L’impératif: the imperative in French

What is l’impératif?

L’impératif (the imperative) is used to give orders or advice to one or more people. The imperative only exists in the second person singular (tu), the first person plural (nous) and the second person plural (vous). The imperative is conjugated in the same way as the present tense, but the subject pronouns are omitted.

Learn how to use the imperative in French with Lingolia’s quick and easy examples, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises.

Example

Passager: Arrêtez!

Chauffeur: Montez!

Passager: Conduisez-moi à la gare!

Chauffeur: Mettez votre ceinture, s’il vous plaît!

Passager: Allons-y!

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When to use l’impératif in French

The imperative is a mood that we use to give an order or a suggestion to one or more people.

Examples:
Arrêtez !Stop!
Montez !Get in!
Conduisez-moi à la gare !Drive me to the station!

Sometimes we include ourselves in the order and use the imperative in the first person plural form (nous). This is similar to the English let’s + infinitive.

Example:
Allons-y !Let’s go!

How to conjugate l’impératif in French

2nd person singular (tu)

We conjugate the imperative in the 2nd person singular using the present-tense form of the 1st person singular. We do not include the pronoun.

This means that regular -er verbs end with e, while all other verbs end with s. For irregular present-tense forms, see the list of irregular verbs.

Examples:
parler – Parle !Speak!
finir – Finis !Finish!
vendre – Vends !Sell!

1st person plural (nous)

The imperative for the 1st person plural form nous is the same as the present-tense form. This means that for -er and -re verbs and irregular verbs we add ons, and for ir-verbs that are conjugated like finir we add issons. The pronoun is omitted.

Example:
parler – Parlons !Let’s talk!
finir – Finissons !Let’s finish!
vendre – Vendons !Let’s sell!

2nd person plural (vous)

The imperative for the 2nd person plural form vous is the same as the present-tense form. This means that for -er and -re verbs and irregular verbs we add ez, and for -ir verbs that are conjugated like finir we add issez. The pronoun is omitted.

Example:
parler – Parlez !Speak!
finir – Finissez !Finish!
vendre – Vendez !Sell!

We also use this form in polite requests.

Example:
Attendez, madame.Please wait, madame!
Veuillez vous asseoir.Please take a seat!

Reflexive Verbs

To form a positive imperative with a reflexive verb, we use the conjugated verb followed by a reflexive stress pronoun (toi, vous, nous).

Examples:
Lève-toi!Get up!
Lève-nous!Let’s get up!

In negative imperatives, however, the reflexive pronoun is unstressed and occupies its normal position: after the ne and before the verb.

Example:
Ne te lève pas !Don’t get up!
Ne nous levons pas !Let’s not get up!

Exceptions in the imperative

Some verbs have an irregular imperative form.

Infinitive Imperative
aller va, allons, allezgo, let’s go, go
avoir aie, ayons, ayezhave, let’s have, have
être sois, soyons, soyezbe, let’s be, be
savoir sache, sachons, sachezknow, let’s know, know
vouloir veuille, veuillons, veuillezbe so kind as to...

If the adverbial pronoun y comes after an imperative that ends with a vowel, we add an s to the imperative verb to make pronunciation easier.

Example:
Vas-y !Go!

To note: The imperative for the 2nd person singular (tu) of the verb s’en allerva-t-en !