Forming the Imperative

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The imperative (l'imperativo) is used to give orders, advice, and exhortation: be good, stay home, let's go.

The formation of the imperative in Italian follows a sort of "back-to-front" rule for the tu and Lei forms. In other words, parlaregenerates (tu) parla and (Lei) parli - as if the indicative forms had swapped places - while -ere and -ire verbs behave in exactly the opposite way: (tu) prendi, (Lei) prenda.

To create perfect, oven-fresh imperatives, stick to the following rules:

  • the tu and voi forms are identical to their corresponding present indicative forms, except for the tu form of -are verbs, which add -a to the root: domandare > domanda
  • the formal Lei and Loro forms (though the second is hardly every used) take the corresponding forms of the present subjunctive (see table below)
  • the noi form (translated by "let's..." in English) also mimics the present subjunctive form - but this is identical to the common or garden-variety present indicative (andiamo, vediamo, etc.)

Regular verbs therefore have the following imperative forms:

 cantarevendereaprirefinire
(tu)cantavendiaprifinisci
(Lei)cantivendaaprafinisca
(noi)cantiamovendiamoapriamofiniamo
(voi)cantatevendeteapritefinite
(Loro)cantinovendanoapranofiniscano

Irregular verbs follow the same pattern, except for essere and avere, which have rule-bending tu and voi forms:

 essereavere
(tu)siiabbi
(Lei)siaabbia
(noi)siamoabbiamo
(voi)siateabbiate
(Loro)sianoabbiano

Note too that dire has an irregular, truncated tu form: di'. The same goes for andare, dare, fare, and stare, but with these four, a regular tu form is also possible: va'/vai, da'/dai, fa'/fai, sta'/stai.