The Imperative Mood in Italian

Learn how to give commands, suggestions and advice

Pastry
Cultura RM Exclusive/Sofie Delauw/Getty Images

Be good! Stay home! Let's go!

When we say the above phrases in English, the only hint that it’s a command or a suggestion is our tone. Unlike Italian, we don’t have a special way of changing the verb that makes the situation obvious.

In Italian, that special form is called the imperative (l'imperativo), and as I hinted, it’s used to give orders and offer advice or suggestions.

How to Form the Italian Imperative

When you learn how the imperative is formed for the informal (tu) and the formal (lei) it’s going to feel very backwards.

In other words, a regular verb like parlare - to speak is formed as (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 make it easier, stick to the following rules:

  • The tu and voi forms are identical to their present indicative forms, except for the tu form of -are verbs, which add an -a to the root: domandare > domanda.

  • The (though the latter is hardly ever used) take the corresponding forms of the present subjunctive (take a gander at the table below).

  • The noi form (translated by "let's..." in English) is the same as the present indicative (andiamo, vediamo, etc.).

Imperative with Regular Verbs

 

cantare (to sing) 

vendere (to sell) 

aprire (to open) 

finire (to finish)

(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 the rebels essere and avere, which have rule-bending tu and voi forms:

 

essere (to be) 

avere (to have)

(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.

How to Form the Negative in the Imperative

The negative imperative for tu in all conjugations is formed by placing the word non before the infinitive. The noi and voi forms are identical to those in the affirmative.

 

lavorare (to work) 

scrivere (to write)

(tu)

Non lavorare!

Non scrivere!

(noi)

Non lavoriamo!

Non scriviamo!

(voi)

Non lavorate!

Non scrivete!

 

 

dormire (to sleep) 

finire (to finish)

(tu)

Non dormire!

Non finire!

(noi)

Non dormiamo!

Non finiamo!

(voi)

Non dormite!

Non finite!

Where do the pronouns go?

Direct object pronouns, indirect object pronouns, and reflexive pronouns, when used in the affirmative, are attached to the end of the verb to form one word. The only exception is loro, which is always separate.

alzarsi (to get up) 

mettersi (to put on) 

vestirsi (to dress oneself)

alzati

mettiti

vestiti

alziamoci

mettiamoci

vestiamoci

alzatevi

mettetevi

vestitevi

When a pronoun is attached to the tu imperative short forms of andare, dare, dire, fare, and stare, the apostrophe disappears and the first consonant of the pronoun is doubled, except when that pronoun is gli.

  • Fammi un favore! Fammelo! - Do me a favor! Do it for me!

  • Dille la verità! Digliela! - Tell her the truth! Tell it to her!

When the verb is in the negative imperative, the pronouns may either precede or follow the verb.

  • Carlo vuole le paste? - Does Carlos want the pastries?

  • Non gliele dare! (Non dargliele)! - Don't give them to him!

More Formal Commands

The table below contains some more examples of formal commands.

FORMAL COMMANDS

INFINITIVE

LEI

LORO

cantare

Canti!

Cantino!

dormire

Dorma!

Dormano!

finire

Finisca!

Finiscano!

parlare

Parli!

Parlino!

partire

Parta!

Partano!

 

Pulisca!

Puliscano!

scrivere

Scriva!

Scrivano!

vendere

Venda!

Vendano!

Some of the verbs have irregular stem changes in the io form. Sometimes, this form is used to construct the imperatives of Lei and Loro.

Formal Commands: Verbs with Stem Changes

 

INFINITIVE

PRESENT-INDICATIVE FORM OF IO

IMPERATIVE FORM OF LEI

IMPERATIVE FORM OF LORO

andare (to walk)

vado

Vada!

Vadano!

(to appear)

appaio

Appaia!

Appaiano!

bere (to drink)

bevo

Beva!

Bevano!

    

dire (to say, to tell)

dico

Dica!

Dicano!

fare (to make)

faccio

Faccia!

Facciano!

porre (to place, to put down)

pongo

Ponga!

Pongano!

rimanere (to stay, to remain)

rimango

Rimanga!

Rimangano!

salire (to climb)

salgo

Salga!

Salgano!

scegliere (to choose, to pick)

scelgo

Scelga!

Scelgano!

sedere (to sit down)

siedo

Sieda!

Siedano!

suonare (to play a musical instrument)

suono

Suoni!

Suonino!

tradurre (to translate)

traduco

Traduca!

Traducano!

(to draw, to pull)

traggo

Tragga!

Traggano!

    

uscire (to exit)

esco

Esca!

Escano!

venire (to come)

vengo

Venga!

Vengano!

Finally, some verbs have irregular formal command forms that are not based on any present-indicative forms, and which you will have to memorize. These verbs are listed below.

Formal Commands: Irregular Verbs

INFINITIVE

LEI

LORO

avere

Abbia!

Abbiano!

dare

Dia!

Diano!

essere

Sia!

Siano!

sapere

Sappia!

Sappiano!

stare

Stia!

Stiano

Note that the same form of the verb is used for negative formal commands.