6 common irregular imperatives in Spanish

6 common irregular imperatives in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated November 4, 2022

Irregular imperatives in Spanish are important to learn. After learning the imperative mood in Spanish, you will understand Spanish commands words and how to conjugate them. Though we’ve covered the basics, there are irregular forms for a handful of words that come up often. These irregular Spanish imperative commands will get you to fluency in many professional and social settings. Here are 6 of the most common irregular imperatives in Spanish that you should memorise.

Irregular Spanish imperatives

Imperatives are verbs made into Spanish command words. They tell you what to do (Sube al autobús – Get on the bus) and what not to do (No subas al autobús – Don’t get on the bus). 

Once you learn the trick for regular Spanish imperatives, you can move onto irregular commands. Irregular imperatives in Spanish are harder to catch. You need to memorise the word to know what to listen for. Knowing these irregular forms will give you an advantage in your listening fluency. 

1. Ser: se

This irregular imperative is useful for telling people how to behave. Parents and people in authority use this form of ser (to be) a lot. As we know, Spanish has four versions of imperative commands: tú, Usted, nosotras/os, and Ustedes listed below in order. 

  • Tú: Se/No seas amable. – Be/Don’t be nice. (informal)
  • Usted: Sea/No sea… – Be/Don’t be… (formal)
  • Nosotras: Seamos/No seamos… – Let’s be/Let’s not be…
  • Ustedes: Sean/No sean… –Be/Don’t (you all) be…

Notice that for Usted, Nosotras, and Ustedes, the affirmative and negative use the same form (sea/no sea). There is no difference in spelling or pronunciation. Only the tú format changes when you compare affirmative vs. negative of the Spanish imperative command.

2. Poner: pon

For this example, let’s use poner atención, an idiomatic expression. Spanish idioms are common phrases that don’t translate directly into English. Poner atención means “pay attention” but it translates literally to “put attention”.

  • Tú: Pon/No pongas atención. – Pay/Don’t pay attention. (informal)
  • Usted: Ponga/No ponga… – Pay/Don’t pay… (formal)
  • Nosotras: Pongamos/No pongamos… – Let’s pay/Let’s not pay….
  • Ustedes: Pongan/No pongan… – Pay/Don’t (you all) pay…

3. Ir: ve

The Spanish imperative version of ir (to go) is good for giving directions. 

  • Tú: Ve/No vayas al parque. – Go/Don’t go to the park. (informal)
  • Usted: Vaya/No vaya… – Go/Don’t go… (formal)
  • Nosotras: Vayamos/No vayamos*… – Let’s go/Let’s not go….
  • Ustedes: Vayan/No vayan… – Go/Don’t go…

*Did you notice this form changes from affirmative vs. negative? Irregular verbs can be tricky sometimes.

4. Decir: di

Our language teachers use this command in Spanish every day to tell students what to say and how to say it.

  • Tú: Di/No digas eso. – Say/Don’t say that. (informal)
  • Usted: Diga/No diga… – Say/Don’t say… (formal)
  • Nosotras: Digamos/No digamos… – Let’s say/Let’s not say….
  • Ustedes: Digan/No digan… – Say/Don’t (you all) say…

5. Hacer: haz

The verb hacer (to do/make) is used a lot as an imperative command in Spanish. We have talked about Spanish phrases to use at work and 25 Spanish vocabulary words for the office already. If you are a manager, be sure to add this one to your vocabulary.

  • Tú: Haz/No hagas esto. – Do/Don’t do this. (informal)
  • Usted: Haga/No haga… – Do/Don’t do… (formal)
  • Nosotras: Hagamos/No hagamos… – Let’s do/Let’s not do….
  • Ustedes: Hagan/No hagan… – Do/Don’t (you all) do…

6. Tener: ten

The Spanish imperative form of tener (to have/take) is useful when you see somebody doing a dangerous activity. If you see a small child climbing the stairs alone, you can say “take care”. 

  • Tú: Ten/No tengas cuidado. – Take/Don’t take care. (informal)
  • Usted: Tenga/No tenga… – Take/Don’t take… (formal)
  • Nosotras: Tengamos/No tengamos… – Let’s take/Let’s not take….
  • Ustedes: Tengan/No tengan… – Take/Don’t (you all) take…

We often tell students to watch TV and movies in Spanish for listening practise. My favourite television series of all time is the gripping ¿Donde Está Elisa? (2009). This crime telenovela (soap opera) is the perfect way to learn Chilean Spanish and study imperatives. The main character Raimundo Dominguez is constantly telling people what to do. All 113 episodes are now available on YouTube. Ten cuidado (be careful) and get ready to binge-watch because this one is super addictive. 

Can you use one of the irregular imperatives above in your next Spanish conversation? 

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