French Imperative Mood (l’impératif): All Rules & Examples Explained!

French imperative mood

The imperative mood is a grammatical feature that allows us to express orders, instructions, or suggestions more effectively. It’s a key element of communication in many languages, including French, where its formation and usage can vary. Let’s explore this further with examples for -er, -ir, and -re verbs, along with regular and irregular forms, as well as the imperative of pronominal verbs.

Formation Of The Imperative: French Grammar Imperative Mood

In French, forming the imperative involves a simple rule: take the present tense forms of the verbs in the tu, nous, and vous forms. However, with -er verbs, remember to drop the ‘-s’ in the tu form. Here are examples with an -er verb (parler, ‘to speak’), an -ir verb (finir, ‘to finish’), and an -re verb (vendre, ‘to sell’).

Verb GroupVerbImperative Form (tu)Imperative Form (nous)Imperative Form (vous)
-erparlerparle (not parles)parlonsparlez

Usage Of The Imperative: Affirmative And Negative Examples

The imperative can be used in both affirmative and negative forms. Here are some examples:

Affirmative examples:

  • Parle à ton professeur. (Speak to your professor.)
  • Finissons le travail. (Let’s finish the work.)
  • Vendons la voiture. (Let’s sell the car.)
  • Parlez plus fort! (Speak louder!)
  • Finissez vos devoirs. (Finish your home work.)

Negative examples:

  • Ne parle pas pendant le film. (Don’t speak during the movie.)
  • Ne finissons pas tard. (Let’s not finish late.)
  • Ne vendez pas votre maison. (Don’t sell your house.)
  • Ne parlons pas de cela. (Let’s not talk about this.)
  • Ne finis pas ton dessert. (Don’t finish your dessert.)

Irregular Imperative Forms: French Imperative Exercises

While most verbs follow the rules we’ve discussed, there are some with irregular imperative forms. Here are the most common ones:

VerbImperative Form (tu)Imperative Form (nous)Imperative Form (vous)

Examples with irregular verbs:

  • Sois gentil. (Be nice.)
  • Ayons le courage de dire la vérité. (Let’s have the courage to tell the truth.)
  • Sachez que vous êtes le bienvenu. (Know that you are welcome.)
  • Veuillez patienter. (Please wait.)
  • N’ayez pas peur. (Don’t beafraid.)

Suggestion: 5 Short Stories Written In French To Kick-Start Your Language Skills.

The Imperative Of Pronominal Verbs – Imperative Sentences In French

Pronominal verbs, also known as reflexive verbs, are verbs that are used with a reflexive pronoun. In the imperative, the reflexive pronoun comes after the verb and is connected to it by a hyphen. Here’s a table showing the imperative forms for three pronominal verbs: se lever (to get up), se laver (to wash oneself), and “se coucher” (to go to bed):

VerbImperative Form (tu)Imperative Form (nous)Imperative Form (vous)
se leverlève-toilevons-nouslevez-vous
se laverlave-toilavons-nouslavez-vous
se couchercouche-toicouchons-nouscouchez-vous

Positive examples with pronominal verbs:

  • Lève-toi tôt. (Get up early.)
  • Lavons-nous les mains. (Let’s wash our hands.)
  • Couchez-vous à une heure raisonnable. (Go to bed at a reasonable hour.)
  • Regarde-toi dans le miroir. (Look at yourself in the mirror.)
  • Préparons-nous pour la fête. (Let’s get ready for the party.)

Negative examples with pronominal verbs:

  • Ne te lève pas tard. (Don’t get up late.)
  • Ne nous lavons pas sans savon. (Let’s not wash without soap.)
  • Ne vous couchez pas trop tard. (Don’t go to bed too late.)
  • Ne te regarde pas constamment dans le miroir. (Don’t constantly look at yourself in the mirror.)
  • Ne nous préparons pas à la dernière minute. (Let’s not get ready at the last minute.)

Understanding the use of the imperative mood with pronominal verbs allows for a more nuanced expression of commands or requests in French. It may seem challenging initially, but with practice and consistent usage, it will become more intuitive. Happy learning!

Here’s a dialogue that uses the imperative mood in a few different contexts. This conversation takes place between two friends, Marie and Jean, who are planning a trip together.

Marie: Jean, réserve les billets de train, s’il te plaît. (Jean, book the train tickets, please.)

Jean: D’accord, je vais  le fairetout de suite. Et toi, trouve un hôtel. (Okay, I will do it right away. And you, find a hotel.)

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Marie: Oui, je vais chercher un bon hôtel. N’oublie pas de confirmer les dates avant de réserver. (Yes, I will look for a good hotel. Don’t forget to confirm the dates before booking.)

Jean: Ne t’inquiète pas, je vérifierai deux fois. (Don’t worry, I will double-check.)

Marie: Super, et envoyons un email à Paul pour lui dire nos plans. (Great, and let’s send an email to Paul to tell him about our plans.)

Jean: Bonne idée. Mais d’abord, finissons de planifier. (Good idea. But first, let’s finish planning.)

Marie: Oui, tu as raison. Concentrons-nous sur cela. (Yes, you’re right. Let’s focus on that.)

The Usage Of The Imperative In French Culture

In French culture, the use of the imperative is more nuanced than simply delivering commands or instructions. The form you choose depends on your relationship with the person you’re addressing. For instance, the ‘vous’ form is often used when speaking to someone you don’t know well, out of respect, or when addressing a group of people. The ‘tu’ form, however, is more informal and typically used with close friends, family members, or peers.

Also Read: Weather In French: Your Guide To Learn Common Vocabulary & Phrases.

Practice Exercises – French Imperative Mood

It’s time to put your knowledge to the test with a few exercises:

Translate the following sentences into French:

  • Don’t eat too much.
  • Let’s go to the park.
  • Finish your homework.

Form the imperative for the following verbs and pronouns:

  • se reposer (to rest): tu, nous, vous
  • manger (to eat): tu, nous, vous
  • finir (to finish): tu, nous, vous

Here are the correct answers to the exercises:

  • Ne mange pas trop.
  • Allons au parc.
  • Finistes devoirs.

Form the imperative for the following verbs and pronouns:

  • se reposer (to rest): Repose-toi, Reposons-nous, Reposez-vous.
  • manger (to eat): Mange, Mangeons, Mangez.
  • finir (to finish): Finis, Finissons, Finissez.

Imperative With Object Pronouns

When using the imperative with direct and indirect object pronouns in French, the pronoun is placed after the verb, unlike in declarative sentences. For example:

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  • Donne-le-moi. (Give it to me.)
  • Ne le lui donne pas. (Don’t give it to him/her.)

Remember, when using the imperative negatively, the pronouns precede the verb.

Common Phrases In The Imperative

Here are some commonly used French phrases that utilize the imperative:

  • Écoutez bien ! (Listen carefully!)
  • Regarde ça ! (Look at this!)
  • Ne touche à rien ! (Don’t touch anything!)
  • Allons-y ! (Let’s go!)
  • Fais attention ! (Be careful!)

Comparisons To Other Moods

Contrasting the imperative with other moods can help highlight its unique role. For instance, while the indicative mood simply states facts or asks questions (e.g., “Tu manges.” – “You are eating.”), the imperative gives orders (e.g., “Mange!” – “Eat!”). The subjunctive mood, on the other hand, expresses doubt, possibility, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred (e.g., “Il faut que tumanges.” – “It’s necessary that you eat.”). The imperative, therefore, plays a crucial role in expressing direct commands or requests.

Similar Post: Mastering French ‘IR’ Verbs: A Guide To Conjugation And Usage.

Remember, language learning is a journey. Understanding the nuances of the imperative mood in French may seem challenging at first, but with consistent practice, you’ll master it in no time.

Top FAQs About French Imperative Exercises

What is the imperative mood in French?

The imperative mood in French is used to give commands, make requests, or offer advice. It’s direct and omits the subject pronoun.

How is the imperative formed in French?
The imperative is generally formed using the present tense ‘tu’, ‘nous’, and ‘vous’ forms of verbs. For -er verbs, the ‘s’ of the ‘tu’ form is dropped.

When should I use the imperative in French?

The imperative is used when you want to tell someone to do something, such as giving an order, making a suggestion, or offering advice.

What is the negative form of the imperative?

The negative form of the imperative is created by placing ‘ne’ before the verb and ‘pas’ after it. For example, “Ne mange pas” (Don’t eat).

Are there irregular imperatives in French?

Yes, some verbs have irregular imperative forms, such as ‘être’, ‘avoir’, ‘savoir’, and ‘vouloir’.

How are pronominal verbs used in the imperative?

Pronominal verbs, or reflexive verbs, are used with a reflexive pronoun. In the imperative, the reflexive pronoun comes after the verb and is connected to it by a hyphen.

What is the difference between the imperative and the indicative moods?

The indicative mood simply states facts or asks questions, while the imperative gives orders or instructions.

How does the imperative mood work with direct and indirect object pronouns?

In the imperative, the pronouns are placed after the verb in affirmative sentences and before the verb in negative sentences.

What are some common phrases in French that use the imperative mood?

Some common phrases include: “Écoutez bien!” (Listen carefully!), “Regarde ça!” (Look at this!), and “Ne touche à rien!” (Don’t touch anything!).

Does the imperative mood exist in other languages?

Yes, the imperative mood exists in many languages, including English. For example, “Stop!”, “Listen!”, and “Don’t go!” are all imperatives in English.


The imperative mood in French is a versatile tool for expressing commands, instructions, or suggestions. Its formation, which varies depending on verb endings and types, offers a wide range of expressions.

From regular -er, -ir, and -re verbs, through irregular forms, and to the unique construction of pronominal verbs, the imperative enrich French communication significantly.

As we’ve seen, the imperative isn’t just about grammar rules; it’s deeply intertwined with cultural nuances, making the journey of learning it all the more fascinating. Whether it’s about maintaining politeness, interacting with friends, or giving instructions, the imperative mood plays a vital role in the French language.

Moreover, the imperative’s practical use in everyday phrases and conversations makes it an essential part of your French language toolkit. As with any language learning endeavor, mastering the imperative involves consistent practice and immersion in real-world usage.

Remember, language is not just about rules and structures; it’s a living entity that reflects culture and human interaction. So, embrace the journey of learning with curiosity and openness. Bonne chance et continuez à apprendre! (Good luck and keep learning!)

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