Lesson 32 – The Imperative

Leçon 32 – L’impératif

The imperative form is used for demands, giving orders, and addressing one or more people directly.

The imperative of almost all French verbs is easy to form – you drop the subject pronoun (tu, nous, or vous) of present tense forms. This is true for both affirmative and negative commands. The nous command is the equivalent of “let’s (not) do ___ ” in English.

  • Réfléchis avant d’agir. N’agis pas sans réfléchir.
  • Think before you act. Don’t act without thinking.
  • Ne m’interrompez pasNe dites rien.
  • Don’t interrupt meDon’t say anything.
  • N’attendons plus. Choisissons un cadeau pour maman aujourd’hui.
  • Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s choose a gift for mom today.

Most imperatives are regular in speech. However, the written forms have one orthographic change: the informal imperative (tu form) of –er verbs loses the final s of the present tense ending. The s is also lost in the informal imperative of aller and of –ir verbs conjugated like –er verbs, such as ouvrirsouffrir, etc.

  • N’ouvre pas la porte. Demande qui c’est d’abord.
  • Don’t open the door. Ask who it is first.
  • Va au bureau et donne cette lettre à la secrétaire.
  • Go to the office and give this letter to the secretary.

Some verbs had irregular imperative forms.

Command Form Command Form Command Form Command Form
Person être avoir savoir vouloir
tu sois aie sache veuille*
nous soyons ayons sachons
vous soyez ayez sachez veuillez*

*Sometimes veux and voulez are used as command forms for vouloir.


Veuillez + infinitive is used to add a polite note to the imperative,  just like “please” in English. This form is possible, but not common, since the imperative of vouloir has a formal tone.

  • Veuillez attendre en bas.
  • Please wait downstairs.
  • Veuillez répondre dans le plus brefs délais.
  • Please answer as soon as possible.

The infinitive of the verb, rather than the command form, is often used as an imperative in written French to express commands/instructions to the general public, such as instructions for use (directions on medicine bottles, or road signs, for example).

  • Agiter avant d’ouvrir.
  • Shake before opening.
  • Tenir la droit.
  • Keep right.

I hope you guys found this post to be helpful. I have noticed a spike in views to this blog, possibly due to la rentrée! To anyone new to this blog, feel free to follow me, bookmark this page, or even leave requests for posts you’d like to see here.

Have an amazing week, everyone!

A la prochaine !

Courtney

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5 thoughts on “Lesson 32 – The Imperative

  1. Pingback: Omitting the Possessive Adjective | Learn French Avec Moi

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