Giving Orders in French

Man ordering food at an outdoor restaurant
Fred Froese / Getty Images

You probably associate the imperative mood with giving orders in French. Well, yes. But you have options, too, because there are four other verbal constructions that will allow you to express the imperative, some in a more tactful way, some in a more abrupt way.

You can place the main verb in the infinitive (impersonal), in the future (polite), in the subjunctive (an order or a wish), and in the infinitive following the phrase défense de (official signs). So if you've ever seen another verb form used to express the imperative and figured it was a mistake? It probably wasn't.

Here's a look at each way. For more details, click the names of the verb forms in the right-hand column.

Different Verb Forms

Imperative The imperative mood is the most common verb form for giving orders. It has three conjugations: tu, nous, and vous.
Ferme la porte. Close the door.
Allons-y ! Let's go!
Excusez-moi. Excuse me.
Aide-nous. Help us.
Prête-les moi. Lend them to me.
Mettez-le sur la table. Put it on the table.
N'oublions pas les livres. Let's not forget the books.
Ne le regardez pas ! Don't look at it!
N'ayez jamais peur. Never be afraid.
Infinitive The infinitive is used for impersonal commands to an unknown audience, as in warnings, instruction manuals, and recipes. It is used in place of the vous form of the imperative.
Mettre toujours la ceinture de sécurité. Always wear your seatbelt.
Ne pas utiliser la porte à droite. Do not use the door on the right.
Mélanger les épices avec de l'eau. Mix the spices with some water.
Ne pas toucher. Do not touch.
Future The future tense is used for polite orders and requests, in place of the vous form of the imperative.
Vous fermerez la porte, s'il vous plaît. Close the door, please.
Vous me donnerez du thé, s'il vous plaît. Give me some tea, please.
Vous vous assiérez, s'il vous plaît. Please sit down.
Subjunctive The subjunctive mood can be used as an order or a wish for all grammatical persons. It may or may not be preceded by a clause.
J'ordonne que tu me laisses tranquille ! I demand that you leave me alone!
Que j'aie de la chance cette fois ! May I / Let me be lucky this time!
Qu'il sorte ! Let him / May he go out!
Que nous trouvions la bonne solution ! Let us find the right solution!
J'exige que vous le fassiez ! I demand that you do it!
Qu'ils mangent de la brioche ! Let them eat brioche!


Défense de In addition to commands with conjugated verbs, the expression défense de followed by an infinitive is commonly used on signs. It can be followed by SVP for s'il vous plaît ("please") or softened to a request or entreaty, as with Prière de ne pas toucher ("Please don't touch.")
Défense d'entrer Do not enter
Défense de fumer No smoking
Défense de fumer sous peine d'amende Smokers will be prosecuted
Défense d'afficher Post no bills
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Team, ThoughtCo. "Giving Orders in French." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Team, ThoughtCo. (2023, April 5). Giving Orders in French. Retrieved from Team, ThoughtCo. "Giving Orders in French." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).