Lesson 9 - Imperatives

An imperative is a form of the verb used when giving orders or instructing people to do things. In English, the imperative works by using the infinitive form of the verb, for example: Come here!, Speak loudly!.

In German the imperative is a little more complicated though; as there exists three different imperative forms, depending on the number of persons being addressed, and whether addressed formally or informally.

'du' Form

This form is used when addressing a person with whom you're quite familiar.
Also in this form, the 'du' pronoun is dropped from the sentance, and only the imperative form of the verb appears.

Regular Verbs

For regular verbs, the imperative is formed by using the stem of the verb without an ending.

Verb Imperative Example
trinken trink Trink weniger!
kommen komm Komm jetzt!
bleiben bleib Bleib hier!

Irregular Verbs

Irregular verbs retain their irregularities in their imperative form as well. Verbs with a stem ending with '-d', '-t', or 'consonant + m/n', have an '-e' added to their stem.
While verbs haveing a stem vowel change have the same stem vowel change in their imperative form, except for verbs having a vowel change from 'a' to 'ä', these don't change.

Verb Imperative Example
Stem ending with '-d', '-t', 'consonant + m/n'
warten warte Warte bis Morgen!
öffnen öffne Öffne die Tür!
atmen atme Atme schneller!
Stem with a vowel change
helfen hilf Hilf mir!
lesen lies Lies das Buch!
sprechen sprich Sprich leise!
Stem with 'a' to 'ä' vowel change
tragen trag Trag deine Uniform!
fahren fahr Fahr links!

haben & sein

Both verbs behave exactly like regular verbs, just use the stem of the verb.

Verb Imperative Example
haben hab Hab Geduld!
sein sei Sei ruhig!

Separable Verbs

The prefix of these verbs splits off, and is placed at the end of its clause.

Verb Imperative Example
zumachen mach zu Mach die Tür zu!
aufhören hör auf Hör aber endlich auf!

'ihr' Form

The informal plural is used when addressing at least two people whom you are familiar with.
This form is very similar to the 'du' imperative form

The 'ihr' pronoun is dropped from the sentance, only the imperative verb is left.
For regular verbs, the imperative is formed by using the stem of the verb and adding a '-t' ending to it.
Irregular verbs which take an '-e' ending in the 'du' form, take an '-et' ending in the 'ihr' form.
Separable verbs split off their prefix.

Verb Imperative Example
Regular verbs
kommen kommt Kommt, bitte!
holen holt Holt es mir!
Irregular verbs
arbeiten arbeitet Arbeitet nicht so viel!
antworten antwortet Antwortet auf die Frage!
Separable verbs
ausziehen zieht aus Zieht den Pullover aus!
aufmachen macht auf Macht das Gepäck auf!

'Sie' Form

The 'Sie' form is used when addressing one person or more in a formal manner.

Unlike the 'du' & 'ihr' pronouns, the 'Sie' pronoun isn't dropped from the sentance when forming imperatives.
The imperative of regular & irregular verbs is simple formed by using the present-tense 'Sie' form of the verb.
Separable verbs split off their prefix.

Verb Imperative Example
Regular & irregular verbs
geben geben Geben Sie mir das Buch, bitte.
fragen fragen Fragen Sie den Mann da.
Separable verbs
anfangen fangen an Fangen Sie bitte an.
umsteigen steigen um Steigen Sie hier um.

Verb in First Position

All imperative forms in German have one feature in common: the verb is placed at the start of the sentance. This structure is very similar to English.

Frequent Use

The imperative is quite frequently used in the German language; as it's not considered impolite or rude to do so. Thus, be prepared to use them alot when using the language!