The imperative mood explained
The imperative form, in Italian, is used to:
- give orders
- give exhortations
- advice or invite someone to do something.
It is a rather regular mood, with just a 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.
Examples of imperatives
- Mangialo! – Eat it!
- Non fumare! – Don’t smoke!
- Non andarci! – Don’t go there!
- Vieni qui! – Come here!
- Provalo! – Try it!
- Guarda! – Look!
A brief guide to the conjugation of the imperative mood
Italian informal imperative (tu and voi)
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
Italian formal imperative (Lei = you polite)
If we don’t know someone well, we need to use Lei (you formal/polite). The polite form of the Italian imperative is identical to the present subjunctive of the verbs of all conjunctions (-are, -ere, -ire)
The imperative form of NOI (Let’s…)
The imperative we “noi” is identical to the present tense and it’s used to make an exhortation. It is equivalent to the English form “Let’s…”
The imperative with LORO is hardly ever used
Irregular imperative verbs
The imperative mood has just a few irregular verbs, the most common ones are essere and avere. Both verbs use the subjunctive in all their forms.
Italian imperative with pronouns
The imperative mood is often matched with the pronouns. Most of the time, 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 the formal imperative (Lei)
- non lo mangi! – don’t eat it (formal)
- non lo tocchi! – don’t touch it (formal)
The formal imperative in Italian
To give an order, advise or invite to do something people we don’t know very well, we use the polite “you”, the formal imperative Lei. The formal imperative uses the subjunctive conjugation.
Examples of formal imperatives.
- Venga qui! – come here, please
- Mi telefoni domani – Call me tomorrow, please
- Prenda questo – take this, place
The formal imperative in Italian with pronouns
When it comes to pronouns, the formal imperative requires the pronouns to be placed before the verb.
- Signore, lo prenda – Sir, take it
- Signora, me lo dia – Madame, give it to me
3 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 becomes fa’
- dare becomes da’
- stare becomes sta’
- dire becomes di’
- andare becomes va’
When these verbs are coupled with a pronoun, 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 the end.
- Non lo mangiare – don’t eat it!
- Non mangiarlo – don’t eat it!