Spanish-speaking countries are using informal pronouns in more situations (and in many Latin American countries reserving vos for truly informal). Nevertheless, you will want to learn Ud/Uds and use them when appropriate.

When is that? Here is a brief rundown:

  • With people whom are owed respect, such as older people or those with some rank. Police officers are a good idea.
  • New people you meet. This is probably where the usage is sliding the most, especially for younger people.
  • People you come acrosss in business or a professional setting.
  • When unsure, use formal.

Think of it like dressing up: it's better to be overdressed than underdressed.

What about nosotros?

But wait, I hear you saying. What about nosotros commands, people use those, don't they?

There actually is no nosotros command form. What you are really hearing is the present subjuntive form, which when used in a command-like situation takes the meaning of let's in English.

Hablemos con ella → Let's speak with her.

¡Nos levantemos! → Let's get up!

This last ones really demonstrates this, as with imperative the pronoun gets attached at the end.

What about yo? As with nosotros, you can't give yourself a command really. You can, however, admonish or encourage yourself. In that case you can use the imperative form with yourself, which is conventient, because that's what we'll be looking at next time!