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French grammar - The Imperative

The Imperative

An imperative is a command or request. The imperative mood in French sounds really harsh and really should be avoided.

There are three forms of the imperative: tu, nous and vous.

-- The nous form is used to give an order that involves oneself as well as others so often expresses a suggestion ('Let's').

The imperative is formed according to these rules:

tu (familiar) - use the present tense tu form but drop the final -s for -ER verbs.

nous - use the present tense nous form unchanged.

vous (formal or plural) - use the present tense vous form unchanged.

The rules for using imperatives with pronouns are complicated. They depend on whether it is an affirmative or negative imperative. And whether we use one or more than one pronoun.

For an affirmative imperative with one pronoun (including y and en):

Use stressed pronouns (moi, toi etc.) for the indirect object and reflexive pronouns.

The pronoun should come immediately after the imperative verb.

The pronoun should be connected to the imperative with a hyphen.

If the adverbial pronouns y or en come after an imperative that ends with a vowel, we add an -s to the imperative verb to make pronunciation easier. So for example vas-y ! '(Go there!') and not va-y.

For an affirmative imperative with more than one pronoun the order is:

le, la, les + moi then nous, vous, lui, leur then m', t' then y, en

If an object pronoun comes between the verb and an indirect pronoun then all three words should be connected with hyphens.

Examples:
Arrête !
Stop (familiar)!

tu imperative: start with present tense arrêtes - it is an -ER verb so drop the final -s arrête

Donne-moi ça.
Give (familiar) me that.

tu imperative: start with present tense donnes - it is an -ER verb so drop the final -s donne

Viens chez moi, il y une chambre d'amis.
Come (familiar) to my house, there's a guest room.

tu imperative: start with present tense viens - it is NOT an -ER viens

Dis merci à la dame !
Say thanks you to the lady!

tu imperative: start with present tense dis - it is NOT an -ER dis

Mettez votre ceinture !
Put on (formal) your belt!
Faites attention !
Take care! *OR* Be careful!
Allez chercher les enfants à l'école.
Go (formal) get the children from school.
Passez me prendre à 6 heures.
Come by (formal) and pick me up at 6 o'clock.
Faites passer le sel.
Pass (formal) the salt.

Rather than Passez le sel.

Nettoie ta chambre dès que possible.
Clean (familiar) your room as soon as possible.
Dites-moi ce que vous voulez.
Tell (formal) me what you want.

Indirect pronoun should be stressed, come after the imperative and connected with a hypen

Aidez-moi ! Je n'arrive pas à me relever.
Help (formal) me! I can't get up.
Dites-leur d'arrêter immédiatement.
Tell (formal) them to stop immediately.
Voici le document. Prends-le avec toi.
Here is the document. Take it with you.
Laissez-moi tranquille.
Leave (formal) me in peace.

OR 'Leave me alone.'

Charlotte, va au supermarché ! Vas-y !
Charlotte, go (familiar) to the supermarket! Go ahead!

y an imperative that ends with a vowel, add an -s to the imperative

J'ai besoin de stylos. Achètes-en trois pour moi !
I need pens. Buy (familiar) three for me!

en an imperative that ends with a vowel, add an -s to the imperative

J'ai trop de bananes. Prenez-en si vous voulez.
I have too many bananas. Take some if you want.
Souviens-toi de moi quand nous serons séparés.
Remember me when we are apart.

Reflexive pronoun should be the stressed form

Dépêche-toi - le train est sur le point de partir.
Hurry up (formal) - the train is about to leave.
Les enfants, levez-vous. Vous serez en retard à l'école.
Children - get up (plural). You will be late for school.
Assurez-vous d'être là à cinq heures précises.
Be sure to be there promptly at five.
Rendez-le-lui !
Give it to him!

More than one pronoun : object pronoun before the indirect pronoun

Vendons-les-leur !
Let's sell them to them!

More than one pronoun : object pronoun before the indirect pronoun

Elle veut lire ton livre. Donne-le-lui !
She wants to read your book. Give it to her!

More than one pronoun : object pronoun before the indirect pronoun

Achète-m'en.
Buy me some.

More than one pronoun : adverbial pronoun comes last

Va-t'en !
Go away!

More than one pronoun : adverbial pronoun (en) comes last

Réfléchissez-y et faites-le-moi savoir.
Think about it and let me know.

More than one pronoun : adverbial pronoun (y) comes last