Everything about the French imperative mood (l'impératif)

Updated: Jun 27

How many times a day do you give commands or orders? Several times I assume. Well, the French imperative mood is commonly used in daily conversations. It is the equivalent of Do this, don’t do that, let’s do this, ... Today, I will explain how to use the imperative mood in French with real examples.


Learn French imperative tense construction
French Imperative tense

When to use the French imperative mood?

The Imperative mood is used in French in several contexts: to give commands /orders, to express interdiction, advice, invitation, or to express a wish. It is used in daily conversations and it is very useful to know how to use it.


Here are real examples of sentences in the imperative mood in French.

  • Command: Prenez vos livres ! => Take your books !

  • Advice : Fais  attention à la marche ! => Watch your steps!

  • Order : Sortez de chez moi! => Get out of my house !

  • Interdiction : Ne fumez pas ici! => Do not smoke here !

  • Invitation : Entrez! => Enter !

  • Wish : Fais un bon voyage! => Have a nice trip!


How to easily form the imperative tense in French?

L'impératif is very similar to present tense, except that it is only used for the personal pronouns subjects tu, nous, and vous, and there is no subject.

While formulating a command, we do not use the subject tu, nous or vous.

For the second person of singular (tu), the verbs of the first group ending with ER, and  those of the third group, there is no need to add an "S". The same is applicable to the verb "aller" which is an irregular verb. Below are some examples.


Present Imperative


Tu manges des fruits et légumes Mange des fruits et légumes

Tu vas dans ta chambre Va dans ta chambre

Tu ouvres la porte Ouvre la porte

Nous allons au supermarché Allons au supermarché

Vous prenez le train Prenez le train

How to conjugate imperative in French with irregular verbs?

Some verbs like avoir, être, aller, savoir, or vouloir are irregular and you need to know how to conjugate them by heart to be able to use them correctly.

For example, this how the imperative tense will look like for these verbs :

  • Avoir : aie, ayons ayez

  • Être : sois, soyons, soyez

  • aller : va, allons, allez

  • Savoir : Sache, sachons, sachez

  • Vouloir : veuille, veuillons, veuillez


Imperative and with reflexive verbs in French

With reflexive verbs, imperative mood is built like this : verb + the reflexive pronoun (toi, nous or vous), separated by a hyphen.

Note that in the negative imperative form, we use the regular pronouns te, nous, or vous.

Examples :

  • Present tense : tu te lèves tot. => You get up early

  • Imperative affirmative : lève-toi tot ! => Get up early !

  • Imperative negative: Ne te lève pas tard => Don't get up late!


 

I hope this helps you know better how to make commands or invitations in French. It takes some time to get used to the conjugation without the personal pronouns but it is worth it as Imperative mood is one of the must-know element of French grammar.


For more on imperative tense, you can explore these Practice exercises that I have found interesting.

L'imperatif

Imperatif

Exercice


You might also be interested in learning how to make negative sentences

or Conjugating French regular verbs in present.