Mastering the French Imperative: A Comprehensive Guide

The French imperative, also known as the “imperatif,” is an essential aspect of French grammar that every learner should be familiar with. This mood allows us to give orders, make requests, or offer advice, making it a crucial part of everyday conversation. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the rules and intricacies of the French imperative and provide you with everything you need to confidently use it in your conversations.

Table of Contents

The Basics of French Imperative

The imperative is a grammatical mood used to express commands, instructions, or requests. In French, the imperative exists in three forms:

  1. Tu form: Used when addressing a single person informally.
  2. Nous form: Used when addressing a group, including oneself, in a friendly or informal manner.
  3. Vous form: Used when addressing a single person formally or a group of people.

When using the imperative, it is important to keep in mind the context and the relationship between the speaker and the listener. Choose the appropriate form based on the level of formality and the number of people you are addressing.

Forming the Imperative

Regular Verbs

To form the imperative for regular verbs, follow these simple rules:

  1. -ER verbs: Remove the final -s from the present tense “tu” form. For “nous” and “vous,” use the present tense forms without any changes.
  • Example: parler (to talk)
    • Parle! (Talk! – tu form)
    • Parlons! (Let’s talk! – nous form)
    • Parlez! (Talk! – vous form)
  1. -IR verbs: Use the present tense forms without any changes.
  • Example: finir (to finish)
    • Finis! (Finish! – tu form)
    • Finissons! (Let’s finish! – nous form)
    • Finissez! (Finish! – vous form)
  1. -RE verbs: Remove the final -s from the present tense “tu” form. For “nous” and “vous,” use the present tense forms without any changes.
  • Example: attendre (to wait)
    • Attends! (Wait! – tu form)
    • Attendons! (Let’s wait! – nous form)
    • Attendez! (Wait! – vous form)

Irregular Verbs

Some French verbs have irregular imperative forms. Here are a few common examples:

  1. Être (to be)
  • Sois! (Be! – tu form)
  • Soyons! (Let’s be! – nous form)
  • Soyez! (Be! – vous form)
  1. Avoir (to have)
  • Aie! (Have! – tu form)
  • Ayons! (Let’s have! – nous form)
  • Ayez! (Have! – vous form)
  1. Savoir (to know)
  • Sache! (Know! – tu form)
  • Sachons! (Let’s know! – nous form)
  • Sachez! (Know! – vous form)
  1. Vouloir (to want)
  • Veuille! (Want! – tu form)
  • Veuillons! (Let’s want! – nous form)
  • Veuillez! (Want! – vous form)

Reflexive Verbs

When using reflexive verbs in the imperative, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the reflexive pronoun (e.g., me, te, se, nous, vous).
  2. Form the imperative as you would with a regular verb.
  3. Add the reflexive pronoun back, but in the form of a stressed pronoun (moi, toi, lui, nous, vous, eux) after the verb.
  • Example: se laver (to wash oneself)
    • Lave-toi! (Wash yourself! – tu form)
    • Lavons-nous! (Let’s wash ourselves! – nous form)
    • Lavez-vous! (Wash yourselves! – vous form)

Using Pronouns with the Imperative

When using object pronouns with the imperative, follow these rules:

  1. Attach the pronoun to the end of the verb with a hyphen.
  2. Change “me” and “te” to “moi” and “toi” respectively.
  • Example: Donne-le-moi! (Give it to me!)

Negative Imperatives

To form a negative imperative, simply place ne before the verb and pas after it. When using pronouns, place them between ne and the verb.

  • Example: Ne parle pas! (Don’t talk! – tu form)
  • Example with pronoun: Ne le donne pas! (Don’t give it! – tu form)

Imperative and Infinitive Constructions

In some cases, the imperative is followed by an infinitive. This construction is often used to give general advice or instructions.

  • Example: Mangez équilibré! (Eat a balanced diet!)

Common Expressions and Phrases

Here are some common expressions and phrases using the imperative:

  1. Allez-y! (Go ahead!)
  2. Fais attention! (Be careful! – tu form)
  3. Taisez-vous! (Be quiet! – vous form)
  4. Rappelle-moi! (Call me back! – tu form)
  5. Soyez prudents! (Be careful! – vous form)

Tips for Success

To master the French imperative, follow these tips:

  1. Practice forming imperatives with various regular and irregular verbs.
  2. Pay attention to the context and choose the appropriate form (tu, nous, or vous).
  3. Learn and practice common expressions and phrases using the imperative.


The French imperative is a crucial aspect of the language, allowing you to give commands, make requests, or offer advice. By following this comprehensive guide, you will be well on your way to mastering the imperatif and using it confidently in your conversations. Bonne chance!

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