The French imperative tense is one of the most commonly used in daily conversations. It is used for giving commands, orders, advice, or even invitations. In this lesson, I will explain the different rules for imperative mood conjugation, accompanied by examples of sentences.
What is the French imperative tense and how do you conjugate it?
The Imperative tense or mood is used in French in several contexts: to give commands /orders, to express interdiction, advice, invitation, or to express a wish. It is the same as when you use verbs in English without subject to express orders.
The examples of sentences below give you a clear idea about the ways you can make use of the French imperative.
Command: Va au lit! => Go to bed!
Advice : Fais attention à la marche ! => Watch out for 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 form the imperative tense in French?
L'impératif is very similar to the present tense. The imperative is formed with the present tense form of the verb, with the specific personal pronouns subjects tu, nous, and vous, except that there is no subject.
Examples of sentences in the imperative mood
Mange ton repas => eat your food
Allons au supermarché => Let's go to the supermarket
Prenez le train => Take the train.
As you can see, the subjects tu, nous, and vous are omitted while formulating sentences in the imperative.
In the present tense, verbs conjugated with the personal pronoun "tu" takes an "S". (eg. Tu parles anglais). However, for the imperative conjugation, there is no need to add an "S" for verbs of the first group ending with ER, as well as the irregular verb aller. The same goes for verbs of the third group like ouvrir and offrir that are conjugated like the ER Verbs with an "es" ending.
Verbs of the 2nd group ending with IR like finir, or from the third group ending with RE like attendre, don't drop the "S".
Here are examples of sentences with verbs that drop the "s" when they are conjugated in the imperative tense in French.
Example 1: Manger (ER verb)
Present : Tu manges des fruits et légumes => eat fruits and vegetables
Imperative: Mange des fruits et légumes => eat fruits and vegetables
Example 2: Aller (irregular verb)
Present: Tu vas dans ta chambre => You go to your bedroom
Imperative: Va dans ta chambre => Go to your bedroom
Example 3: Ouvrir (irregular verb)
Present : Tu ouvres la porte => You open the door
Imperative: Ouvre la porte => Open the door.
NOTE: when these verbs are used with the pronouns en and y, the "S" is kept to facilitate the pronunciation since we have two vowels next to each other.
Vas-y => go ahead / go for it
Manges-en => eat some
How do you conjugate irregular verbs in the imperative tense in French?
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.