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Imperatives in German (der Imperativ)

In this lesson, we will focus on the imperatives in German (der Imperativ).

Imperatives in German

As you know, imperative (der Imperativ) is a form of the verb used when giving orders and instructions, for example, Shut the door!; Sit down!; Don’t do it!

There are three different imperative verb forms of the imperative that are used to give instructions or orders to someone in the German language. These are for “du” (you), “ihr” (you plural) and “Sie” (you formal).

du Lies den Text.
Read the text.
ihr Lest den Text.
Read the text.
Sie Lesen Sie den Text.
Read the text.
Imperatives in German

If you have a look at this form in the examples above, you can realize that it is only in the Sie form of the imperative that the pronoun usually appears – in the du and ihr forms, the pronoun is generally dropped, leaving only the verb.

How to form the imperative

In German, most verbs (weak, strong and mixed verbs) form the present tense imperative in the following way:

PronounForm of ImperativeVerbMeaning
duverb stem (+ e)Geh!walk!
ihrverb stem + tGeht!walk!
Sieverb stem + en + SieGehen Siewalk!
Imperatives in German
  • du: take the regular “du”-conjugation of the verb and remove its ending “-st”; remove the personal pronoun du, for example, “gehen –> du gehst –> Imperativ: geh!”.

But not where the verb stem ends, for example, in “chn-, fn-, tm-“. In such cases, the “-e” is kept to make the imperative easier to pronounce, for example, “öffnen –> du öffnest –> Imperativ: öffne!”.

  • ihr: take the regular “ihr”-conjugation of the verb; remove the personal pronoun “ihr”, for example, “gehen –> Ihr geht –> Imperativ: geht!”
  • Sie: take the regular “Sie”-conjugation of verb; put “Sie” after the verb, for example, “gehen –> Imperativ: gehen Sie!”.

If you express a polite request, you can add the word “bitte” (please) after the imperative form, for example, “Kauft bitte Milch.”

Any vowel change in the present tense of a strong verb also occurs in the “du” form of its imperative and the “-e” mentioned above is generally not added.

However, if this vowel change in the present tense involves adding an umlaut, this umlaut is not added to the “du” form of the imperative.

Verbs2nd Person SingularImperativ
nehmen
to take
du nimmst
you take
nimm!
take!
helfen
to help
du hilfst
you help
hilf!
help!
laufen
to run
du läufst
you run
lauf(e)!
run!
stoßen
to push
du stößt
you push
stoß(e)!
push!
Imperatives in German

The imperative form of a reflexive verb

The reflexive Pronoun comes immediately after the verb. For example, verb sich setzen (to sit down):

PronounsImperativeMeaning
dusetz dich!sit down!
ihrsetz euch!sit down!
Siesetzen Sie sich!sit down!
Imperatives in German

The imperative form of a separable verb

The prefix comes at the end of the imperative. For example, verb zumachen (to close):

PronounsImperativeMeaning
dumach zu, mache zu!close!
ihrmacht zu!close!
Siemachen Sie zu!close!
Imperatives in German

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