The Complete Guide to Spanish Commands (Conjugations, Usages and More)
You, yes you! I command you to learn Spanish commands.
Don’t worry—if you’re already familiar with the present simple indicative and subjunctive, learning Spanish commands will be a breeze.
And if you aren’t, I’ll teach you today.
In this post, you’ll learn what the imperative mood is, how to conjugate Spanish commands correctly, when to use commands and more.
- Spanish Commands: The Imperative Mood
- When to Use the Spanish Imperative
- Affirmative Spanish Commands
- Negative Spanish Commands
- Affirmative vs. Negative Commands in Spanish
- Reflexive Verb Commands in Spanish
- Spanish Commands with Object Pronouns
- How to Make Polite Commands in Spanish
- Common Spanish Expressions Using Commands
Spanish Commands: The Imperative Mood
When we talk about Spanish “commands,” we’re usually referring to the imperative.
There are three grammatical moods in Spanish: the indicative, the subjunctive and the imperative.
The imperative mood is used to give orders and commands. It normally doesn’t include a subject, but it usually refers to the second-person singular tú (you).
In English, the imperative consists of the base form of the verb. For example:
Each of these commands can refer to the second-person singular and plural, or the third-person singular.
If you want to include the speaker (usually the first-person plural, i.e. yourself), you use the “let’s” imperative (more on this in the main part of the post):
“Let’s go to the cinema!”
“Let’s have fun!”
“Let’s do it!”
Spanish, however, has a different ending for each pronoun. The imperative mood must be conjugated according to the person or people you are referring to.
The exception for this is the first-person singular imperative, which doesn’t exist—you can’t command yourself!
Here are the endings for the three different verb types in the imperative mood:
|Pronoun||-AR verb||-ER verb||-IR verb|
When to Use the Spanish Imperative
Broadly speaking, we normally use the imperative to give commands, but it can have other uses as well. Here are all the ways you can use the imperative mood:
1. To Give Commands and Orders
The most common use of the imperative is to give commands, whether positive or negative:
Bébete la leche. (Drink the milk.)
No vengas. (Don’t come.)
2. To Make Suggestions
Vayamos a la playa. (Let’s go to the beach.)
Pidamos pizza. (Let’s order pizza.)
Tomemos un taxi. (Let’s grab a cab.)
3. To Ask for Things
You still have to use the imperative when asking for something, but strictly speaking this is not an order—just a request.
You can make these requests more polite by adding por favor (please):
Pásame la sal, por favor. (Pass me the salt, please.)
Tengo frío. Por favor, cierra la ventana. (I’m cold. Close the window, please.)
Por favor, ayúdame. (Help me, please.)
4. To Warn or Give Advice
¡Ten cuidado! (Be careful!)
¡No te muevas! (Don’t move!)
No vayas a esa fiesta. (Don’t go to that party.)
5. To Give Instructions
Instructions normally appear in recipes, instructional books and when giving directions to someone:
Corta la cebolla y pela las patatas. (Chop the onion and peel the potatoes.)
Gira el aparato y ábrelo. (Turn the device over and open it.)
Gira a la izquierda y luego sigue todo recto. (Turn left and then go straight ahead.)
While you can certainly study when to use Spanish commands, the best way to learn how to use this form and when it’s appropriate is by observing native speakers.
If you’ve ever watched a telenovela or Spanish movie, I’m sure you’ve heard a handful of Spanish commands.
FluentU takes clips from authentic Spanish media sources—like telenovelas and movies—and adds interactive subtitles to them.
You can click on unknown words and grammar structures, like instances of Spanish commands, to get a definition, example sentences, pronunciations and a new flashcard added to your deck. All this helps you to learn in context, and makes learning more efficient than when you study alone.
The program is also available as an iOS and Android app.
Affirmative Spanish Commands
We use affirmative tú commands to tell just one person to do something. Keep in mind that tú commands are used in informal settings, and check out this post if you need more details on using tú and usted.
Tú commands use the él/ella/usted form of the present simple indicative.
Take a look at some example sentences:
Abre la puerta. (Open the door.)
Come las verduras. (Eat the vegetables.)
There are only eight irregular tú commands. They are:
|Ve||Ve al mercado, por favor.
(Go to the market, please.)
|Ten||¡Ten una bebida!
(Have a drink!)
|Sé||Sé un buen niño.
(Be a good boy.)
(to leave/go out)
|Sal||Sal esta noche conmigo.
(Go out with me tonight.)
|Pon||Pon la comida en la mesa, por favor.
(Put the food on the table, please.)
|Haz||Haz la tarea ahora.
(Do your homework now.)
|Di||Dime todo que pasó.
(Tell me everything that happened.)
Usted commands, like tú commands, are used to tell a person what to do. However, we use usted commands in more formal settings or to imply respect.
To make an usted command, use the él/ella/usted form of the present simple subjunctive.
If you don’t know the subjunctive yet, it’s definitely worth knowing. You can learn with our in-depth post on the Spanish subjunctive here.
Or, you can learn the imperative first and refer to the conjugation tables above.
Take a look at some examples:
Sólo hable español conmigo, por favor. (Only speak Spanish with me, please.)
Dígame el plan. (Tell me the plan.)
Nosotros commands are used to suggest a group activity, similar to the English “let’s…”.
To make a nosotros command, use the nosotros subjunctive form. For example:
¡Comencemos a aprender español juntos! (Let’s start learning Spanish together!)
Salgamos esta noche. (Let’s go out tonight.)
Used exclusively in Spain, the vosotros is the informal form of ustedes.
Naturally, because I work in Spain, I would use a vosotros command to address my whole class simultaneously.
Vosotros commands might be the easiest of all. Simply take the infinitive form, remove the -r, and add a -d.
Dejad de hablar. (Stop talking.)
Haced vuestras tareas. (Do your tasks.)
In Latin America, you’d use ustedes commands to address more than one person simultaneously. In Spain, we use ustedes only in formal situations.
Vayan a la tienda y compren ropa nueva. (Go to the store and buy new clothes.)
Miren la película. (Watch the movie.)
When I went to Argentina for my college semester abroad, I was shocked to learn about the existence of a new verb form nobody had ever told me about: el voseo.
Used as a substitute for tú, the vos form is essential in several Latin American countries, such as Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
The vos form is very regular. I find it easier than the tú form.
To make affirmative vos commands, remove the -r at the end of an infinitive and put an accent mark over the final vowel.
Here are some examples:
Tomá café conmigo. (Have/drink coffee with me.)
Vení a la fiesta a las 8. (Come to the party at eight.)
Ir (to go) is the only irregular verb in the vos form.
Since ir doesn’t work in the aforementioned pattern, Spanish speakers substitute it for the synonym andar (conjugated as andá).
Negative Spanish Commands
It’s important to be able to tell people what to do, but it’s equally important to tell someone what not to do! For this, we use negative commands.
All negative commands use subjunctive conjugations, so this section will be fairly straightforward.
Use the word no + the tú subjunctive.
No vayas al parque. (Don’t go to the park).
No comas dulce en la mañana. (Don’t eat candy in the morning.)
Luckily, usted commands are conjugated the same whether they are affirmative or negative. The only necessary change is to add the word no.
No salga hasta la noche. (Don’t leave until tonight.)
No vea la película antes de leer el libro. (Don’t watch the movie before reading the book.)
No vayamos al cine. (Let’s not go to the movie theater.)
No estudiemos por más de tres horas. (Let’s not study for more than three hours.)
No compréis pan. (Don’t buy bread.)
No viajéis cuando estéis enfermos. (Don’t travel when you’re sick.)
Just like with usted, ustedes negative commands are the same as their affirmative counterparts.
No coman eso. (Don’t eat that.)
No jueguen en la calle. (Don’t play in the street.)
Since the tú form and the vos form are conjugated the same way in the subjunctive, the negative commands for vos are the same as they are for tú.
¡No lo bebas! (Don’t drink it!)
No rompas la computadora de nuevo. (Don’t break the computer again.)
For a post specifically about negative commands in Spanish, check out our full post:
Affirmative vs. Negative Commands in Spanish
To summarize what we’ve covered so far, here are a few verbs conjugated in the tú command form. We’ve put them side by side in this table so they’re easy to compare:
|-ar||Tomar||Tú toma||No tomes|
|-er||Comer||Tú come||No comas|
|-ir||Salir||Tú sal||No salgas|
Reflexive Verb Commands in Spanish
Reflexive verbs are used for actions that someone does to themselves.
As a quick reminder, the reflexive pronouns are:
Yo → me
Tú → te
Él/ella/usted → se
Nosotros → nos
Vosotros → os
Ellos/ellas/ustedes → se
To make a command out of a reflexive verb, conjugate the verb as usual and then stick the reflexive pronoun on the end of the word.
For example, to tell someone to wash their hands (lavarse las manos), you would say
¡Lávate las manos! (Wash your hands!)
Spanish Commands with Object Pronouns
As you may know, object pronouns can either be direct or indirect.
The direct object directly receives the action of the verb, and an indirect object indirectly receives the action of the verb. If you aren’t familiar with them, check out our post on Spanish object pronouns here.
To use Spanish commands with indirect and direct object pronouns, we just stick them onto the ending of the command.
When commands call for both an indirect and a direct object pronoun, the indirect object always comes before the direct object. To remember the order of Spanish pronouns, use the acronym RID—Reflexive, Indirect, Direct.
Tráeme mi celular. (Bring me my phone.)
Llámala pronto. (Call her soon.)
Dímelo. (Tell it to me.)
Llévaselo a tu mamá. (Take it to your mom.)
How to Make Polite Commands in Spanish
Conjugating verbs in the forms we’ve seen above—known as the mandato form—is a good way to express that you want someone to do something (or not).
But in some social situations, using a command may feel a little too direct or aggressive.
There are other, gentler ways to ask someone to do something in these situations.
Use the Conditional Tense
The conditional tense is used to express uncertainty or possibility about an action in the future. (If you’re not familiar with this tense, check out this post for a full overview).
Si tuviera un millón de dólares, te compraría una casa. (If I had a million dollars, I’d buy you a house.)
The conditional tense can also serve as a polite way to make requests in Spanish.
For example, instead of saying Déjame tu libro (lend me your book), you could say,
¿Me dejarías tu libro? (Would you lend me your book?)
Use the Verb “Poder” and an Infinitive
Poder (to be able to) is one of the most useful verbs for a Spanish speaker.
In a question, puedes means “can you.”
So instead of saying saca la basura (take out the trash), you can ask,
¿Puedes sacar la basura? (Can you take out the trash?)
Use the Present Simple Like a Question
This one might not be in any grammar books, but I hear Spanish speakers always do it.
Instead of saying Pásame la sal (pass the salt) for example, you could say,
¿Me pasas la sal?”
This is a colloquial way to ask for something without using the occasionally harsh-sounding mandato form.
Common Spanish Expressions Using Commands
- Hazme el favor de… This phrase is like the Spanish equivalent of the English phrase “Do me a favor and…” It could be a polite phrase with the right tone, but it can also sound aggressive. For example, the phrase Hazme el favor de callarte la boca (Do me a favor and shut your mouth!).
- ¡No me digas! This exclamation translates to “Don’t tell me!” but it means something closer to “You don’t say!” or “I can’t believe it!”
- Déjame en paz. “Leave me in peace,” or, more simply put, “Leave me alone.”
- Vete al infierno. In this phrase, vete is the command form of the reflexive verb irse (to leave). Perhaps you can infer that Vete al infierno means go to h-e-double hockey sticks!
- Pásalo bien. This phrase means “Have a good time.” When speaking to more than one person, use the ustedes form (pásenlo bien) or the vosotros form (pasadlo bien) depending on where you are.
- Ponte a… This phrase plus an infinitive verb is a colloquial way to tell someone to get started on something. For example, Ponte a trabajar would mean “Get to work!”
- Dime. I hear this command at least 10 times daily here in Spain. Literally “Tell me,” it actually has a variety of uses. People answer the phone with dime, waiters and bartenders say dime to ask for your order and many different types of workers will use dime as shorthand for “How can I help you?” or “What do you need?”
- No te preocupes. This phrase means, “Don’t worry!”
- Mirá vos. A command in the vos form, this phrase is ubiquitous in Argentine Spanish. It’s used to express mild surprise or interest, similar to the English phrase “how about that.” It can also be shortened to simply Mirá.
Spanish commands are useful for learners at all levels and can be used in various social situations.
Plus, practicing the mandato form forces you to brush up on your present simple indicative and subjunctive conjugations, which is great practice for beginners.
So, get studying (¡ponte a estudiar!) and you’ll have Spanish commands down pat in no time.