spanish imperative

The Imperative and the Spanish Verb Moods

Along with the indicative and the subjunctive, the imperative Spanish mood is one of the three Spanish verbal modes.

These are the diverse forms in which the action of the verb can be expressed. Therefore, each verb conjugation changes depending on the mood.

The verb mood manifests the speaker’s attitude towards what it’s being said. It is also the grammatical category which classifies the action or the verb tense, from the speaker’s perspective.

Thus, the mood reveals the speaker’s point of view: factual, subjective or appellative.

The indicative mood is used to express statements of facts. Hence, we can infer that the speaker perceives the situation (that is being expressed) as a concrete reality.


The subjunctive mood is used to reveal an individual’s wishes, conjectures or suggestions and hypothetical situations. It exhibits the speaker’s desires, theories, premises, speculations or assumptions. That is why it is considered subjective information.


The imperative Spanish mood is used to draw attention to people or circumstances; it displays a specific call to action or warns against it.


Use of the Imperative in Spanish

mandatos spanish

The imperative is also popularly known as the mode for Spanish commands because it is specifically used for the following situations:

Habla más alto. – Speak louder.

Señor, aquí no se puede fumar. – Sir, you are not allowed to smoke in here.

Cocinar a fuego lento por tres minutos. – Cook over low heat for three minutes.

Podría mandarle flores a su novia. – You could send flowers to your girlfriend.

Póngame ahí las maletas, por favor, joven. – Put my bags there, please, young man.

Querido amigo, ven a mi casa esta Navidad. – My dear friend, come to my house this Christmas.

Affirmative and Negative Commands in Spanish

The structure of the imperative depends if it is an affirmative or negative command as well as it is a regular or irregular verb.

Let’s look at the following regular verbs ending in –ar, –er, and –ir:

Canta Come Vive
Usted Cante Coma Viva
Vosotros Cantad Comed Vivid
Ustedes Canten Coman Vivan
Cantes Comas Vivas
Usted Cante Coma Viva
Vosotros Cantéis Comáis Viváis
Ustedes Canten Coman Vivan

As you can see in the second person singular () the –ar is substituted for an –a, the –er for –e, and the –ir for an –e too.

Here are some illustrations of the differences between an affirmative and a negative imperative using the same verb.


Some familiar irregular verbs include estar, hacer, dar, decir, tener, poner, salir, venir, and ser. In the table below you can observe their conjugation for the second person singular () for both affirmative and negative imperatives.

Estar Estate No estés
Hacer Haz No hagas
Dar Date No des
Decir Di No digas
Tener Ten No tengas
Poner Pon No pongas
Salir Sal No salgas
Venir Ven No vengas
Ser No seas

Spanish Imperative and Pronouns:

The imperative forms allow the use of clitic pronouns.


But where do the clitic pronouns go?

The positioning of clitic pronouns in Spanish imperatives can be memorized as follows:


Formal and Informal Commands in Spanish: Usted or ?

commands in spanish

As you have noticed, imperatives are often employed to give ‘mandatos’ or directives in Spanish so let’s clarify when to utilize the informal you ‘’ and the formal you ‘usted’. 

We use the imperative ‘’ when we are close to the person we are giving the instructions to.

Contrary, we use the imperative ‘usted’ when the people we are talking to are perfect strangers or an elderly person, an official, a professional higher in rank, a public service provider, a waiter, a future father-in-law, or simply we have just been introduced.

Therefore, ‘’ applies for friends, close and extended family members, love partners, and colleagues. Instead, ‘usted’ applies for family-in-law members, your boss, the waitress, all kinds of sales agents, your school teachers, doctors and other health providers, and any unfamiliar person. 

Remember that ‘ustedes’ (as in ‘you guys’) is commonly used in many Latin American countries like Mexico as the plural for the third person, instead of the ‘vosotros’ used in Spain.


‘Mandatos’ and other Commands in Spanish

imperative spanish

Besides the intonation, there are ways to soften the orders so you don´t sound like an angry colonel when asking others to follow your instructions or take your advice.

Instead of saying ‘you should’ try softening your commands by doing the next things:

Including ‘please’ at the end of the command.

Finally, if you are providing some suggestions it is possible to utilize the next formulas:

  1. ‘You have to’ for more personal opinions or counsels.

Pronoun + tener + que + infinitive verb

Tener + pronoun + que + infinitive verb


Uno + debe + verb

Uno + debería + tener + que + verb


Es importante + verb

The term ‘important’ could be substitute for others such as ‘compulsory’, ‘necessary’, ‘ideal’, ‘required’, etc.


Finally, for prohibitions the most common formula is:

Está + prohibido + infinitive verb


If you are keen to learn more about Spanish imperative so you can master the comandos en español, check out our FREE Spanish Survival Crash Course. For a few days, we’ll send you a daily email with audio guides and handy learning material right to your inbox, totally free!

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