When someone yells Sai! Leave! or a doctor says Pare de fumar Stop smoking, there’s one thing they’re doing in common: using the imperative mood, or imperativo in Portuguese.
There are 2 types of imperatives, the affirmative and the negative, shown below respectively.
Parem de fazer barulho. Stop making noise.
Não parem de correr. Don't stop running.
Regular Verbs in the Imperative
The imperativo can be thought of as the verb tense 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:
- tu (you, informal)
- você (you, formal)
- vocês (you, plural)
- nós (when you’re including yourself in the plea/order, e.g. “Let’s…”)
- vós (a very rarely used formal pronoun, typically only for ceremonial contexts — we won’t worry about this one)
To form an affirmative command in the imperative, 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 endings for regular verbs are summarized in the chart below:
An easy way to remember affirmative informal commands (tu) is to start with the present tense verb conjugation and then remove the final -s to form the imperative. For example, with the verb comer:
The negative form must include an adverb of denial (advérbios de negação) at the beginning of the sentence, such as não no, nunca never or jamais never ~ ever.
Nunca deixes a porta aberta. Never leave the door open.
Negative commands are conjugated the same way as affirmative commands, except with the informal tu. Let’s look at the same chart again, but this time the negative tu forms are shown in parentheses.
|-ar verbs||-a (-es)||-e||-emos||-em|
|-er/-ir verbs||-e (-as)||-a||-amos||-am|
Irregular Verbs in the Imperative
The verbs below are some of the irregular ones, as they don’t completely follow the rules shown in the table above. Again, you’ll see the negative tu forms in parentheses.
|ser (to be)||sê (não sejas)||seja||sejamos||sejam|
|estar (to be)||está (não estejas)||esteja||estejamos||estejam|
|ir (to go)||vai (não vás)||vá||vamos||vão|
|dar (to give)||dá (não dês)||dê||demos||dêem|
|dizer (to say)||diz (não digas)||diga||digamos||digam|
Estejamos calados. Let's be quiet.
Não vá por aí, senhor. Don't go through there, sir.
For the verbs dizer (to say), fazer (to do), trazer (to bring), and verbs ending in -uzir : with informal (tu) affirmative commands, the imperative is formed by dropping the -es from the present tense conjugation. For example:
- dizer – Tu dizes (present) – Diz (imperative)
- traduzir – Tu traduzes (present) – Traduz (imperative)
You can also form the imperative with reflexive pronouns (pronomes reflexivos).
Deixa-me em paz! Leave me alone!
Não se levantem. Don't stand up.
In the affirmative, you simply add the clitic pronoun after the verb.
In the negative, the clitic pronoun comes before the verb.
There are 4 of these clitic pronouns used with the imperative: te (tu), se (você/vocês) and nos (nós). (There’s also vos, which takes the place of vós, which, as mentioned before, is rarely used.)
Let’s see an example with the verb calar (to shut up):
|negative||não te cales||não se cale||não nos calemos||não se calem|