The French Imperative Mood and How to Use It

Tired of thinking about how to ask questions, and more interested in getting results in the language?

Then you’re ready to take command!

Take command of the imperative mood, that is.

The imperative mood is used for giving orders or making requests and suggestions. In French, it only comes in the tu, vous or nous form, but without a subject (who’s doing the action). 

Time to show French who’s boss by learning all about the imperative! 


When to Use the French Imperative

Not sure when to employ French commands? In a nutshell, commands are used to request, recommend or just be bossy.

Use the French imperative to:

French commands are meant to grab your attention, and you need to remember just three conjugated forms (tu, nous and vous). They’re often the same conjugations found in the present indicative—which is likely the first French verb tense you ever learned, and one you use frequently.

Imperative Conjugations

The imperative mood is only conjugated for three grammatical persons: 

  • tu (second person singular for the informal “you”)
  • vous (second person formal for “you” or the second person plural “you all”) 
  • nous (first person plural “we”)

-er verbs

For regular -er verbs, the tu form of the imperative is the same as the indicative minus the final s. The imperative conjugations for nous and vous are the exact same as the present indicative.

Piece of cake, right? Let’s take a look at some examples:

donner (to give)

Donne cette lettre à Christian, s’il te plaît.
Give this letter to Christian, please.

Donnons les livres que nous ne lisons plus à la bibliothèque.
Let’s give the books we don’t read anymore to the library.

Donnez votre nom complet.
Give your full name.

manger (to eat)

Mange ta soupe.
Eat your soup.

Mangeons avant de sortir.
Let’s eat before going out.

Mangez ce que vous voulez.
Eat what you want.

Note: When the tu command of an -er is followed by the pronoun y or en, the final s is not dropped from the verb conjugation. Manges-en  (eat some) is a case in point.

-re verbs

The imperative conjugations for regular -re verbs are the same as for the present infinitive conjugations. Here are some examples:

descendre (to descend)

Descends tout de suite !
Come down right away!

Descendons cette montagne lentement.
Let’s descend this mountain slowly.

Descendez la côte.
Go down the hill.

vendre (to sell)

Vends ton vélo ; il est trop petit pour toi.
Sell your bike; it’s too small for you.

Vendons notre maison ; elle est trop grande pour nous deux.
Let’s sell our house; it’s too big for the two of us.

Vendez vos tableaux plus chers ; ils sont magnifiques !
Sell your paintings for more money; they’re great!

prendre (to take)

Note: Although prendre is an irregular -re verb, in the case of the imperative mood, it follows a “regular” pattern.

-ir verbs

Conjugating regular -ir verbs in the imperative mood is also the same as the present indicative conjugations of the tu, nous and vous forms.

finir (to finish)

choisir (to choose)

partir (to leave)

Note: Although partir is an irregular verb, it behaves “regularly” in the imperative mood.

Got it? Good. Now let’s move on to some exceptions! 

Irregular Verbs

Here is the present indicative and how it works.

aller (to go)

Note: When the tu command of aller is followed by the pronoun y, the final s is not dropped from the verb conjugation. This is why you’d say Vas-y (Go ahead!).

avoir (to have)

être (to be)

savoir (to know)

vouloir (to want to)

Vouloir is a bit of a doozy. Only the vous form of the imperative is used in everyday speech and it is used to construct several formules de politesse  (polite forms of address) in French.

In the context of formal email exchange, for example, it is not uncommon to see:

Veuillez trouver ci-joint…
Please find attached…

When you enter establishments like banks or doctor’s offices, a secretary may tell you:

Veuillez patienter dans la salle d’attente.
Please wait in the waiting room.

Imperative Word Order

Let’s look at the imperative word order when dealing with the negative form and pronouns.

Negative Form

Forming the negative imperative, in which you tell someone not to do something, is rather easy: just put the negative structure around the pronouns and the verb:

Ne pars pas tout de suite ! 
Don’t leave right away!

Ne sois pas en retard ! 
Don’t be late!

Ne mangeons pas trop !
Let’s not eat too much! 

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

Here’s a quick refresher on direct and indirect object pronouns.

A direct object is a person or a thing that receives the action of the verb. Direct object pronouns replace direct object nouns. They must reflect the gender and quantity of the noun they replace.

An indirect object refers to the noun to/for whom the action of the verb is occurring. An indirect object is usually preceded by pour (for) or à  (to, at). The indirect object responds to the question “To whom?” or “For whom?” Indirect object pronouns replace the indirect object.

In the affirmative imperative, the pronouns follow the verb and are connected with hyphens. Let’s take a look:

Mangez le sandwich ! (Eat the sandwich!) becomes Mangez-le ! (Eat it!)

Lisez la deuxième page ! (Read the second page!) becomes Lisez-la ! (Read it!)

Lisons le livre ensemble ! (Let’s read the book together!) becomes Lisons-le ! (Let’s read it!)

The pronouns me and te  change to moi  and toi  in the imperative form:

Laisse-moi tranquille.
Leave me alone.

Regarde-toi dans le miroir.
Look at yourself in the mirror.

Now let’s move on to a trickier case—when a sentence has both a direct object and an indirect object. The order of pronouns differs for the affirmative imperative and the negative imperative.

For the affirmative imperative, the order of direct object and indirect object pronouns is as follows:

le, la, les/moi, toi, lui/nous, vous, leur/y/en

Offrons le cadeau à Marie et Jean ! 
Let’s give the gift to Marie and Jean!

In this sentence, the gift is the direct object and Marie and Jean are the indirect objects. With pronouns, the sentence becomes:

Offrons-le-leur !
Let’s give it to them!

For the negative imperative, the negative structures ne… pas (not) and ne… jamais  (never) surround the pronouns and the verb. There are no hyphens, and the order of the direct and indirect object pronouns is a bit different:

mete, nous, vous/le, la, les/lui, leur/y/en

N’offrons pas le cadeau à Marie et Jean.
Let’s not give the present to Marie and Jean.

Ne le leur offrons pas !
Let’s not give it to them!

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

P.S. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

FluentU Ad

How to Practice the French Imperative

Try out these online resources for getting the hang of the French imperative:

  • Quia has at least 7,500 quizzes about French that are made by teachers all over the world. In one exercise, you’ll translate reflexive tu commands into French. Here’s another exercise that’s more story-based, where you’ll use the causative imperative to tell your sister how to show visitors around town.
  • Conjuguemos teaches you how to do French conjugation through games. Practice negative tu commands with this timed game hosted by a Caribbean grenouille (frog), complete with several levels! For conjugating nous commands, check out this exercise, which also covers negatives and reflexives.
  • has tons of French exercises to choose from. This exercise will teach you how to use French commands in common conversational situations. Each multiple-choice drop-down presents very similar choices—sometimes only a single letter different—but there’s only one correct choice.


Whew! That’s all folks!

Révisez bien l’impératif (study the imperative well), and your French will immediately sound more confident and poised.

And one more thing...

If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.

FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:


FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.


For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:


Practice and reinforce all the vocabulary you've learned in a given video with learn mode. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning, and play the mini-games found in our dynamic flashcards, like "fill in the blank."


All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

Enter your e-mail address to get your free PDF!

We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe