The Imperative

When someone yells Sai! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Leave! or a doctor says Pare de fumar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Stop smoking, there’s one thing they’re doing in common: using the imperativo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio imperative mood!
There are 2 types of imperatives, 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. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Stop making noise.
Não parem de correr. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Don't stop running.

Regular Verbs in the Imperative in Portuguese

The imperativo paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio imperative 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:

  • tu paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you (informal)
  • você paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you (sing.,formal)
  • nós paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio we (When you’re including yourself in the command, e.g. “Let’s…”)
  • vocês paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio you (plural)
  • vós paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio (This is a very rarely used formal pronoun, typically only for ceremonial contexts — we won’t worry about this one!)

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:

  • Present tense (tu): Tu comes a sopa. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You eat the soup.
  • Imperative (tu): Come a sopa. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Eat the soup.

Negative Commands

The negative form must include an advérbio de negação paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio adverb of denial at the beginning of the sentence, such as não paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio no, nunca paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio never, or jamais paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio never 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. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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.

affirmative tu negative tu você nós vocês
ser paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be (permanent) paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não sejas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Seja paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sejamos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sejam paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
estar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be (temporary) Está paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não estejas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Esteja paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Estejamos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Estejam paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
ir paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to go Vai paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não vás paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Vamos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Vão paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
dar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to give paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não dês paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Demos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Dêem paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
dizer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to say, to tell Diz paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não digas paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Diga paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Digamos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Digam paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio

Examples:
Estejamos calados. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Let's be quiet.
Não vá por aí, senhor. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Don't go through there, sir.

Dizer, Fazer, Trazer, and -uzir Verbs

For the verbs dizer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to say, fazer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to do, to make, trazer paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to 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:

  • Present tense: Tu dizes paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You say
  • Imperative: Diz paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Say (imperative)

Traduzir:

  • Present tense: Tu traduzes paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio You translate
  • Imperative: Traduz paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Translate (imperative)

Imperativo Reflexo

You can also form the imperative in Portuguese with pronomes reflexivos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio reflexive 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! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Calm yourself down!
Deixa-me em paz! paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Don't stand(yourselves) up.
Let’s see an example of how to conjugate the reflexive verb calar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to silence, shut up in the imperative in Portuguese:

tu você nós vocês
affirmative Cala-te paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Cale-se paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Calemo-nos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Calem-se paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
negative Não te cales paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não se cale paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não nos calemos paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Não se calem paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio
  • 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. 🙂

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