Positive formal commands.
To form postive formal commands, start with the form of the verb that goes with the pronoun "yo" (e.g., abro, muevo, vengo, etc.). Then take the "-o" off of that verb ending. If the verb is an AR verb, replace the "-o" with "-e." If the verb is an ER or IR verb, replace the "-o" with "-a." If the command is given to more than one person, the endings are "-en" and "-an" respectively. If the verb is reflexive, put the reflexive pronoun "se" after the verb form. If there are object pronouns (it, them) put them after the verb too. The following examples help to clarify.
INFINITIVE "YO" FORM SINGULAR PLURAL acostarse "to lie down" me acuesto acuéstese acuéstense calmarse "to be calm" me calmo cálmese cálmense escribir "to write' escribo escriba escriban explicar "to explain' explico explique expliquen sentarse "to sit down' me siento siéntese siéntense
Note: There are some irregular forms as well because the "yo" form does not end in an "-o" as follows:
INFINITIVE "YO" FORM SINGULAR PLURAL dar "to give" doy dé dén estar "to be" estoy esté estén irse "to go away" voy váyase váyanse saber "to know" sé sepa sepan ser "to be" soy sea sean
Negative formal commands.
The negative formal commands are similar to the positive ones. The difference is that the word "no" goes before the verb and reflexive pronouns and object pronouns also go before the verbs.
- No escriba.
- No se calme.
- No se vaya.
Given the difficulty and the variety of direct command forms, one solution is to use indirect command forms. These are easier to form and do not involve as many choices. There are three phrases that are helpful in giving indirect commands: "hay que..." (one must), "favor de..." (please do the favor of...) and "usted tiene que...." (you have to...). Each of these phrases is followed by a verb in the infinitive. As such, it is not necessary to know the verb conjugation. Be aware, however, sometimes the regular command form sounds much better.
Hay que escucharme primero.
You must listen to me first.
Hay que explicar todo.
You must explain everything.
Hay que levantar el pie.
You must raise your foot.
Favor de mostrarme los papeles.
Do the favor of showing me the papers.
Favor de ayudarme con esto.
Do the favor of helping with this.
Usted tiene que sacar las manos.
You have to take your hands out.
Usted tiene que dejarlo aquí.
You have to leave it here.
Usted tiene que salirse ya.
You have to go away now.
Direct Commands in Spanish (Imperatives)
Let's start our discussion of commands, which are sometimes called "imperatives",y by dividing them into two groups. We know that when we speak with someone in Spanish, we have to decide which form of "you" to use. When we know someone well enough to call him/her by the FIRST NAME, we use the word "tú". If we feel that it is proper to use a title and the last name (for example: Mr. García, Mrs. Fernández, Senator González, President Fujimori), out of respect for the persons age or social position, we use the word "usted". This same distinction must be kept in mind when we use commands. Remember, when we give a command to someone, since it is the person with whom we are speaking directly, the subject of the command is "you". When we say, "Do this," what we really mean is, "I want you to do this".
Now, let's assume that we are talking with someone in a more formal way. We want someone to do something. We have studied "influence" sentences for a long time now. Do you remember what we have to do with the verb in an "influence" sentence? I hope that you recall that we have to use a different form of the verb. For verbs in the "A" category, we change to "e", and for verbs in the "E" category, we change to "a". We have to do this in sentences in which we express how someone feels about what someone else does or will do. Now just think about it for a moment. A command is just a very direct way of expressing our feelings about what we want someone else to do. We could say that it is a direct "influence" sentence. Look at the following example:
- Señor García, quiero que usted estudie el documento.
If we just take away the first part, "Señor García, quiero que usted...", we are left with, "estudie el documento". This is exactly what we would say in order to make a direct command in Spanish. The verb form which we are using is the subjunctive, just like we use in "influence" sentences. Really, there is nothing new here. We have used the same verb form. This is because in a command we are expressing our feelings about him doing something, not actually giving information about what he is really doing. Remember, it's feeling, not fact that we are dealing with here.
We can do the same thing with the negative, however in this case we are going to put the negative word "no" in front of the command directly. Here is an example:
- Señor García, no quiero que usted firme el documento.
Notice that we have put the negative word "no" in front of "want", so that we are saying, "I don't want you to sign ("firmar") the document." When we make the negative command, we will move the word "no" right in front of the command itself. That would give us the following:
- Señor García, no firme el documento.
I hope that you can see that up to this point, it isn't really very complicated. We are just using the same forms that we used before. We are just using them in a different way, so that they tell the person directly what we want him to do, rather than telling him indirectly.
One thing that you may have noticed which is important is that in these command's the verb is the same for the negative command and for the positive command. It doesn't matter whether I say, "do it" or "don't do it". The verb will be the same in both cases.
- Mande la carta.>No mande la carta.
If we talk with someone that we know well, the situation is going to be different. Remember that in this case we must use "tú",not "usted". For the negative command with "tú", we will use the subjunctive verb form, just like we did with "usted". However, you should realize than with "tú" there will be an "s" on the end of the verb. For example:
Juan, no mandes la carta.
John, don't send the letter.
When we have a positive command using the "tú" form, the situation changes. In this case we use the "positive informal command", which is in most cases the same thing as the present tense forms for "él" or "ella". That is, for "A" verbs we will just have the first part of the verb, followed by the letter "a". For "E" verbs, we would have an "e" on the end. There is no change of the vowel, like we do with the other commands. Look at the following example:
Juan, manda la carta.
John, send the letter.