negative commands in spanish

How to Use Negative Commands in Spanish

Do you feel bossy today?

Do you feel like telling someone what to do?

Or—better yet—what not to do?

I certainly hope so, since today we’ll talk all about how and when to use negative commands in Spanish.

In this post, you’ll learn how to conjugate negative commands in Spanish, use object pronouns with commands, the biggest mistakes to beware of and more.


How to Form Negative Commands in Spanish

So you’ve already shed some tears trying to master the regular and irregular subjunctive present tense? The good news is that Spanish negative commands use the exact same forms. Simply precede the subjunctive form of the verb with “no” and you have a negative command! 

If you need a quick refresher, here’s how we form the subjunctive—and negative commands—in four easy steps:

  1. Take your verb.
  2. Remove the -ar, -er or -ir ending.
  3. If it’s an -ar verb, add an -er ending. If it’s an -er or -ir verb, add an -ar ending. (And use the conjugation for the same person. If you’re speaking in second person singular, add that ending for the second person singular.)
  4. Add no before the verb to make it a negative command. 

So, bailas is how you’d say “you dance.” If you want to tell your friend not to dance, you’d change bailas to no bailes.

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For example:

bailas → bail bailes no bailes

So, if you hear an –ar verb conjugated with an –e ending (-es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en), and it’s preceded by the word no, that’s a good clue that you’re being told not to do something.

For –er and –ir verbs, be aware that the same thing might happen when you hear an –a ending (-as, -a, -a, -áis, -an).

You can see examples of these throughout this post. It’s worth at least being aware of this usage even if you’re not ready to tackle memorizing them yet.

Negative Commands with Tú

The subjunctive form for hablar (to speak) is hables, so that’s also our negative command form.

No hables con ella. (Don’t speak to her.)

Negative Commands with Usted

To order around someone you know more formally, use the subjunctive usted form.

For example:

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No diga la verdad. (Don’t tell the truth.)

Negative Commands with Nosotros

This exists in Spanish grammar texts, but I haven’t heard it much in conversation. How often does one say, “Let’s all not do something”?

Still, if such a situation should arise, you can take a verb like hacer (to do), put it in the subjunctive form and make a negative sentence:

No lo hagamos así. (Let’s not do it like that.)

Negative Commands with Vosotros

You’ll use this if you’re telling a group of Spaniards what not to do.

The subjunctive vosotros form of hacer (to do/to make) is hagáis.

If you imagine that you’re confronting a group of boisterous Spaniards singing in the street at three a.m., you may want to say something like:

No hagáis tanto ruido. (Don’t make so much noise.)

Negative Commands with Ustedes

To tell a group of people what to do in a more formal situation (or also in an informal situation in the Americas), use the ustedes form.

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For example:

No entren aquí. (Don’t enter here.)

How to Use Object Pronouns with Negative Commands

In commands, you don’t use the subject pronouns (notice how , vosotros, etc. were left out of the example sentences above), but you will sometimes need to include object pronouns (me, te, lo, la, le, nos, etc.).

Remember that object pronouns replace the names of the person or thing(s) receiving the verb’s action.

These get placed directly before the verb in negative commands, and as usual, the order for pronouns is reflexive, indirect, direct (the acronym RID can help you remember).

For example:

¡No te vayas! (Don’t leave!)

No lo mires. (Don’t watch it.)

No le digas nada. (Don’t tell her/him anything.)

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No nos lo compres. (Don’t buy it for us.)

These patterns take time to get used to, but the best way to get better is by speaking with native speakers and hearing them talk—a lot.

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Common Mistakes with Negative Commands in Spanish

There are two common mistakes that learners tend to make when forming negative commands in Spanish, and it pays to be aware of them. These are:

  • Using the indicative present tense instead of the negative command form when telling someone not to do something. This can result in some amusing misunderstandings. For example, if you shout, “¡No me llamas!” at a persistent, annoying suitor, he’ll think you’re upset because he’s not calling you.
  • Forgetting to use double negatives. You shouldn’t say “No digas algo,” but rather “No digas nada (Don’t say anything, literally “Don’t say nothing”).

Negative Commands in Written Signs

For posted signs, it’s common to see the infinitive (-ar, -er, -ir forms) before the word no.

For example:



How to Use Negative Commands in Conversations

Negative commands are most often for the people closest to us if we give orders. So the tú form is especially prominent in conversational Spanish.

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Americans (particularly Midwesterners like me) tend to use “please” more frequently than Spanish speakers use por favor, but you can certainly tack it on to the end of your negative commands if you like.

You’ll hear the imperative conversational interjection no me digas (you don’t say/don’t tell me) most commonly. You can use it to express surprise, dismay or enthusiasm.

To informally express surprise, other extremely common conversational interjections take the same form (¡No me…!), but introduce various translations of “The F-word” instead of digas. These are also conjugated for their forms of the subjunctive.

We’re too classy to specify those words here, but you can use your Spanish slang dictionary to figure them out. To the Spanish ear, these phrases don’t sound nearly as vulgar as their translations imply to an English speaker—you’ll even hear nice old ladies on park benches use them.

When and Why to Use Negative Commands

Negative Spanish commands are perfect for when you need to tell someone not to do something directly.

They’re great, for example, when you need to order someone to knock off some behavior:

¡No fumes aquí! (Don’t smoke here!)

¡No toques eso! (Don’t touch that!)

But they can also come up in regular conversations when you’re being less overtly bossy:

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¡No me digas! (That’s amazing! / You don’t say! / Literally, “Don’t tell me!”)

In short, you’ll need these for important, urgent situations and as part of regular conversational Spanish.


Ready to tell the Spanish-speaking world what not to do? I hope so!

You should now have some of the most common negative commands on the tip of your tongue and know how to form more when people around you need to stop whatever they’re doing.

Enjoy being bossy!

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