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Tú Commands

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2015-10-26 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

The commands are a special form of the Subjunctive Mode. English speakers don’t really notice that the form of the verb used when giving a command is different from the present indicative, but in at least the following example you will see that the form is different:

  • John! Be good!

The form of the verb “to be” for John in the present indicative would be “are”, as in “John, you are good.” But in the command above, the form of the verb changes to “be” rather than “are”.

These changes in verb forms to indicate a command are very common in Spanish. Unfortunately, the commands are slightly more complicated than all the other commands in Spanish, but they are also the commands you’re most likely to need as you talk with your friends!

affirmative commands

In the form, the affirmative commands (those telling someone to DO something) are different from the negative commands (those telling someone to NOT do something). Fortunately, you already know nearly all of the forms you will need for the affirmative commands! They look just like the regular third person singular form of the verb in the present indicative:

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2014-10-05 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

Regular affirmative commands

  • hablar: ¡Habla! [Speak!]
  • comer: ¡Come! [Eat!]
  • escribir: ¡Escribe! [Write!]
  • esperar: ¡Espera! [Wait!]
  • oír: ¡Oye! [Listen!]

That’s it. If you already know a verb in the present indicative, then you know the form you’ll need to use an affirmative command with your friends.

Irregular affirmative commands

Of course there are handful of verbs (9, actually) that have irregular affirmative commands. You’ll just need to memorize these:

  • venir: ¡Ven! [Come!]
  • tener: ¡Ten! [Take! In English we would probably say “Here.” when handing something to someone.]
  • salir: ¡Sal! [Leave!]
  • poner: ¡Pon! [Put (it down)!]
  • hacer: ¡Haz! [Do (it)!]
  • decir: ¡Di! [Tell (me)!]
  • ir: ¡Ve! [Go!]
  • ser: ¡Sé! [Be (good)!]
  • valer: ¡Val! [Be worth something! This one is fairly rare.]

Negative commands

The formation of the negative commands is slightly more involved, but the good news is that once you know how to form these, you’ll also know all of the steps to form ALL other command forms in Spanish except for the vosotros affirmative commands (ie., the ud. affirmative and negative commands, the nosotros affirmative and negative, the vosotros negative commands, and the uds. affirmative and negative commands.)

There are four steps to forming the negative commands. It’s very important that you follow all steps and that you always start with step 1. This may seem obvious, but over the years, the most common mistake is that students skip step 1!

To form the negative commands

  1. Start with the yo form in the present indicative of the verb in question:
    • hablar: hablo
    • comer: como
    • escribir: escribo
    • tener: tengo
    • pedir: pido
    • preocupar(se): preocupo
  2. Remove the ‘o’. (if the yo form doesn’t end in ‘o’, then by definition that verb will be irregular in the negative forms)
    • hablar: habl
    • comer: com
    • escribir: escrib
    • tener: teng
    • pedir: pid
    • preocuparse: preocup
  3. Swap the vowel class (this means if a verb is an -ar verb you’re going to treat it as if it were an -er verb. If the verb in question is an -er or -ir verb, then you will treat it as if it were an -ar verb.)
  4. Conjugate the verb for the form:

    • hablar: ¡no hables! [Don’t speak!]
    • comer: ¡no comas! [Don’t eat!]
    • escribir: ¡no escribas! [Don’t write!]
    • tener: ¡no tengas! [Don’t take/have (it)!]
    • pedir: ¡no pidas! [Don’t ask (for it)!]
    • preocupar(se): ¡No te preocupes! [Don’t worry yourself!]

Object Pronouns with commands

Affirmative commands are one of the few places where direct object, indirect object and reflexive pronouns don’t go before the verb. With affirmative commands, the object pronouns always go after and attached to the command form. Further, the stress on the original form should remain the same so at times a written accent will be required. See the following examples:

  • ¡Hazlo! [Do it!]
  • ¡Ponlo allí! [Put it there!]
  • ¡Dime! [Tell me!]
  • ¡Háblame! [Speak to me!] (note the accent!)
  • ¡Cómelo! [Eat it!] (note the accent)
  • ¡Dámelo! [Give it to me!] (note the accent)

With negative commands, the object pronouns are back in front of the verb where you would expect them to be normally:

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2014-08-29 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick
  • ¡No lo comas! [Don’t eat it!]
  • ¡No la escribas! [Don’t write it!]
  • ¡No lo pidas! [Don’t ask for it!]
  • ¡No te preocupes! [Don’t worry yourself!]