The imperative tense is the “command” tense: it’s how you tell or request that someone do something. In English, there is no special conjugation for it, but the idea is exactly the same.
For imperative tense commands, the vous conjugation of the present verb form is generally used. For example:
“Come with me.”
The equivalents in French would be:
Allez chez vous.
Venez avec moi.
If the person or people receiving the command is informal and singular (meaning you would use the tu conjugation instead), you use the tu form of the verb, though if it’s a regular –er verb, you drop the final –s.
Va chez toi.
Viens avec moi. (Venir is not an -er verb, so the final s stays.)
Irregular tu and vous imperative verb forms
|Verb||Tu Form||Vous Form|
|être||tu sois||vous soyez|
|avoir||tu aie||vous ayez|
|savoir||tu sache||vous sachez|
|vouloir||tu veuille||vous veuillez|
When you want to convey a suggestion, you would use the nous form of the verb. This is the equivalent of saying “Let’s” + verb in English. For example:
“Let’s go home.”
Allons chez nous.
Irregular nous imperative verb forms
Imperative with object pronouns
When an imperative sentence in French has direct or indirect object pronouns like le/la/les or y/en, the object pronouns actually go after the verb, which is how we would say the sentence in English but is an unusual construction for French.
Review the chart below for the special imperative sentence order of object pronouns.
Notice in the French imperative chart above that me and te are not present, and are replaced with moi and toi. However, before y or en, the moi or toi is shortened to m’ or t’ instead.
Similarly, if the the imperative sentence is using the tu form of the verb, and the next word is y or en (because they start with vowels), you don’t drop the final s. That way, there is liason between the verb and the object pronoun.
Nages-y, not Nage-y
The verb and object pronouns are also connected with hyphens.
Okay, got all that? Here are some example sentences showing this construction.
“Bring them to me” would become: Amener-les-moi.
“Put it there” would become: Mettez-l’y.
Negative imperative phrases
Commands or suggestions not to do something are surrounded by ne…pas (or other negative construction), just like most verb forms.
N’allez pas chez vous.
Ne viens pas avec moi.
If you have direct or indirect object pronouns in the sentence, the order goes back to the “default” order and you don’t use the special hyphen or the unusual “verb first, object pronouns second” order shown above. The basic form is “Ne + object pronoun(s) + imperative verb form + pas.”
“Do not do that.” would be: Ne le faites pas.
“Do not show him it.” would be: Ne le lui montrez pas.
The “normal” object pronoun order is shown for reference below.