Mastering the German Imperative: A Comprehensive Guide

The German imperative is an essential aspect of German grammar that allows speakers to give commands, make requests, and provide directions. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve deep into the intricacies of the German imperative, focusing on its formation, conjugation, and usage in both formal and informal settings. By the end of this article, you will have a strong grasp of this vital grammatical concept and be well on your way to mastering German communication.

What is the German Imperative?

The German imperative, also known as the command form, is a verb form used to express commands, instructions, or requests. It is an integral part of everyday German communication, and understanding its proper usage is crucial for effective interaction with native speakers.

Types of Imperative in German

There are three types of German imperatives, each serving a different function and context:

  1. Informal singular imperative: Used when addressing one person informally, typically a friend, family member, or someone you know well.
  2. Informal plural imperative: Used when addressing more than one person informally, such as a group of friends or family members.
  3. Formal imperative: Used when addressing one or more persons in a formal context, such as a business setting or a person you should show respect to.

Formation and Conjugation of the German Imperative

Now that we understand the types of imperatives, let’s dive into the formation and conjugation rules for each type.

Informal Singular Imperative

To form the informal singular imperative, remove the “-en” ending from the infinitive verb and, for most verbs, add “-e” to the stem:

  • gehen (to go) -> geh(e)
  • spielen (to play) -> spiel(e)

For some strong verbs with a stem-vowel change, the “-e” ending is optional:

  • nehmen (to take) -> nimm / nimm(e)
  • geben (to give) -> gib / gib(e)

Informal Plural Imperative

To form the informal plural imperative, remove the “-en” ending from the infinitive verb and add “-t” to the stem. Then, add the pronoun “ihr” (you all) at the beginning:

  • gehen (to go) -> ihr geht
  • spielen (to play) -> ihr spielt

Formal Imperative

To form the formal imperative, start with the verb’s present tense conjugation for “Sie” (you, formal). Then, place “Sie” at the end of the sentence:

  • gehen (to go) -> Gehen Sie
  • spielen (to play) -> Spielen Sie

Usage of the German Imperative

Here are some examples of how to use the German imperative in various contexts:

Informal Singular

  • Geh(e) bitte zum Supermarkt. (Please go to the supermarket.)
  • Ruf(e) mich später an. (Call me later.)

Informal Plural

  • Ihr geht jetzt ins Bett. (You all go to bed now.)
  • Ihr kommt sofort her. (You all come here immediately.)


  • Entschuldigen Sie, könnten Sie mir helfen? (Excuse me, could you help me?)
  • Bitte nehmen Sie Platz. (Please take a seat.)

Exceptions and Irregularities

As with any grammatical concept, there are exceptions and irregularities to be aware of when using the German imperative:

  1. Irregular verbs: Some verbs, such as sein (to be) and wissen (to know), have irregular imperative forms:
  • sein: Sei (informal singular), Seid (informal plural), Seien Sie (formal)
  • wissen: Wisse (informal singular), Wisset (informal plural), Wissen Sie (formal)
  1. Modal verbs: Modal verbs like können (can), müssen (must), and wollen (want) follow the same formation rules as regular verbs but often have a stem-vowel change:
  • können: Kannst du…? (Can you…?)
  • müssen: Musst du…? (Do you have to…?)
  • wollen: Willst du…? (Do you want to…?)


The German imperative is a crucial aspect of the language that allows speakers to express commands, requests, and instructions. By understanding the formation, conjugation, and usage of the three types of imperatives, you will be well on your way to mastering German communication. Practice using the imperative in various contexts to build your confidence and improve your fluency in the German language.

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