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Poner Command Conjugation: Tu & Formal

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

You want to ask or to tell someone to put something in a given place, set the table, etc. You need to use the imperative or command form of the verb ''poner'' (to put, to set). Let's see how you can do this without sounding bossy.

Time to Give Orders

Imagine you have dinner ready and you want to tell someone to set the table. Or, you are at work and you need your coworker to put the documents on your desk. Either way, you need to use the command form, also known as imperative, which is imperativo in Spanish. For this lesson, we will learn the command forms of the verb poner (poh-NEHR), which means both 'to put' and 'to set.'

Let's begin with the command forms before we move onto two practical scenarios.

Command Forms of Poner

Let's learn each type of command (affirmative and negative) through separate tables. Each table includes a pronoun, so you know for whom the command is. However, you must not say the pronoun: just use the command conjugation (without the pronoun) in conversation.

Affirmative Commands

You can give an affirmative command, such as 'put the documents on my desk,' for both formal and informal relationships with a single person or a group. Formal would be used at work or with a stranger, whereas informal is used with your family and friends.

Poner (poh-NEHR) - ''to put / to set''

Subject Pronoun Poner Command Pronunciation Translation
pon pohn you (singular/informal) put/set
usted ponga POHN-gah you (singular/formal) put/set
nosotros
nosotras
pongamos pohn-GAH-mohs let's put/set
vosotros
vosotras
poned poh-NEHD you (plural/informal) put/set (used primarily in Spain)
ustedes pongan POHN-gahn you (plural/formal) put/set

You can see that the command form also includes nosotros ('we'), since we often include ourselves as part of a command, like 'let's put the dishes on the shelf.' Another idea to keep in mind is when to use vosotros or ustedes for the plural you. The rule of thumb is, when in doubt, just use ustedes. If you are in Spain, people use vosotros as an informal way to address friends and family. In Spain, they would use ustedes when there is a formal relationship, like to address a group of bosses, supervisors, or strangers. In Latin America, however, people simply use ustedes for all groups, and the formality/informality aspect is not a consideration.

Negative Commands

Sometimes, our commands are negative, such as 'do not put the documents on my desk' for both formal and informal relationships. In this case, we may also include ourselves, like when we say 'let's not put the dishes on the shelf.' Here are the forms you need:

Poner (poh-NEHR) - ''to put / to set''

Subject Pronoun Poner Command Pronunciation Translation
no pongas noh POHN-gahs you (singular/informal) don't put/set
usted no ponga noh POHN-gah you (singular/formal) don't put/set
nosotros
nosotras
no pongamos noh pohn-GAH-mohs let's not put/set
vosotros
vosotras
no pongáis noh poh-GAH-ees you (plural/informal) don't put/set (used primarily in Spain)
ustedes no pongan noh POHN-gahn you (plural/formal) don't put/set

Examples

Very often, people may be a bit worried about giving orders, since they do not want to sound bossy or upset someone. All you have to do is give your command the right intonation and add a polite word, such as por favor (pohr fah-BOHR), which means 'please.' Also, remember that commands are not just to give orders but also advice or suggestions.

Affirmative Commands Examples

Mateo and a neighbor (Luis) are ready to set the table as guests are coming for dinner. Meanwhile, Diana is in the kitchen directing her husband and her neighbor on what to do. She says:

  • Pongan el mantel blanco, por favor. (Put on the white tablecloth, please.)
  • Mateo, pon la cuchara con el cuchillo al lado derecho del plato. (Mateo, put the spoon and the knife on the right side of the plate.)
  • Luis, ponga el tenedor al lado izquierdo, por favor. (Luis, put the fork on the left side, please.)

Now, Diana brings in a bunch of dessert spoons. She says:

  • Pongamos las cucharas para el postre arriba del plato. (Let's put the dessert spoons above the plate.)

As we can see, Diana uses the usted command from to refer to the neighbor who is helping. She uses the form for her husband, and ustedes form for both of them.

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