French The Imperative

Overview

The Imperative or L’impératif is used to give orders or advice to one or more people. The imperative only exists in the second person singular (tu), the first-person plural (nous) and the second person plural (vous). The imperative is conjugated in the same way as the present tense, but the subject pronouns are omitted.

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You have most likely used the imperative mood without realizing it. The imperative mood is used when you give a command or ask for a request. You are referencing a person or a group of people to do/carry out a task without actually addressing them in the command. Forming the regular imperative, or l’impératif, in French is relatively easy with only a couple fundamental rules.

How to form l’impératif:

  1. The first step of forming the imperative is deciding who the command or request is going to. Is it going to one person? Is it going to a group of people including yourself/the speaker? Is it going to a group of people (not including you/the speaker) or to a single person of higher status?
  2. The second step is to conjugate your verb for either the Tu, Nous, or Vous form depending on your answer to the previous question. Conjugate this verb in the present tense. If your command is in the negative, place the “ne” and “pas” around your verb as per usual.
  • For -er verbs specifically, you must take off the -s in the “Tu” This rule only applies to the Tu” form for -er verbs. Example: Parle! Regarde!
  • The “Nous” form of l’impératif always translates to “Let’s….” being that the speaker is included in the command.
  1. The last step is to finish out your command. You will learn in a future module how to incorporate pronouns and objects into your commands.

Examples:

Fais tes devoirs! → Do your homework !

(Faire conjugated for tu to indicate the speaker is talking to one person.)

Ne regardons pas ce film! → Let’s not watch this movie!

(Regarder conjugated for nous to indicate the speaker is included in the command.)

*Allez-y! → Go!

(Allez conjugated for vous to indicate the speaker is talking to a group of people or one person of higher status)

*When aller is conjugated in the imperative, you add the pronoun “y” to the command with a hyphen. And although aller ends in the letters -er, you do not drop the -s from the “Tu” form when you add the “y.”

Aller in the imperative looks like:

Vas-y → Go (there)!

Allons-y → Let’s go (there)!

Allez-y → Go (there)!

Irregular Imperative Conjugations:

Not every single verb follows the pattern explained above. Here are three verbs that are irregular in the imperative mood:

Avoir: to have Aie… Ayons… Ayez… Examples: Aie de la patience!Être: to be Sois… Soyons… Soyez…   Soyons prudents…Savoir: to know Sache… Sachons… Sachez…   Sachez la vérité!

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