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Formal Commands in Spanish: Affirmative & Negative

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  • 0:02 The Imperative Mood
  • 1:15 Conjugation of…
  • 3:16 Negative Formal Commands
  • 4:03 Direct Object Pronouns…
  • 5:09 Pr?ctica
  • 7:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson, we will learn how to conjugate and use the formal commands in Spanish, including affirmative and negative commands. We will also practice vocabulary related to chores and errands.

The Imperative Mood

Pay attention! Sit straight! Listen carefully! Study Spanish! Wow, those are a lot of commands. We have them in Spanish, too. Spanish has three main groups of verbs:

1. Indicative

2. Subjunctive

3. Imperative

The imperative mood or mode is the one that refers to commands. It is used to tell people what to do or to order someone around. In this lesson, we will talk about a specific conjugation for commands: the formal commands. In Spanish, there are informal and formal forms of you:

  • Informal: , used with family members, friends, co-workers with a similar level of authority, and little kids.
  • Formal (and more polite): usted (singular) and ustedes (plural), used with people who you don't know very well, or the elderly, bosses, other authority figures, like teachers, etc.

It is the formal usted and ustedes we will be using in this lesson.

Conjugation of Affirmative Commands

To conjugate formal commands in Spanish we do this:

1. Use the yo form of verbs in the present tense (simple present), as in como, bebo, hablo.

2. Get rid of the ending 'o' and replace it with these endings:

Verb Endings
-ar -e (usted), -en (ustedes)
-er -a (usted), -an (ustedes)
-ir -a (usted), -an (ustedes)

It is also important to know that verbs that are irregular or have stem changes carry that same irregularity when they are conjugated as formal commands. Let's look at some examples:

1. Bailar = baile, bailen

2. Beber = beba, beban

3. Vivir = viva, vivan

4. Cabalgar (ride a horse) = cabalgue, cabalguen

5. Tener = tenga, tengan

6. Venir = venga, vengan

The formal commands have the same forms as the present subjunctive. So, if you know this tense, it would be easier for you to remember. If you don't know subjunctive yet, formal commands will help you when you do learn it. Other common irregular verbs in formal commands are:

  • Dar = , den
  • Estar = esté, estén
  • Saber = sepa, sepan
  • Ir = vaya, vayan
  • Ser = sea, sean
  • Ver = vea, vean

Negative Formal Commands

Great news! The negative formal commands have the same conjugations, but you add the word 'no' before the verb, and that's it!

1. No camine, no vaya, no tenga, no viva

2. No coman, no duerman, no sigan, no trabajen

Sometimes the subject pronoun usted or ustedes is added to provide some more politeness, although they are not required. You also may want to note that these pronouns are often shortened to ud. and uds. when written:

  • Hable Ud. compañero
  • Digan Uds. toda la verdad

Direct Object Pronouns & Reflexives

When we use reflexive pronouns or direct and/or indirect object pronouns with commands, we need to do this:

1. Affirmative formal commands: command + indirect obj. pronoun + direct obj. pronoun. They are one longer word. Make sure you use accent marks to maintain the original emphasis of the command. Examples: cómaselo, dígame, háblame, compártanoslo.

2. Negative formal commands: no + indirect obj. pronoun + direct obj. pronoun + command. For the negative commands, we have separated words, not a long word as in the affirmative commands. Examples: no se lo coma, no me diga, no me hable, no nos lo comparta.

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