Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

9.1.23: G.6.4- Formal and Informal Commands (los mandatos formales e informales)

  • Page ID
    235694
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    Form

    1. Use the 3rd person (singular and plural) of the present subjunctive.
      Affirmative Negative
      Singular (usted) ¡Hable!
      ¡Coma!
      ¡Venga! (venir)
      ¡No hable!
      ¡No coma!
      ¡No venga! (venir)
      Plural (ustedes) ¡Hablen!
      ¡Coman!
      ¡Vengan!
      ¡No hablen!
      ¡No coman!
      ¡No vengan!

      All of the verbs that are irregular in the present subjunctive will keep that irregularity in the command forms. Review the irregular forms.

    2. Use the 3rd person singular of the present indicative to form the affirmative command and the 2nd person (tú) of the present subjunctive to form the negative commands.
      Affirmative Negative
      Singular (tú) ¡Habla!
      ¡Come!
      ¡Ven! (venir)
      ¡No hables!
      ¡No comas!
      ¡No vengas! (venir)

      As you can see with “venir”, there are common irregular informal affirmative commands. Here is a list to remind you of them. Note that the negative commands are not irregular—they follow the rule of using the “tú” form of the present subjunctive:

      Affirmative Negative
      decir di no digas
      hacer haz no hagas
      ir ve no vayas
      poner pon no pongas
      salir sal no salgas
      ser no seas
      tener ten no tengas
      venir ven no vengas

      Note: There are informal plural commands, or “vosotros” commands, but we will not be learning these. In every corner of the Spanish-speaking world apart from Spain, the command forms that correspond with “ustedes” (3rd person plural formal command above) are used in formal and informal contexts when you are addressing more than one person.

      Remember that referring to commands as “negative” and “affirmative” has nothing to do with their meaning. When we refer to negative commands, we do not mean commands that are in some way insulting or discouraging (“Shut up!” or “Go away!” for example), but rather commands that are grammatically negative because they begin with the word “no” in Spanish (“don’t” in English).

    Uses of the Commands

    These structures function much like you would expect—you should use informal commands with those individuals who you call “tú” (people you know well, people your own age or younger, etc.) and formal commands with people who you would call “usted” (people who you do not know well and are not your same age or younger, people who are known but are much older, in formal contexts like a place of business or court, people to whom you would like to show special respect—a cop, maybe). It is very important to point out that commands (both formal and informal) are used much more frequently in Spanish than in English. For the English speaker, this can sound too direct (or even rude), but that is because Spanish and English have different ways of expressing meaning. English speakers need to use their “Spanish ears” when hearing commands and remember that commands don’t have the same force in Spanish that they do in English.

    In Acceso Hub: Forma y Función (LingroLearning) you will find input and output activities to practice this structure.


    This page titled 9.1.23: G.6.4- Formal and Informal Commands (los mandatos formales e informales) is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by KU Open Language Resource Center via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.