Teach Students How to Form Commands in French
Grade Level, Objectives, Description
- Grades: One through twelve
- Objectives: Students will be able to understand how both positive and negative imperatives are formed. Students will also learn the four verbs with irregular imperative forms, and at the same time be introduced subtly to subjunctive mood.
- Description: In your French lesson on commands, ask your students to read instructions for a recipe, or think of someone giving directions on the street. Tell them this is what is called the imperative or command form of the verb.
préparez — prepare
salez et poivrez — season with salt and pepper
hachez — chop
ajoutez — add
allez — go
continuez — continue
suivez — follow
montez — go up
descendez — go down
passez — pass
tournez — turn
traversez — cross
prenez — take
Formation of Imperative
The imperative or command form in French is formed from the second person singular tu, the plural vous, and the first person plural nous of the present indicative tense. The final s of the second person singular of -er verbs is deleted, as well as the subject pronoun tu.
parle — speak
parlons — let’s speak
parlez — speak
1. Point out to students that in the negative form, the negation goes around the verb: ne in front and pas after — the same as in non-imperative sentences:
Ne prends pas ce livre.
Do not take this book.
Ne mangez pas si vite.
Do not eat so quickly.
2. Pronominal verbs (verbs preceded by me, te, se, nous, vous and se use the stressed pronouns toi, nous and vous after the verb connected by a hyphen:
Dépêchez-vous — Hurry!
3. Object pronouns: direct and indirect object pronouns and the pronouns y and en also follow the verb in affirmative imperatives, and are attached to the verb by a hyphen:
Gardez-les — Keep them
4. If the affirmative imperative is followed by an infinitive, the pronouns which follow the imperative are not linked to it by a hyphen:
Venez me voir ce soir — Come see me this evening
5. If the affirmative imperative is not followed by an infinitive, use moi and toi instead of me and te, and attach them to the imperative by a hyphen:
Assieds-toi — Sit down
Suivez-moi — Follow me
6. When the affirmative imperative is followed by more than one pronoun, follow this order: verb + direct object + y/en
Donnez-le-lui — Give it to him
7. An infinitive may also be used to express a general instruction:
Servir frais — serve cold
in a public notice: Ne stationner pas ici — No parking here
8. Point out that some imperatives are irregular. Students will learn that the verbs être, avoir and savoir are irregular:
être (to be)
sois — be
soyons — let’s be
soyez — be
avoir (to have)
aie — have
ayons — let’s have
ayez — have
savoir (to know)
sache — know
sachons — let’s know
sachez — know
9. When students learn the imperative forms of the verbs être and avoir, they are already introduced to the first person singular and plural, and the second person plural forms of the subjunctive which is used in subordinate clauses:
Students are also introduced to the first person singular of savoir in the subjunctive
10. The fourth irregular verb vouloir (to want) only uses the imperative form for vous:
Veuillez accepter mes sentiments — Please accept my regards.
Assessment / Evaluation
To ensure the objectives were identified, present students with oral practice of the French lesson on commands:
Apprenez votre leçon!
Ne parlez pas si fort!
Also give students written sentences to put in the imperative form:
Nous allons au musée — Allons au musée
Students can also be assessed orally by role playing and asking and giving each other directions in the street. They can also compose recipes with vocabulary you provide at the start of the activity. Monitor both activities giving corrections where necessary.