Not sure when to use formal or informal commands in Spanish? Here, language teacher Jason N. shares his tips to help you understand the different types of commands, and the easy way to change Spanish verbs to commands…
When you’re studying Spanish you will learn about the different types of commands. Commands in Spanish aren’t as easy as they are in English. In English, there’s no distinction between formal and informal commands. For example, to make the verb “to run” into a command, all you need to do is remove the “to” and simply say, “run.” Pretty simple, right?
Commands aren’t as straightforward in Spanish. In order to understand Spanish formal commands and how they work, let’s look at the distinction between informal and formal commands. You should use an informal command with someone you know well, like a friend, cousin, spouse or classmate. On the other hand, use a formal command with an older person, a superior, and people of high status like doctors, judges, priests, policemen, and lawyers. If you don’t use formal commands with these types of people, you may unintentionally offend them by addressing them informally.
Here is a closer look at Spanish formal commands, and a guide to converting verbs into commands.
Using Spanish Formal Commands
Use formal commands to show respect when you address a person. If you want to convert a verb into a formal command, use these three steps:
- Remove the last two letters of the verb in its infinitive form. For example: Hablar = Habl
- Remember to flip the ending. The ending refers to whether the verb is ends in -ar or -ir/-er. If it ends in -ar, simply change the “a” to an “e”. If it’s an -er/-ir verb, change the “i” or “e” to an “a.”
- Add the new ending to the end of the word to create the formal command.
Here are some examples:
- Step 1: Hablar – Habl,
- Step 2: the “a” becomes an “e”
- Step 3: Hable
- Step 1: Correr – Corr
- Step 2: the “e” becomes an “a”
- Step 3: Corra
- Step 1: Vivir – Viv
- Step 2: the “i” becomes an “a”
- Step 3: Viva
Practice changing these verbs into commands:
(beba, dude, cambie, reciba)
To address more than one person, simply add an “n” to the formal Spanish command.
- Hable – Hablen
- Corra – Corran
It seems pretty easy, right? It can get a little tricky when the verbs are “stem-changers” or irregular, but your Spanish tutor can help you understand these more complicated topics. For now, practice conjugating verbs into Spanish formal commands, and learn the appropriate times to use them. If you have any questions, make sure to write them down and go over them with a teacher or private tutor.
Jason N. tutors in English and Spanish in Fairfax, CA. He majored in Spanish at UC Davis, lived in Mexico for 3 years where he completed a Master’s degree in Counseling, and studied Spanish Literature and Psychology at the University of Costa Rica. Learn more about Jason here!
Photo by LeafLanguages