LearningPortuguese

Imperative

As already mentioned in the section on moods, the imperative mood and its tense refer to commands, instructions, or requests for action (there is only one tense in the imperative mood, so the term ‘imperative tense’ is rarely used – it is usually just referred to as the ‘imperative mood’).

The imperative forms of verbs cannot be conjugated in the first person singular, because you can't really request or command yourself to do something. It is also quite rare for the imperative to be used in the first person plural, but it does happen with limited number of verbs (eg. ‘vamos’ = ‘let's go’; ‘vejamos’ = ‘let's see’) – technically, this is really the present subjunctive form, but it is used imperatively. Usually, to say ‘let's do something or other’, you use ‘vamos’ + the infinitive of the required verb. So ‘let's eat’ would be ‘vamos comer’.

There is no real need for a true imperative form with the third person, since you can't really command someone who is not party to the conversation, but due to Portuguese using the third person as a polite way of addressing someone, the need for a third person conjugation is introduced. As with the second person plural, Portuguese borrows from the present subjunctive for this.

Technically then, the imperative only relates to the second person singular and plural, and even then, only for affirmative actions, so some reference works will only give you 2 words for the imperative. I will give you the full conjugations though (borrowing from the present subjunctive for the other forms), as it is helpful to think of these additional forms as being imperative.

The rules for creating imperative forms are a bit topsy-turvy. It's probably 50/50 whether it takes more time to learn the rules or just to memorise the endings as with any other conjugation. It certainly won’t do any harm to try studying the rules though, and it might help you to remember the endings, so here goes…

For first conjugation verbs, use the present indicative tense, but swap the ‘a’ for an ‘e’ in the ending. For second and third conjugation verbs, you also use the present indicative, but swap the ‘e’ or ‘i’ for an ‘a’ in the ending. The exception to this is the second person – where you don’t exchange the vowels, but you do knock of the last ‘s’.

So…

trabalhar = infinitive (to work)

trabalh = stem (work)

trabalhas = second person singular present indicative (you work)

trabalha = second person singular imperative (work!)

trabalham = third person plural present indicative (they work)

trabalhem = third person plural imperative ([all of you] work!)

 

escrever = infinitive (to write)

escrev = stem (write)

escrevemos = first person plural present indicative (we write)

escrevamos = first person plural imperative (let's write!) – note this would be a very formal way of saying this. More common would be ‘vamos escrever’.

escreve = third person singular present indicative (he writes)

escreva = third person singular imperative (write!)

 

assistir = infinitive (to attend)

assist = stem (attend)

assiste = third person singular (she attends)

assista = third person singular imperative (attend!)

For most irregular verbs, the imperative is constructed by taking the first person singular from the present indicative (which ends with the letter ‘o’), dropping the ‘o’, and appending ‘e/emos/em’ or ‘a/amos/am’ depending on which conjugation is being dealt with (although not all irregulars follow this pattern, the majority do).

So, in keeping with the tables supplied for the other tenses, here are the full conjugations for the imperative:

Imperative of the first conjugation regular verb: trabalhar (to work)

 

trabalhemos

trabalha

trabalhai

trabalhe

trabalhem

Imperative of the first conjugation regular verb: pensar (to think)

 

pensemos

pensa

pensai

pense

pensem

Imperative of the second conjugation regular verb: comer (to eat)

 

comamos

come

comei

coma

comam

Imperative of the second conjugation regular verb: escrever (to write)

 

escrevamos

escreve

escrevei

escreva

escrevam

Imperative of the third conjugation regular verb: garantir (to guarantee)

 

garantamos

garante

garanti

garanta

garantam

Imperative of the third conjugation regular verb: assistir (to attend)

 

assistamos

assiste

assisti

assista

assistam

Irregular imperatives:

Imperative of the irregular first conjugation verb: estar (to be)

 

estejamos

está

estai

esteja

estejam

Imperative of the irregular second conjugation verb: ser (to be)

 

sejamos

sede

seja

sejam

Imperative of the irregular third conjugation verb: ir (to go)

 

vamos

vai

ide

vão

As noted above, the imperative is only used for affirmative actions – e.g. ‘fica aqui’ (stay here). For negative commands, you have to use the present subjunctive (although this rule is not always followed by native speakers, especially in Brazil) - eg. ‘nao fiques aqui’ (don't stay here).

Buy the Book!

Available in paperback or as an eBook

cover4 tiny

  • Entire pronunciation and grammar guide of this website included
  • Expanded and updated
  • Extra content on subjects not covered on the site
  • Over 500 exercises with translations and solutions
  • Verb tables for regular and the most common irregular verbs
  • Extra reference and vocabulary

More Information