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The Imperative (Command form) in German (Imperativ)

imperative

Introduction

The imperative is used for expressing an order and it also exists in English, its use being the same in both languages. In German, it is called Befehlsform and the imperative sentence: Aufforderungssatz.

Trink ein Bier mit mir!
Drink a beer with me!

Steh auf, wenn du am Boden bist
Stand up when you are on the ground

Lies den Text vor
Read the text aloud

The imperative is a grammar mood. There are three grammar moods in German:

  • The indicative
  • The subjunctive
  • The imperative

The conjugation of the imperative is very simple. There is no 1st person or 3rd person form of the singular. Let's look at an example for the complete conjugation of the imperative with the verb trinken:

PersonConjugationMeaning
1st person singular---
2nd person singulartrinkdrink
3rd person singular---
1st person pluraltrink-en wirlet's drink
2nd person pluraltrink-tdrink
Polite form (Sie)trink-en Siedrink

Note: The imperative does not exist for modal verbs.

Original forms for the imperative

The original imperative only has 2nd person singular and plural forms, the clause lacking a subject.

Verbal personConjugationTranslation
2nd person singulartrinkdrink
2nd person pluraltrink - tdrink

Conjugation of the second person singular for the imperative

For most verbs, the imperative is constructed with the 2nd person singular of the Indikativpräsens and by taking off the "-st" ending.

InfinitivePresent
2nd person
singular
Imperative
2nd person
singular
Meaning
studierenstudier - ststudier(e)to study
arbeitenarbeite - starbeiteto work
nehmennimm - stnimmto take
empfehlenempfiehl - stempfiehlto recommend

Pay close attention: Although there is no vowel change of "e" to "i" or to "ie" in the stem of the last two examples, the verbs keep complying with the rule that has been shown. In some cases and with some verbs, an "-e" is added in the imperative. For the imperative of studieren, it is not just valid to say studier but also studiere.

In the case of the stem ending with "-s", "-z", "-x" or "-ß"

Due to the union of the "-s" with the last letter of the stem, only the final "-t" is removed:

InfinitivePresent
2nd person
singular
Imperative
2nd person
singular
Meaning
lesenlies - tliesto read
sitzensitz - tsitzto sit

In the case of strong verbs that acquire an Umlaut

Verbs that acquire the "Umlaut" in the second and third person singular lose it in the imperative:

InfinitivePresent
2nd person
singular
Imperative
2nd person
singular
Meaning
fahrenfähr - stfahrto drive

In the case of infinitives ending with "-rn" or "-ln"

Verbs ending with "-rn" or "-ln" add an "-e" in the imperative:

InfinitivePresent
2nd person
singular
Infinitive
2nd person
singular
Meaning
ändernänder - ständereto change
radelnradel - strad(e)leto cycle

In the case of auxiliary verbs

In the imperative, auxiliary verbs don't follow any rule and you have to memorize them. Fortunately, there are only 3.

InfinitivePresent
2nd person
singular
Imperative
2nd person
singular
Meaning
seinbi - stseito be
habenha - sthab(e)to have
werdenwir - stwerdeto become

Conjugating the second person plural of the imperative

The conjugation for the 2nd person plural is very easy because it is the same as that of the present indicative.

InfinitivePresent
2nd person plural
Imperative
2nd person plural
Meaning
studierenstudier - tstudiertto study
arbeitenarbeite - tarbeitetto work
nehmennehm - tnehmtto take
empfehlenempfehl- tempfehltto recommend

Forms added to the imperative

The conjugation of the imperative with forms added on is very simple: You just have to know the infinitive of the verb + to whom the order is given (wir [we] o Sie [you formal]).

PersonConjugationMeaning
1st person pluraltrinken wirlet's drink
Polite form (Sie)trinken Siedrink

The Particles "bitte" and "doch mal"

The imperative can sound very impolite in German. To make a phrase that sounds more polite, one of the following particles is added:

bitte

It means "please"

Komm bitte!
Come please!

doch mal

It means "let's go" or "come on" in the sense of encouraging your conversation partner to carry out an action.

Komm doch mal!
Come on!

Negation with the imperative

To construct a phrase with negation in the imperative, the particle "nicht" is simply added.

Iss nicht so viel
Don't eat so much



4 Comments

#4 [Kadhir]2016-11-27 14:54
May God bless you. It helped me a lot

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