Quick tips to master the French imperative
The imperative is one of the three moods in French, the other two being the indicative and the subjunctive. In today’s article, you’ll learn quick tips to master the French imperative. Used to tell someone to do something, the imperative mood represent commands, requests and instructions.
Table of content :
- How to form the French imperative
- French imperative and pronouns
- When do we use the French imperative
How to form the French imperative
First, there are three forms of French imperative, with ‘tu’, ‘vous’ and ‘nous‘. However, this last one is very common. And unlike the other verb forms, the imperative does not use subject pronouns. Instead, object pronouns are being used.
The imperative for the first group verbs
In this case, verbs have the same ending as at the present tense with -e, -ons and -ez. But we don’ have the subject pronouns. Let’s check the French imperative for the verbs manger (to eat), écouter (to listen) and parler (to speak) :
|Mange !||Mangeons !||Mangez !|
|Ecoute !||Ecoutons !||Ecoutez !|
|Parle !||Parlons !||Parlez !|
Remember : The negative imperative is formed with : NE + Verb + PAS
- Ne partez pas ! = Don’t leave !
- Ne viens pas ! = Don’t come !
For the second and third group verbs
Here, the same rule as above applies, with all the irregular verbs at the present tense. Let’s see faire (to do), for example :
|Prends !||Prenons !||Prenez !|
|Viens !||Venons !||Venez !|
|Fais !||Faisons !||Faites|
The five exceptions are : Avoir, Être, Savoir, Aller and Vouloir
- Aie ; Ayons ; Ayez
- Sois ; Soyons ; Soyez
- Sache ; Sachons ; Sachez
- Va ; Allons ; Allez
- Veuille ; Veuillons ; Veuillez
Finally, for the reflexive verbs, you need to add a tonic pronoun :
- after the verb for affirmative sentences ;
- before the verb for the negative phrases.
|S’asseoir||Assieds-toi !||Asseyons-nous !||Asseyez-vous !|
|Ne t’assieds pas !||Ne nous asseyons-pas !||Ne vous asseyez pas !|
|Se lever||Lève-toi !||Levons-nous !||Levez-vous !|
|Ne te lève pas !||Ne nous levons pas !||Ne vous levez pas !|
Tip : to improve your conjugation, feel free to practice with the Bescherelle. You will have access to every tenses conjugated for any French verb you need.
And for a more customized approach, one-on-one online French courses are available from anywhere.
French imperative and pronouns
Now, pronouns may be difficult because they are expressed differently in your native language. As we’ve seen previously with ‘qui and que’ for instance, French pronouns can cause confusion. But don’t worry, we’ll show you how to avoid ambiguity.
Place of the personal pronoun at the imperative
The personal pronoun is placed either before or after the verb, depending if the sentence is negative or positive. Let’s check a few examples :
- Demande à ton ami ! > Demande-lui ! = Ask your friend ! > Ask him !
- Ne lui demande pas ! = Don’t ask him !
- Appelle tes parents ! > Appelle-les ! = Call your parents ! > Call them !
- Ne les appelle pas ! = Don’t call them !
The pronouns ‘en’ and ‘y’ when using the imperative
Then, when the imperative is followed by a pronoun, we add an ‘s’ to the affirmative verbs ending with -e or -a :
- Va à la boulangerie > Vas-y
- Ne va pas à la boulangerie > N’y va pas
- Achète du beurre > Achètes-en
- N’achète pas de beurre > N’en achète pas
The French tonic pronouns
At last, we replace ‘me’ and ‘te’ by ‘moi’ and ‘toi’ at the imperative tense.
- For example : Parle-moi (and not parle-me) ! = Talk to me !
- Tais-toi ! = Shut up !
- Recap : For affirmative commands, the object pronoun comes after the verb and both are joined by a hyphen.
- For negative commands, the pronoun comes before the verb.
When do we use the French imperative
Finally you need to know when to use the French imperative. There are four different ways to use the imperative as follows :
- Command / Order
ex: Asseyez-vous (formal) / Assieds-toi (informal) = Sit down
- Request / Recommendation
Emporte suffisamment de vêtements chauds pour le voyage = Pack enough warm clothes for the trip
- Instruction / Advice
Tournez à gauche au bout de la rue = Turn left at the end of the street
Passe (à la maison) à 19 heures = Come over at 7pm
Note : Requests, advices and instructions can all be considered as commands, said nicely !
Now you know how to give commands in French. For hands-on practice with a certified tutor, contact me today ! Whether you are learning French to study, work abroad, or just for fun, French courses for all levels are available.