The Imperative

What is the Imperative?

The imperative is used for demands and commands.

Since it only works when you are directly talking to someone and saying what they should or must do, it only exists in the "you" forms: "du," "ihr," and the formal "Sie."

Examples:

  • Geh jetzt ins Bett!“   (du)
  • Geht bitte einkaufen!“   (ihr)
  • Gehen Sie nach Hause!“   (Sie)

Construction of the Imperative

Formal Form ("Sie"):

In the formal form, the imperative is constructed with infinitive + Sie.

  • Gehen Sie nach Hause!"

Plural ("ihr"):

In the plural form, we use the conjugated present tense of the verb (2nd person plural) without the pronoun.

  • Geht (ihr) nach Hause!"

Singular ("du"):

In the singular form, we use the conjugated form (2nd person singular) without the ending and leave out the pronoun.

  • Geh(st) (du) nach Hause!"

Irregularities in Singular:

For strong verbs, the vowel change  from "e" to "i/ie" is also done in the imperative form. The vowel change from "a" to "ä" is not.

  • Hilf deinem Bruder!“   („du hilfst“)
  • Fahr langsamer!“   („du fährst“)

To sound more polite or speak more formally, we can add an "e" to the end of the verb.

  • Geh(e) nach Hause.“

If the verb stem ends in "-d" / "-t" or "-m" / "-n," we MUST add an "e" to the end.

  • Warte noch 5 Minuten!“

Exceptions:

There are almost no irregular verbs in the imperative form. These are the only exceptions:

Word Order

The verb always goes in position 1. 

There is only a subject in the formal form ("Sie").

Imperative of Separable Verbs

Separable verbs are also separated in the imperative form. The prefix goes to the end of the sentence.

  • Kommen Sie bitte mit!“   – mitkommen
  • Räumt euer Zimmer auf!“  – aufräumen
  • Hol deine Mutter ab!“   – abholen
Merke dir

Be Careful!

When spoken quickly and loudly, the imperative is always impolite and unfriendly!

The words "bitte" or "bitte mal" make the sentence more polite and friendlier.

  • Geh bitte mal in den Supermarkt.“
  • Hol mich bitte am Bahnhof ab.“

If you aren’t really mad at somebody, you always should use "bitte" together with the imperative form. Without "bitte" people will definitely perceive it as rude and unfriendly.

To express yourself even more politely, use the subjunctive 2:

  • Würdest du bitte mal in den Supermarkt gehen?“
  • Würdest du mich bitte am Bahnhof abholen?“

Related Topics

Constructing the imperative is similar to the present tense: rules for separable verbs, irregular verbs, and other things you have to watch out for.

To be more polite, use the subjunctive 2.

You can also tell someone to do something indirectly by using "sollen."

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