Benji, Soren, and Pocky are on the street, Benji gives directions, saying, “Sigue adelante hasta la próxima esquina.”

When learning a new language, understanding its command structure is crucial. In Spanish, this is no different. Los mandatos, or commands, play a significant role in the language, allowing us to give orders, make requests, offer advice, and even extend invitations. Mastering Spanish commands can elevate your language skills, helping you communicate more effectively in various social contexts.

This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with a deep understanding of Spanish commands. From the basics to the more complex structures, we'll delve into the heart of los mandatos, exploring both their form and function.

Whether you're a beginner just starting out or an advanced learner looking to refine your command usage, this guide is designed for you. We'll cover everything from how to form basic affirmative and negative commands to the intricacies of formal and informal commands.

We'll also tackle the use of reflexive, indirect, and direct object pronouns in commands, offering you a holistic view of command usage in the Spanish language.

By the end of this guide, you'll not only understand Spanish commands but also know how to use them appropriately in professional and casual conversations. So, let's embark on this linguistic journey together, exploring the fascinating world of formal commands in each verb form in the Spanish language.

Understanding Spanish Commands

In the Spanish language, a command is a specific verb form that conveys orders, instructions, requests, or suggestions.

These essentially function as the directive form of verbs, instructing someone to do or not to do a certain action. For instance:

Spanish

English

¡Come!

Eat!

¡No corras!

Don't run!

The Role of Commands in Spanish

Benji, Iggy, and Soren are eating at the restaurant. Benji asks for the salt, saying, “Por favor, pásame la sal.”

Commands play a critical role in Spanish communication due to their wide applicability in everyday conversation. They find use in various situations, such as:

PurposeExplanationExampleTranslation
Giving direct orders When you need someone to carry out an action immediately. ¡Cierra la puerta! Close the door!
Providing instructions When explaining how to do something or giving directions. Gira a la derecha en la próxima calle. Turn right on the next street.
Making requests When politely asking someone to do something. Por favor, pásame la sal. Please, pass me the salt.
Offering suggestions or advice When guiding or recommending a course of action. Deberías descansar un poco. You should rest a bit.
PurposeExplanationExampleTranslation
Giving direct orders When you need someone to carry out an action immediately. ¡Cierra la puerta! Close the door!
Providing instructions When explaining how to do something or giving directions. Gira a la derecha en la próxima calle. Turn right on the next street.
Making requests When politely asking someone to do something. Por favor, pásame la sal. Please, pass me the salt.
Offering suggestions or advice When guiding or recommending a course of action. Deberías descansar un poco. You should rest a bit.

Affirmative and Negative Commands: The Two Main Types

Commands in Spanish come in two primary forms: affirmative and negative.

Affirmative Commands

These are used to instruct someone to carry out an action. They're typically formed using the third person singular or plural form of the verb in the present tense.

Here’s an example of an affirmative command:

Spanish

English

¡Habla más despacio!

Speak slower!

Negative Commands

Conversely, these are used to tell someone to refrain from doing something. They're often formed using the subjunctive mood of the verb. A negative command is:

Spanish

English

¡No comas tanto!

Don't eat so much!

Acquiring a solid understanding of Spanish commands is a crucial step toward fluency in the language. It enables clear and efficient communication, whether you're giving an order, making a request, or offering advice.

In the upcoming sections, we'll further explore how these commands are constructed and utilized in various contexts.

Formal and Informal Commands in Spanish

Benji and Pocky are in the Spanish classroom. Soren is the teacher and tells Pocky, who’s raising his hand, “Habla tú.”

Understanding the distinction between formal and informal commands — or mandatos — is a critical aspect of mastering conversational Spanish. This variability allows for appropriate communication in different social contexts.

Formal (Usted/Ustedes) and Informal (Tú/Vosotros) Commands

The Spanish language has separate forms for formal and informal commands.

Formal commands use usted (you singular) and ustedes (you plural), while informal commands use the pronoun (you singular).

For example:

Infromal Command Canta una canción, tú. Sing a song, you.
Formal Command Cante una canción, usted. Sing a song, you.
Infromal Command Canta una canción, tú. Sing a song, you.
Formal Command Cante una canción, usted. Sing a song, you.

Conjugating Verbs for Formal and Informal Commands

The conjugation of verbs varies between formal and informal commands. Here's a general guideline:

Informal Commands

  • For the form, most verbs use the third-person singular form in the present indicative tense. For instance, habla (speak).

Formal Commands

  • For usted and ustedes, commands are formed using the present subjunctive tense. For example, hable (speak) for usted, and hablen (speak) for ustedes.
  • For vosotros form, the infinitive form of the verb is used, with the final -r replaced by -d. For example, comprad (buy).

Social Contexts for Formal and Informal Commands

The use of formal or informal commands depends on the social context and the level of familiarity between the speakers.

Informal commands are typically used among friends, family, and peers and reflect a sense of closeness, informality, or equality.

Formal commands, on the other hand, are used in more formal or respectful situations. They are often used when speaking to superiors and elders or when politeness is required. Examples include professional environments, academic settings, or when addressing strangers.

In conclusion, understanding when to use formal and informal commands in Spanish can greatly enhance your communication skills and cultural sensitivity when interacting with Spanish speakers.

Irregular Spanish Commands

A page of Soren's notebook.
Ven Come
Di Say, tell
Sal Leave, go out
Haz Do, make
Ven Come
Di Say, tell
Sal Leave, go out
Haz Do, make

Just like in many other languages, there are irregularities in Spanish commands that one must understand to communicate effectively. These irregular verbs are often some of the most frequently used verbs, making it crucial to familiarize yourself with them.

Here are some of the most common irregular Spanish commands:

Irregular Spanish CommandEnglish TranslationExplanation
Ven Come Informal singular command form of venir
Di Say/Tell Informal singular command form of decir
Sal Leave/Go out Informal singular command form of salir
Haz Do/Make Informal singular command form of hacer
Ten Have Informal singular command form of tener
Ve Go Informal singular command form of ir
Pon Put Informal singular command form of poner
Be Informal singular command form of ser
Irregular Spanish CommandEnglish TranslationExplanation
Ven Come Informal singular command form of venir
Di Say/Tell Informal singular command form of decir
Sal Leave/Go out Informal singular command form of salir
Haz Do/Make Informal singular command form of hacer
Ten Have Informal singular command form of tener
Ve Go Informal singular command form of ir
Pon Put Informal singular command form of poner
Be Informal singular command form of ser

These irregularities also extend to formal commands, such as vaya (go) for usted and vayan for ustedes, which are the formal command forms of ir.

Reflexive, Indirect, and Direct Object Pronouns in Commands

In Spanish, commands often include reflexive, indirect, and direct object pronouns. These commands with pronouns add depth to the language and allow for more complex communication.

  • A reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the sentence. They indicate that the action of the verb is something the subject does to itself.

Spanish

English

Levántate!

Stand up!

  • Indirect object pronouns refer to the person or thing that is indirectly affected by the action of the verb.

Spanish

English

Dame!

Give me!

  • Direct object pronouns replace the direct object noun in a sentence, i.e., the person or thing directly receiving the action of the verb.

Spanish

English

Cómpralo.

Buy it.

How These Pronouns Change the Structure of a Command

In Spanish commands, these pronouns are typically attached to the end of an affirmative command or placed before a negative command.

For example:

Affirmative command Míralo. Look at it. Lo is the direct object pronoun and is attached to the end of the command.
Negative command No lo mires. Don't look at it. Here, lo is placed before the command.
Affirmative command Míralo. Look at it. Lo is the direct object pronoun and is attached to the end of the command.
Negative command No lo mires. Don't look at it. Here, lo is placed before the command.

Using Commands in Professional and Casual Conversations

The use of commands in Spanish, like any other language, is heavily influenced by the context, relationship between speakers, and cultural norms.

Here, we explore how to appropriately use commands in various scenarios:

  • In the workplace. Formal commands are generally used in professional settings, especially when speaking to superiors or colleagues with whom you don't have a close relationship.

Spanish

English

Haga el informe para mañana, por favor.

Please make the report for tomorrow.

  • At home or with friends. Informal commands are predominantly used in casual settings such as at home or with friends.

Spanish

English

Pásame la sal.

Pass me the salt.

Vamos al cine.

Let's go to the movies.

Cultural nuances can significantly impact the usage of commands. In some Spanish-speaking countries, it's common to use informal commands even in semi-formal situations due to a more relaxed communication style. For instance, the command forms corresponding with ustedes can be used in both formal and informal contexts when addressing more than one person.

However, in other regions, formalities are strictly observed, and using informal commands can be seen as disrespectful.

For example, in Spain, it's not unusual to use the informal tú form even in professional settings among colleagues. On the other hand, in several Latin American countries, the formal usted form is often preferred in professional environments.

Moreover, the use of reflexive pronouns with commands can sometimes soften them and make them sound more polite. For instance, Siéntate (Sit down) might come off as more polite than a simple Sienta.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Learning Spanish, like any language, involves making mistakes. Here are some frequent ones related to commands and concrete advice on how to avoid them:

Confusing Formal and Informal Commands

It's crucial to understand the difference between formal (usted/ustedes) and informal (tú/vosotros) commands.

How to avoid it: Always consider the relationship with the person you're speaking to. Use formal commands in professional settings or when addressing someone older or in a position of authority. Informal commands are suitable for friends, family, or peers.

Incorrect Placement of Object Pronouns

In Spanish, object pronouns can be placed either before or after the verb, depending on the context.

How to avoid it: Remember, in affirmative commands, the pronoun is attached to the end of the verb (Cómpralo), while in negative commands, it's placed before the verb (No lo compres).

Not Using Reflexive Pronouns When Needed

Reflexive pronouns are often used to soften commands and make them sound more polite.

How to avoid it: Practice using reflexive pronouns with commands. For example, instead of saying Sienta (Sit down), say Siéntate, which might come off as more polite.

Overusing Commands

In Spanish, as in many languages, constantly giving commands can come off as rude or bossy.

How to avoid it: Try to phrase your commands as suggestions or questions whenever possible. For example, instead of saying

Spanish

English

Hazlo ahora.

Do it now.

you might say

Spanish

English

¿Podrías hacerlo ahora?

Could you do it now?

Ignoring Regional Differences

The use of commands can vary significantly between different Spanish-speaking regions.

How to avoid it: Try to familiarize yourself with the norms of the specific region where you're speaking or learning Spanish. For example, in Spain, it's common to use informal commands in professional settings, while in several Latin American countries, formal commands are preferred in such environments.

The Bottom Line

Soren travels to Mexico.

Mastering the use of commands in Spanish is a significant step towards fluency. It allows you to express your thoughts more assertively, give directions, make requests, and offer advice.

Understanding the nuances of formal, informal, regular, and irregular commands, along with the correct usage of reflexive, indirect, and direct object pronouns, can significantly enhance your ability to communicate in Spanish.

However, learning a language is an ongoing process that extends beyond understanding grammar rules. It involves immersing yourself in the culture, engaging in conversations, and continually practicing. This is where resources like Langster come into play.

So, whether you're just starting your journey or looking to polish your advanced skills, embracing tools like our Langster app can make your Spanish learning experience more enriching and enjoyable.