The Italian Imperative: Explained
The imperative form, in Italian, is used to:
- Give a command
- Give exhortations
- Advise or invite someone to do something.
It is a rather regular form, with just a few irregular exceptions.
What makes the imperative very easy, is that it exists just in the present tense and it’s used just in the second person singular (you informal and formal = tu and lei) and first person plural (we = noi), and the second person plural (you all = voi)
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!
Italian vs English
Informal vs formal imperative
- In Italian, we use the imperative just to address people
- In Italian, we can address people informally (by using “tu,” the 2nd person singular ) or formally (by using “lei,” the 3rd person singular or “you polite”).
How to Use the INFORMAL Imperative
The imperative can be conjugated only with tu, voi, e noi. Here we explore the use of tu e voi (the main informal patterns) and noi.
Imperative forms of tu and voi are the same as in the present tense, with the exception of the –are verbs, to which an -a is added to the root of the verb. No changes are needed for verbs ending in –ere and –ire
The imperative of noi is identical to the present tense and it is used to encourage or urge It is equivalent to the English form “Let’s…“
|TU||mangi-a! / eat!||prend-i! / take!||apr-i! / open!|
|VOI||mangi-ate! / eat!||prend-ete! / take!||apr-ite! / open!|
|NOI||mangi-amo! / let’s eat!||prend-iamo! / let’s take!||apr-iamo! / let’s open!|
Irregular forms of the imperative
The imperative mood has just a few irregular verbs. The most common ones are essere and avere.
- sii paziente! – be patient!
- siate pazienti! – be patient (you all)!
- abbia pazienza! – have patience!
- abbiate pazienza! – have patience (you all)!
The negative imperative (informal pattern)
- non correre! – don’t run!
- non fumare! – don’t smoke!
- non bere! – don’t drink!
- non correte – don’t run!
- non fumate! – don’t smoke!
- non bevete ! – don’t drink!
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!/non lo toccare!*– don’t touch it!
- non mangiarli/non li comprare* – don’t buy them!
There are some verbs that are very common and that have an apostrophized form of the imperative of the second person singular, TU:
- fare becomes fa’ – fa’ silenzio! (be quiet!)
- dare becomes da‘ – da’ una mano a…! (give a hand to..)
- stare becomes sta’ – sta’ seduto (sit!)
- dire becomes di‘ – di’ la verità (say the truth!)
- andare becomes va‘ – va’ via (go away!)
When these verbs are coupled with a pronoun, the first letter of the attached pronoun is doubled, with the exception of gli and its compound forms.
- Fammi vedere – let me see!
- Dimmi la verità! – tell me the truth!
- Dammi la borsa! – give me the bag!
- Digli il segreto! – tell him the secret!
How to use the FORMAL imperative
To give an order or advice to someone you don’t know very well (or to whom you need or want to show respect) or to invite that person, we use the “polite you”, the formal imperative,Lei. The formal imperative uses the subjunctive conjugation. If you don’t know the subjunctive yet, just memorize the pattern for regular verbs in the table. For irregular verbs, scroll below.
|positive||mang-i! / eat!||prend-a! / take!||apr-a / open!|
|negative||non mang-i! / don’t eat!||non prend-a! / don’t take!||non apr-a / don’t open!|
Examples of formal imperatives.
- Venga qui! – come here, please
- Mi telefoni domani – Call me tomorrow, please
- Prenda questo – take this, please
The imperative with LORO
The formal imperative and 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 to
The formal imperative of irregular verbs
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