The imperative, in Italian, is used to give orders or exhortations and is a rather regular tense, with just few irregular exceptions.
Besides, what makes the imperative very easy, is that, it exists just in the present tense and the first and third person singular, io end lui/lei, do not exist.
A short guide to the conjugation of the imperative tense
Tu and voi are the same as in the present tense, with the exception of the verbs from the first group ( –are), which add an -a to the root of the verb. No changes are needed for the verbs ending in -ere and -ire
Lei (you formal) is identical to the present subjunctive of the verbs of all conjunctions (-are, -ere, -ire)
noi (let’s…) is identical to the present tense
loro is hardly ever used
Irregular imperative verbs
The imperative tense has just a few irregular verbs, the most common ones are certainly essere and avere
Both verbs use the subjunctive in all their forms.
Things you need to know to use the imperative
The imperative does not use the subjects, thus, it is correct to say just mangia! instead of tu mangia!
In negative sentences, the imperative expresses a prohibition or a ban.
You can do the negative imperative by adding non before the verb. However, with tu, the imperative is made by using non + the infinitive of the verbs.
- Non mangiare!
- Non cantare!
- Non dormire!
The rest of the imperative is not affected by this trend.
- Non dormite!
- Non dorma!
A few much-used verbs have a particular apostrophized form of the imperative of the second person singular TU:
- fare – FA’
- dare – DA’
- stare – STA’
- dire – DI’
- andare – VA’
Imperative & pronouns
The imperative tense is often matched with the pronouns. Most of the times, the pronouns are attached at the end of the verb, making one word with the verb.
- mangialo! – eat it!
- non toccarlo! – don’t touch it!
However, sometime you can see the pronoun preceding the verb and that is the case of the conjugation of you formal (Lei)
- non lo mangi! – don’t eat it (formal)
- non lo tocchi! – don’t touch it (formal)
There is a bunch of verbs which have a special apostrophized form for the you informal (tu) conjugation (fa’ for fare, da’ for dare, sta’ for stare, di’ for dire, va’ for andare). In such cases, the first letter of the attached pronoun is doubled, being the exception gli and its compound forms.
- Dimmi la verità! – Tell me the truth!
- Dammi la borsa! – Give me the bag!
- Digli il segreto! – Tell him the secret!
In the negative form, the pronouns can either precede the verb or merge with it at end.
- non lo mangiare – don’t eat it!
- non mangiarlo – don’t eat it!
Serena is a proud polyglot, teacher and language expert. After learning 8+ foreign languages and working long hours a job she was not born for, she decided she urged a significant life change. She is now combining what she loves doing with what she is good at, helping people to learn Italian online. She has been sharing her love for Italy and the Bella Lingua across the world for the last four years. Her goal is helping enthusiastic humans to transform Italian Language Learning into a habit in their lives.