Other Ways of Making Commands and Requests

Verb Forms Other than the Imperative Can Be Used

no fumar
No fumar. (No smoking.). Photo by Juan Francisco Diez; licensed via Creative Commons.

Although the imperative mood is frequently used to tell or ask people to do something, other verb forms also are used. This lesson covers some of the most common non-imperative ways of giving commands.

Infinitives as Impersonal Commands

The infinitive (the unconjugated verb form that ends in -ar, -er or -ir) is frequently used, especially in print and online rather than verbally, to give commands to no one person in particular.

It is seen most commonly on signs and in written instructions.

  • Examples: No fumar. (No smoking.) Hacer clic aquí. (Click here.) No tocar. (Do not touch.) Sazonar los frijoles y servirlos en un plato. (Season the beans and serve them on a plate.) Colgar el teléfono y esperar. (Hang up the telephone and wait.)

Use of Present and Future Tenses to Give Commands

As in English, the present and future indicative tenses can be used to issue emphatic commands. Using the present and future tenses in this way normally wouldn't be done when you're trying to be diplomatic; more likely, they would be used when simple persuasion hasn't been successful or if you're trying to be particularly matter-of-fact.

  • Examples: Comerás el brócoli. (You WILL eat the broccoli.) Me llamas mañana. (You call me tomorrow.)

Indirect Commands

By using the subjunctive mood in a clause beginning with que, it is possible to indirectly give a command to someone other than the person being spoken to.

As the following examples indicate, a variety of English translations can be used, depending on the context.

  • Examples: Que Dios te bendiga. (God bless you.) Que vaya él a la oficina. (Have him go to the office.) Que me traiga ella sus archivos. (Tell her to bring me her files.) Que en paz descanse. (May he rest in peace.)

    First-Person Plural Commands

    There are two ways to give a command to a group that includes yourself: use followed by the infinitive, or use the first-personal plural subjunctive form of the verb. These are typically translated in English by using "let's." In the negative form (let's not), the subjunctive form (not no vamos a) is typically used. To say "let's go," use vamos or vámonos; to say "let's not go," use no vayamos or no nos vayamos.

    • Examples: Vamos a comer. (Let's eat.) Comamos. (Let's eat.) No comamos. (Let's not eat.) Vamos a hacerlo. (Let's do it.) Hagámoslo. (Let's do it.) No lo hagamos. (Let's not do it.)