The Imperative

When someone yells Sai!Leave! or a doctor says Pare de fumarStop smoking , there’s one thing they’re doing in common: using the imperativoimperative mood!
There are 2 types of imperatives in Portuguese: the affirmative and the negative, shown below respectively. In these examples, the speaker is talking to multiple people, i.e. using the vocês (you – plural) form.
Parem de fazer barulho.Stop making noise.
Não parem de correr.Don't stop running.

Regular Verbs in the Imperative in Portuguese

The imperativoimperative can be thought of as the verb conjugation used for giving commands or telling someone to do something (or not to do something). These “commands” could take the form of orders, advice, requests, or pleas. Since the speaker is always talking directly to another person (or group of people), the imperative is only used with the following forms:

Affirmative Commands

To form an affirmative command in the imperative in Portuguese, you start with the verb stem (the infinitive version of the verb minus the -ar, -er, or -ir ending) and add the correct verb ending. The imperative endings for regular verbs are summarized in the chart below:

tu você nós vocês
-ar verbs -a -e -emos -em
-er/-ir verbs -e -a -amos -am

Tip: An easy way to remember affirmative informal commands (tu) is to start with the present tense verb conjugation, and then all you have to do is remove the final -s to form the imperative. (Or, you could just remember that it’s most often the same as the 3rd-person present tense conjugation.) For example, with the verb comer:

Negative Commands

The negative form must include an advérbio de negaçãoadverb of denial at the beginning of the sentence, such as nãono , nuncanever , or jamaisnever ever . Then, the verb form itself is borrowed from the present subjunctive tense. The imperative only has its own exclusive verb conjugations in affirmative sentences.
Nunca deixes a porta aberta.Never leave the door open.
Accordingly, negative commands are conjugated the same way as affirmative commands, except with the informal tu form. Let’s look at the same chart again, but this time with the negative tu endings added.

affirmative tu negative tu você nós vocês
-ar verbs -a -es -e -emos -em
-er/-ir verbs -e -as -a -amos -am

Irregular Verbs in the Imperative in Portuguese

The chart below shows some of the common irregular verbs conjugated in the imperative in Portuguese, i.e. the verbs that don’t completely follow the rules shown in the table above.

Examples:
Estejamos calados.Let's be quiet.
Não vá por aí, senhor.Don't go through there, sir.

Dizer, Fazer, Trazer, and -uzir Verbs

For the verbs dizerto say , fazerto do, to make , trazerto bring , and verbs ending in -uzir: when giving informal (tu) affirmative commands, the imperative is formed by dropping the es from the indicative present tense conjugation. Examples:

Dizer:

Traduzir:

Imperativo Reflexo

You can also form the imperative in Portuguese with pronomes reflexivosreflexive pronouns
These are the 4 clitic pronouns directly* used with the imperative:

  • te (used in place of tu)
  • se (used in place of você/vocês)
  • nos (used in place of nós)
  • vos (used in place of vós – as mentioned before, this is rarely used)

*Other clitic pronouns may also appear, but only to refer to people other than those being directly addressed.
In the affirmative, you simply add the clitic pronoun after the verb.
Acalma-te!Calm yourself down!
Deixa-me em paz!Leave me alone! (a case of a clitic pronoun that does not refer to the listener)
In the negative, the clitic pronoun comes before the verb.
Não se levantem.Don't stand(yourselves) up.
Let’s see an example of how to conjugate the reflexive verb calarto silence, shut up in the imperative in Portuguese:
 

tu você nós vocês
affirmative Cala-te Cale-se Calemo-nos Calem-se
negative Não te cales Não se cale Não nos calemos Não se calem

Imperativo vs. Presente do Conjuntivo

Bonus! Now that you know the imperative verb conjugation, you have a head start on the presente do conjuntivo (subjunctive present), which comes up later in the course and uses mostly the same verb endings.
But for now, let’s practice with the imperative…

Comments

  • There seemed to be two types of imperatives. Formal and informal. they are so confusing? do you know any way to distinguish and memorise both? Muito obrigada!

    • Yes, you have different conjugations for “tu” (informal second-person singular) and “você” (formal second-person singular, which is actually conjugated as a third-person singular). Unfortunately, there really are no shortcuts here. Portuguese verbs are highly conjugated and it takes a lot of repetition and study to memorize all the respective conjugations, especially for irregular verbs. We have a fully dedicated Verbs section to help with this process 🙂 You can also through our Learning Notes, as we have several about verbs and particular tenses.

  • Hi Team,

    In this lesson while describing the reflexive imperatives you list the 4 clitics used but then the first example uses ‘me’ which is not on the list………..why is this?

    Thanks.

    • Hi, Cameron. You’re right, that part with the example “Deixa-me em paz” wasn’t totally clear, but it’s actually correct.

      What we meant to explain was that those 4 clitic pronouns are the ones that refer directly to the person we’re talking to, in line with what was explained at the start about the imperative only being used with second persons (singular and plural) — because a direct command, advice, etc., can only be given, grammatically speaking, to a second person; so, not to ourselves or to a third person.

      However, we can give orders to one person that indirectly affect other people too, so the other clitic pronouns we know may still show up. In Deixa-me em paz”, the order is given to “you”, but it affects “me” as the target of your actions. I’ve just amended that section of the Learning Note to make this clearer 🙂

  • Maybe it’s useful to point out that Modo Imperativo for “tu” (2nd person singular informal) is ALWAYS the same as 3rd person singular in “present simple” form. (?)
    If we remember it this way, we don’t have to care if the verb stem actually finishes with “ar” or “er”/”ir”. It will be always same as 3rd person singular.
    All the best!!!
    (I practice with your platform every day and I think it’s certainly the best website available to practice european portuguese.
    Thank you so much for your work!!)
    Sara

    • Thanks, Sara! I’ll just add that it’s not always, but *almost* always 🙂 One notable exception, for example, is the verb ser (to be).

  • Am I missing something? Shouldn’t the imperative “eat the soup” be “Coma a sopa?” (above it says Come a sopa, which looks like present indicative tense)

    • “Coma a sopa” would be the singular, formal imperative form (você) and “Come a sopa” is the singular, informal imperative form (tu). So both are correct, it’s just a matter of who you’re speaking to. Check out the chart where it says “Affirmative Commands”. The endings are basically reversed for -ar and -er/-ir verbs. 🙂

  • As an older English person, I went to school during a ‘progressive ‘ era when it wasn’t considered necessary to teach formal grammar, so I really struggle with this type of lesson. I can’t even tell my indicative from my subjunctive most of the time. My head is spinning, so I’m hoping that if I ignore it, I’ll never use it. Seriously though, I’m just going to get on with it and hope that some of it will eventually fall into place 😉

    • Olá! I can imagine how overwhelming all of these grammar conceps might seem. Even for people who are well versed in grammar, getting into it in a completely new language can be daunting.

      Here at Practice Portuguese, we sometimes reflect on how everything is so much simpler when we first learn a language as children: we don’t need to thoroughly understand grammar to make sense of what we intuitively pick up just from listening to people. To some extent, we like to encourage people to go back to that mindset and be open to the language without always feeling the need to dissect it. But we are also mindful of the fact that not only the adult brain works differently, but also that these grammar crutches are important at certain times to properly frame or unlock some concepts. On top of that, we all have different learning styles and some people really benefit from a more academic approach!

      I guess it’s ultimately about finding what works for us, and developing strategies to deal with or somehow circumvent the rest 😉

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