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Italian Imperative Tense


The imperative tense in Italian expresses a command (sit down – siediti, come here – vieni qui, bring me the ticket – prendimi il biglietto, etc…), but it can also express an invitation to do or to have something: have some cake, feel fre to ask, etc).

In English, commands can be interpreted as rude and insensitive, but we can hear often them in informal Italian, but the most important thing is don’t use this informal imperative with strangers, because it could be considered quite rude or primitive.

In English often they use “please” for inviting somebody to do something, so the expression sounds less a pushy request: please put yourself at ease! = prego, mettiti comodo! Or have another cup of tea! = prenditi un’altra tazza di tè, or please come in! = prego, entra!

Therefore with imperative it’s better to use please (prego, per piacere, per favour), so it seems less harsh and polite.

The imperative has only one tense.

In Italian the Imperative Tense only exists for singular and plural 2nd persons. 1st and 3rd persons have no imperative intonation, so the present subjunctive  also behaves as imperative, when the second time is required.

In particular, imperative would rarely be used for the 1st plural person.

Ex: may we do something =  noi possiamo fare qualcosa .

Avere                   singulare                                                               plural

1st person    che(io)abbia           may I have                     che(noi)prendiamo    may we have

2nd person   (tu) abbi                 have!(singular)             (voi)prendete              have!(plural)

3rd person   che(egli/ella)pensi  let(make)him/her think che essi prendano let(make)them have

The negative imperative for tu in all conjugations is formed by placing non before the infinitive. The noi and voi forms are identical to those in the affirmative.

Lavorare                               scrivere

(tu)non lavorare!               Non scrivere!

(noi)non lavoriamo!           non scriviamo!

(voi)non lavorate!              Non scrivete!

When a pronoun is attached to the tu imperative short forms of andare, dare, dire, fare,and stare, the apostrophe disappears and the first consonant of the pronoun is doubled, except when that pronoun is gli.

Fammi un favore! Fammelo!
Do me a favor! Do it for me!

Dille la verità! Digliela!
Tell her the truth! Tell it to her!

When the verb is in the negative imperative, the pronouns may either precede or follow the verb.

Carlo vuole le paste?
Does Carlos want the pastries?

Non gliele dare! (Non dargliele)!
Don’t give them to him!

With the imperative mood in Italian language we use the pronouns (reflexive, direct and indirect), after the verb. They together become one word as in smettila! Or in dimmi!

– Are+pronouns              -ere+pronouns                    -ire+pronouns

Parl-a-mi                          legg-i-lo                               divert-i-ti

Exercise 1: Change these phrases with imperative:

–   tu firmare qui

–         tu aspettare un attimo

–         tu compilare questo modulo

–         tu servire questa cliente

–         voi depositare questo assegno

–         voi procedure alla cassa

–         voi girare a destra

–         voi chiedere al vigile

Answers: firma qui!, aspetta un attimo!, compila questo modulo!, servi questa cliente, depositate questo assegno!, procedete alla cassa, girate a destra, chiedete al vigile.

Exercise 2: Give orders to the people indicated:

1) (Elisa) – portare i fiori all’ospedale.
2) (Avv. Rauti) – spedire due cartoline a noi
3) (Bambini) – mettersi gli stivali.
4) (voi) – dire la verità ai professori.
5) (maestra) – tenere il registro.

Answers: Elisa, porta i fiori all’ospedale, Avv.Rauti, ci spedisca due cartoline, bambini , mettetevi gli stivali, dite la verità ai professori, maestra, tenga il registro.

By Elisa Bressan

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