German Command Words

Instructor: Jens Bargmann

Jens is a native German and has taught adults both in Germany and in the United States. He holds a doctorate in Philosophy/Ethics.

In this lesson, we will look at German command words. These grammatical forms can be used in a variety of situations when you need to quickly direct someone else's behavior, often when there is no time to formulate a question.

Giving and Receiving Commands

Some people who have never been exposed to the German language believe it consists entirely of command words, but that is, of course, not true! The German grammatical term for command words is Imperativ (imperative). It comes from the Latin imperare, which means “to give orders.” In English, you would use the same imperative form for both addressing individuals and groups of people (e.g. “Peter, come here!” Or: “Peter, Paul, and Mary, come here!”).

Dogs hear a lot of the Imperativ, which is used to give commands.
German Shepherd

In German, however, command words are different in the singular and the plural forms. Furthermore, the German language has a formal and an informal way of addressing another person. The informal way is different in singular and plural, but the formal way is identical in both. So, the German language knows three different imperatives: informal singular, informal plural, and formal (singular and plural identical). In the table, we can see some common imperative forms of verbs for all three:

Informal Singular Informal Plural Formal Translation
Komm! Kommt! Kommen Sie! Come!
Geh! Geht! Gehen Sie Go!
Lauf! Lauft! Laufen Sie! Run!
Halt an! Haltet an! Halten Sie an! Stop!
Heb auf! Hebt auf! Heben Sie auf! Pick up!
Lass fallen! Lasst fallen! Lassen Sie fallen! Drop!
Mach! Macht! Machen Sie! Make!
Lass! Lasst! Lassen Sie! Let!
Denk! Denkt! Denken Sie! Think!
Verlass! Verlasst! Verlassen Sie! Leave!
Sprich! Sprecht! Sprechen Sie! Speak!
Erzähle! Erzählt! Erzählen Sie! Tell!
Behalte! Behaltet! Behalten Sie! Keep!
Gib! Gebt! Geben Sie! Give!
Nimm! Nehmt! Nehmen Sie! Take!
Suche! Sucht! Suchen Sie! Seek!
Finde! Findet! Finden Sie! Find!
Frage! Fragt! Fragen Sie! Ask!
Wiederhole! Wiederholt! Wiederholen Sie! Repeat!
Antworte! Antwortet! Antworten Sie! Answer!
Bring! Bringt! Bringen Sie! Bring!
Hab! Habt! Haben Sie! Have!
Mach weiter! Macht weiter! Machen Sie weiter! Continue!
Vergiss! Vergesst! Vergessen Sie! Forget!
Wasche! Wascht! Waschen Sie! Wash!
Reinige! Reinigt! Reinigen Sie! Clean!
Sei! Seid! Seien Sie Be!
Wach auf! Wacht auf! Wachen Sie auf! Wake up!
Schlaf! Schlaft! Schlafen Sie! Sleep!

Example Sentences

Soldiers are used to hearing a lot of commands, like komm! (come!) and halt an! (stop!).
Soldat des Heeres

Let's say you have a good friend who lives in Germany. He recently joined the Army over there and is now in basic training. What are some sentences he might hear from his drill instructors?

Kommen Sie her! (Come here!)

Lassen Sie sich auf die Erde fallen! (Drop down on the ground!)

Machen Sie zwanzig Liegestütze! (Do twenty push-ups!)

Reinigen Sie Ihre Waffe! (Clean your weapon!)

Laufen Sie zum Depot und kommen Sie gleich zurück! (Run to the depot and come back immediately!)

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