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French Imperative Mood

Word order with the French imperative

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The order of words in a French sentence can be very confusing due to affirmative and negative imperative constructions and object and adverbial pronouns. This lesson will teach you exactly how to order your sentences when using the imperative. Remember that there are two kinds of imperatives, affirmative and negative, and the word order is different for each of them.

Negative imperatives are easier, because their word order is the same as that of all other simple verb conjugations: any object, reflexive, and/or adverbial pronouns precede the verb and the negative structure surrounds the pronoun(s) + verb:

   Finis ! - Finish!
   Ne finis pas ! - Don't finish!
   Ne le finis pas ! - Don't finish it!

   Lisez ! - Read!
   Ne lisez pas ! - Don't read!
   Ne le lisez pas ! - Don't read it!
   Ne me le lisez pas ! - Don't read it to me!

Affirmative commands are more complicated, for several reasons.

1. The word order is for affirmative commands is different from that of all other verb tenses/moods: any pronouns follow the verb and are connected to it and to each other with hyphens.

   Finis-le ! - Finish it!
   Allons-y ! - Let's go!
   Mangez-les ! - Eat them!
   Donne-lui-en ! - Give him some!

2. The order of the pronouns in affirmative commands is slightly different from all other verb tenses/moods (see table at the bottom of the page):

   Envoie-le-nous ! - Send it to us!
   Expliquons-la-leur ! - Let's explain it to them!
   Donnez-nous-en ! - Give us some!
   Donne-le-moi ! - Give it to me!

3. The pronouns me and te change to the stressed pronouns moi and toi...

   Lève-toi ! - Get up!
   Parlez-moi ! - Talk to me!
   Dis-moi ! - Tell me!

   ...unless they are followed by y or en, in which case they contract to m' and t'

   Va-t'en ! - Go away!
   Faites-m'y penser. - Remind me about it.

4. When a tu command is followed by the pronouns y or en, the final s is not dropped from the verb conjugation:

   Vas-y ! - Go away!
   Parles-en. - Talk about it.


Page 1: Introduction to the French imperative
Page 2: Imperative conjugations
Page 3: Imperative word order

Test on imperative word order

Order of pronouns for affirmative imperative
le
la
les
moi / m'
toi / t'
lui
nous
vous
leur
  
y
 
 
en
 
    
 
Order of pronouns for negative imperative
(and all other tenses and moods)
me
te
se
nous
vous
  
le
la
les

 
 
lui

leur

 
 

y
 
 
 

en

 
 
 
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