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Vosotros Commands

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2014-10-13 – © Erlich, berlich@gmail.com

Formation of the affirmative vosotros command forms

The formation of the vosotros affirmative forms is very regular and very simple. (The negative vosotros commands are formed exactly like the majority of command forms.)

The affirmative vosotros commands are formed by replacing the ‘r’ of the infinitive with the letter ‘d’.

There are no irregular forms of the affirmative vosotros commands. Thus:

  • hablar: hablad
  • comer: comed
  • escribir: escribid
  • entregar: entregad
  • sacar: sacad
  • ir: id

Formation of the negative vosotros command forms

There are four steps to forming the negative vosotros 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!

  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
  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
  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 person you need. In this case, vosotros:
    • hablar:
      • vosotros: ¡No habléis! [Don’t talk (y’all)!]
    • comer:
      • vosotros: ¡No comáis! [Don’t eat (y’all)!]
    • escribir:
      • vosotros: ¡No escribáis! [Don’t write (y’all)!]
    • tener:
      • vosotros: ¡No tengáis! [Don’t take (it, y’all)!]
    • pedir:
      • vosotros: ¡No pidáis! [Don’t ask (y’all)!]

Object Pronouns with vosotros 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:

  • ¡Escribidla! [Write it (y’all)!]
  • ¡Comedla! [Eat it (y’all)!]
  • ¡Dádmelo! [Give it to me (y’all)!] (note the accent)
  • ¡Contádnoslo! [Tell it to us (y’all)!] (note the accent)

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

  • ¡No la escribáis! [Don’t write it (y’all)!]
  • ¡No la comáis! [Don’t eat it (y’all)!]

Reflexive affirmative vosotros commands

Reflexive verbs are dealt with slightly differently for affirmative vosotros commands. Given that the reflexive pronoun for vosotros is os, we might expect the command to look like this:

  • ¡Sentados! [sic: Sit down (y’all).]
  • ¡Duchados! [sic: Take a shower (y’all)!]
  • ¡Vestidos! [sic: Get dressed (y’all)!]

Obviously some of those forms would cause a problem of confusion because they are identical to the masculine plural adjectivalized form of the -ar and -ir verbs. To avoid this conflict, we eliminate the ‘d’ from the affirmative command form. Thus, the correct forms of the two examples above are as follows (note the addition of the accent on the letter ‘i’ of -ir verbs):

  • ¡Sentaos! [Sit down (y’all)!]
  • ¡Duchaos! [Take a shower (y’all)!]
  • ¡Vestíos! [Get dressed (y’all)!]

There is one exception to this rule, and that is with the verb irse (to go away). In this case, we retain the expected ‘d’ of the affirmative command:

  • ¡Idos! [Go away (y’all)!]

Blog de Lengua

Alberto Bustos, a professor at the University of Extremadura, writes a wonderful blog called Blog de Lengua, in which he addresses interesting grammar issues in Spanish (and you thought no one found Spanish grammar interesting!). He also does a weekly podcast highlighting a particular issue with language.

As it happens, Professor Bustos most recent (as of this writing) podcast deals with the vosotros commands (or imperativos, or mandatos). You can listen to it here.