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.

Creating the Imperative in Italian

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:

cantare vendere aprire finire
(tu) canta vendi apri finisci
(Lei) canti venda apra finisca
(noi) cantiamo vendiamo apriamo finiamo
(voi) cantate vendete aprite finite
(Loro) cantino vendano aprano finiscano

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

essere avere
(tu) sii abbi
(Lei) sia abbia
(noi) siamo abbiamo
(voi) siate abbiate
(Loro) siano abbiano

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.