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Indirect Commands in Spanish

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

In this lesson we will learn about indirect commands in Spanish, which are mainly used to give orders to a general or unspecified audience, or through a third party. Also, indirect commands can be used to request something in a polite or formal way.

Giving a Command in Spanish

Do you know how to give a command or an order in Spanish? Would you like to ask for a favor politely or give instructions? Then you need to learn about indirect commands. These will be very useful when addressing Spanish speakers in many contexts and situations, such as giving instructions, ordering something or asking someone to lend you a hand.

Direct vs Indirect Commands

Commands can be classified into two types: direct and indirect. Let's take a look at their differences first.

Direct Commands

Direct commands are simple and straightforward, and we generally express them through the imperative forms:

¡Come! ('Eat!')

¡Haz los deberes! ('Do your homework!')

This type of command is emphatic and it is generally used when there is a certain level of familiarity between the speaker and their interlocutor.

Indirect Commands

Indirect commands can be used in several ways. Firstly, they do not necessarily address a specific person. They could refer to a general or unspecified audience:

Batir los huevos y añadir a la mezcla. ('Beat the eggs and add to the mixture.')

Que no me moleste nadie. ('Nobody disturb me.')

Secondly, they could be used to give an order through a third party:

Que venga Ana lo antes posible. ('Have Ana come as soon as possible.')

Finally, they are used in order to express wishes or hope, or to encourage or urge the addressee to do something in a polite way.

Espero que me visites pronto. ('I hope you visit me soon.')

Te aconsejo que no fumes. ('I advise you not to smoke.')

Types of Indirect Commands

There are four basic ways in which indirect commands can be constructed. Since the subjunctive is typically used, here is a quick reminder of subjunctive forms for regular verbs.

Using the Subjunctive

Subject Pronouns Subjunctive endings
(-AR verbs)
Subjunctive endings
(-ER/-IR verbs)
yo -e -a
-es -as
él/ella/usted -e -a
nosotros/nosotras -emos -amos
vosotros/vosotras -éis -áis
ellos/ellas/ustedes -en -an

Let's consider the different types now.

Que + Subjunctive

We normally use this structure when giving an order through someone else, so the command will be directed to a third person (either singular or plural):

Que pase María. ('Let María in.')

Que no entren todavía. ('Do not let them in yet.')

However, it is also possible to use this construction in the second person:

Que me digas la verdad. ('Tell me the truth.')

Que te vaya bien. ('I hope it goes well.')

Infinitive commands

You will often find commands given with an infinitive only. This is typical of signs, manuals, instructions booklets and recipe books:

Sofreír las cebollas y el ajo. ('Stir-fry the onions and garlic.')


Translation: Do not smoke
not_smoke

Introductory Verb + que + Subjunctive

Indirect commands could also be introduced by a verb of request or wish followed by que + subjunctive. These are the most frequently used verbs:

Indirect command Structure Examples
Wishes Ojalá / esperar / desear + que + subjunctive
('Hopefully / to hope / to wish')
Espero que vengas a mi fiesta.
('I hope you come to my party.')
Petitions or requests Querer / necesitar / pedir / rogar + que + subjunctive
('To want / to need / to ask for / to beg')
Necesito que me hagas un favor.
('I need you to do me a favor.')
Advice or recommendations Aconsejar / recomendar + que + subjunctive
('To advise / to recommend')
Te recomiendo que llames a tu jefe.
('I recommend you to call your boss.')


Translation: I wish...
wish

Polite Interrogatives

Finally, when asking for something, we could use an indirect question in order to make our request more polite and softer. In this case, we do not need to use the subjunctive, but an infinitive:

  • Addressing as : ¿Puedes / Podrías / Te importaría + infinitive…? ('Can you / Could you / Would you mind + infinitive…?)

¿Podrías ayudarme? ('Could you help me?')

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