Formal Commands

You will use the formal command form to give commands to anyone that you would address as usted (most likely a stranger or person in authority). The formal command form is based on the present tense yo form of a verb. There are two types of formal commands:

singular formal command → a command directed to just one person

plural formal command → a command directed to more than one person

Singular formal commands are formed by taking the present tense yo form of a verb and replacing the ending –o with either –e (for –ar verbs) or –a (for –er and –ir verbs). If the command is directed to more than one person, simply add –n to the singular command form.

Here are several examples:

Infinitive Present Tense Yo Form Singular Formal Command Form Plural Formal Command Form English>
hablar hablo hable hablen speak
pensar pienso piense piensen think
correr corro corra corran run
escribir escribo escriba escriban write
salir salgo salga salgan leave

Note about Verbs Ending in –car, –gar and –zar

Verbs ending in –car, –gar and –zar will undergo a spelling change in the formal command forms. For verbs ending in –car, the c will become –qu. For –gar verbs, the g will become –gu. Finally, the z in verbs ending in –zar will become a c in the formal command forms. The following examples should make this clear.

Spelling Change Example Verb Formal Command Form English
G → GU llegar llegue arrive
C → QU buscar busque look for
Z → C empezar empiece begin

Irregular Formal Command Forms

Several verbs have irregular formal command forms. The chart below lists a few of the most common ones.

Verb Singular Formal Command Plural Formal Command English
dar den Give
estar esté estén Be
ir vaya vayan Go
saber sepa sepan Know
ser sea sean Be

Unlike the informal commands, the formal commands maintain the same form regardless of whether the command is affirmative or negative. Consider these examples:

Vaya al parque pero no vaya al cine. Go to the park but do not go to the movie theater.
Limpien la cocina pero no limpien el baño. Clean the kitchen but do not clean the bathroom.
Hable en español, por favor, pero no hable rápido. Speak in Spanish, please, but do not speak fast.

Pronoun Placement

Any reflexive, direct or indirect object pronouns associated with a command will be attached to an affirmative command. Normal placement rules (pronouns come before the verb) will apply for negative commands.

Here are some examples illustrating this:

Levántese temprano mañana. Get up early tomorrow.
No se levante temprano mañana. Don't get up early tomorrow.
¡Cómprelo!Buy it!
¡No lo compre!Don't buy it!

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