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German Imperative Form

Instructor: Penelope Heinigk

Penelope holds a doctorate degree in German and a professional teaching license in the state of Colorado. She has taught middle school through university, online and live.

In the lesson we will learn how to formulate and use the imperative form in both the formal and informal, which is a verb form used for giving commands.

Definition

These phrases are a favorite among parents and teachers:

  • Clean up your room.
  • Take out the trash.
  • Do your German homework.
  • Sit down and be quiet.
  • Stop teasing your sister.

The imperative is a verb form that can be used to express a command, make a request, or give advice. Since English has only one form of address (you), it has only one imperative form. German, however, has three forms of address:

  1. du - you, informal, singular
  2. ihr - you, informal, plural
  3. Sie - you, formal, singular or plural

Therefore, German has three imperative forms. In written German, imperative sentences usually end with an exclamation mark.

Translation = Drive Faster!
Race Car

Let's see an example of the conjugations for the phrase 'Drive Faster', using the verb fahren (to drive), and the word schneller (faster).

Subject Pronoun Imperative Sentence Pronunciation Translation
du Fahr schneller! far SHNEl-er (you, informal) Drive faster!
ihr Fahrt schneller! fahrt SHNEl-er (you, plural informal) Drive faster!
Sie Fahren Sie schneller! FAR-in zee SHNEl-er (you, formal) Drive faster!

Du-imperative

There are three things to keep in mind with the du-imperative:

The du-imperative consists of the stem of the verb WITHOUT the pronoun.

Verb Pronunciation Translation Stem Imperative Example Translation
kommen KOM-in to come komm Komm jetzt nach Hause! Come home now!
gehen GAY-in to go geh Geh weg! Go away!
lassen LAHSS-in to let/leave lass Lass mich in Ruhe! Leave me alone!
  • However, verbs that have stem-vowel changes from e to i or ie in the 2nd and 3rd person singular use the changed stem in the du-imperative.

Verb Pronunciation Translation Stem Imperative Example Translation
lesen LAYZ-in to read lies (stem vowel change) Lies dein Buch! Read your book!
nehmen NAY-min to take nimm (stem vowel change) Nimm deinen Regenschirm mit! Take your umbrella!
  • Also, verbs with stems ending in -d or -t, add an -e in the du-imperative.

Verb Pronunciation Translation Stem Imperative Example Translation
reden RAID-in to talk rede (ends in -d) Rede nicht so laut! Don't talk so loud!
anworten AHNT-wort-in to answer antworte (ends in -t) Antworte die Frage, bitte! Please answer the question!

Ihr-imperative

The ihr-imperative is simply the ihr-form of the verb WITHOUT the pronoun.

Remember, the ihr form is the plural, informal form of 'you'. You use it when addressing two or more people on familiar terms.

Examples:

Verb Pronunciation Translation Ihr Form Imperative Example Translation
kommen KOM-in to come ihr kommt Kommt jetzt nach Hause! Come home now!
gehen GAY-in to go ihr geht Geht weg! Go away!
lassen LAHSS-in to let/leave ihr lasst Lasst mich in Ruhe! Leave me alone!
lesen LAYZ-in to read ihr lest Lest euer Bücher! Read your books!
nehmen NAY-min to take ihr nehmt Nehmt euere Regenschirme mit! Take your umbrellas!
reden RAID-in to talk ihr redet Redet nicht so laut! Don't talk so loud!
anworten AHNT-wort-in to answer ihr antwortet Antwortet die Frage, bitte! Please answer the question!

Sie-imperative

The Sie-imperative is the infinitive form of the verb WITH the subject pronoun Sie following directly after.

Examples:

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