How to use imperative in French

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Usage

The imperative is used to give an order or instruction to someone. Due to this nature, it is most often used in the direction of children or in a situation in which one person has clear authority over another. As the imperative implies a situation in which we find ourselves in front of a person or a group of people, it can only be used with the second person singular “tu/ you”, the first person plural “Nous/ we” and the second person plural “Vous/ you”

Exemple:
Fais tes devoirs! (Do your homework!)

How to form imperative in French

The formation of the imperative is rather simple, we use the conjugation of the present by removing the subject. The imperative sentence ends with an exclamation point: “!” and of course intonation is important.

Exemple:
(manger)
Present Imperative

Tu manges des broccolis – Mange des broccolis! (Eat broccoli!)
Nous mangeons des broccolis – Mangeons des broccolis! (let’s Eat broccoli!)
Vous mangez des broccolis – Mangez des broccolis! (Eat broccoli!)

(Faire)

Tu fais du sport – Fais du sport! (Do sports!)
Nous faisons du sport – Faisons du sport! (Let’s Do sports!)
Vous faites du sport – Faites du sport! (Do sports!)

We note that for verbs whose ending is “es” in the second person “tu” the “s” disappears. These are generally verbs of the first group (whose infinitive ends in -ER)

Irregular verbs

The irregular verbs in the imperative are “to be” “to have” “to know” and “to want”

être
Sois
Soyons
Soyez

Avoir
Aie
Ayons
Ayez

Savoir
Sache
Sachons
Sachez

Vouloir
Veuille
Voulons
Veuillez

The imperative and pronouns

The order of the words changes in the imperative depending on whether the sentence is negative or affirmative. In affirmative sentences the pronoun is after the verb.

Exemple:

Parles-en à Paul! (Talk to Paul)

(note that the “s” is kept here for pronunciation reasons and to avoid having two “e” side by side. )

In negative sentences the pronoun is before the verb.

Exemple:

Ne me parle pas! (Don’t talk to me)


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Other Resources: French Language Exercises, Columbia edu


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