Russian Language Grammar

    The Imperative Mood

Formation of the Imperative

Regular Formation 

The imperative is formed from the third person plural – present tense for the imperfective aspect, future for the perfective aspect – by dropping the characteristic endings -ат, -ят, -ут or -ют – and adding -й, -и or -ь for the familiar form, -йте, -ите or -ьте for the polite form.

   (a)   -й or -йте is added when the present stem ends in a vowel:

Present:   я читаю, они чита-ют.

Imperative:   читай!  читайте!

   (b)   -и or -ите is added when the present stem ends in a consonant, and when the first person singular is stressed on the ending.

Present:   я пишу, они пиш-ут.

Imperative:   пиши!  пишите!

   (c)   -ь or -ьте is added when the present stem ends in a consonant, and when the first person singular is not stressed on the ending.

Future:   я брошу, они брос-ят.

Imperative:   брось!  бросьте!

Special Cases 

1.   Verbs ending in -вать preceded by да, зна or ста form their impera­tive by dropping the ending -ть of the infinitive and adding -й or -йте.

Дава-ть:  давай!   давайте!

Встава-ть:   вставай!   вставайте!

 

2.   Nine verbs form their imperative quite irregularly:

First group – five verbs in -ить.    Second group – various verbs.

Бить: 

бей!  бейте!

to beat

Вить: 

вей!  вейте!

to twine

Лить: 

лей!  лейте!

to pour

Пить: 

пей!  пейте!

to drink

Шить: 

шей!  шейте!

to sew

Лечь:

ляг!  лягте!

to lie down

Есть:

ешь!  ешьте!

to eat

Дать:

дай!  дайте!

to give

Поехать:

поезжай!  поезжайте!

to go,  to ride

Note:   The imperatives of related verbs, such as разбить, передать, are formed similarly.

 

3.   The following four verbs add -и(те) to stems ending in a vowel:

Кроить:

крою, кроят – кроите!

to cut, to cut out (in sewing)

Поить:

пою, поят – поите!

to give to drink, to water

Доить:

дою, доят – доите!

to milk

Таить:

таю, таят – таите!

to conceal;  to harbor

 

4.   The imperative ends in -и(те) regardless of the stress in the first person singular:

   (a)   Practically always, in perfective verbs prefixed with вы-:

Вынести:

вынесу, вынесут – вынесите!

to carry out

Выучить:

выучу, выучат – выучите!

to learn

Exceptions are very rare:

Высунуть:

высуну, высунут – высуньте!

to stick out

Выставить:

выставлю, выставят – выставьте! or выставите!

to put out

   (b)   Usually, when the stem from which it is formed ends in a "cluster of consonants'':

Почистить:

почищу, почистят – почистите!

to clean

Ездить:

езжу, ездят – (не) ездите!

to ride, to drive

   (c)   Always, when the last letter of the cluster is an н:

Крикнуть:

крикну, крикнут – крикните!

to shout

Заполнить:

заполню, заполнят – заполните!

to fill out

5.   A few verbs do not form the imperative: видеть – to see; слышать – to hear; мочь – to be able; хотеть – to wish. Also, a few verbs where simple logic would preclude an imperative mood, such as течь – to flow, весить – to weigh (intrans.)

Usage of the Imperative

The choice of the proper aspect to use is sometimes a delicate matter. The basic principle of the aspects is found again in the imperative: The Imperfective Imperative stresses the action (continuous, repeated, habitual) whereas the perfective stresses rather the result of the (single) action:

Пишите нам чаще.

Write us more often. (imperfective)

Дайте мне марку, пожалуйста.

Give me a stamp, please. (perfective)

1. The Imperfective Imperative often suggests doing something right away, and therefore may sound peremptory, if not impolite:

Читайте это!

Read this!

Подметайте пол!

Sweep the floor!

Пишите ваш адрес!

Write your address!

Убирайте со стола!

Clear the table!

This, however, is not always the case. Many verbs in which the "imper­fective is used instead of the expected perfective" are normally used in the imperfective with the imperative mood:

Спите спокойно.

Sleep well.   (lit.:  calmly)

Кушайте сыр.

Eat (some) cheese.

Говорите громче, пожалуйста.

Speak louder, please.

2. The Negated Imperative usually stands in the imperfective:

He говорите ему насчёт этого.

Don't tell him about this.

He кладите деньги на стол.

Don't put money on the table.

The so-called "verbs of warning" are exceptions to this rule:

He простудитесь.

Don't catch cold.

He упадите.

Don't fall.

He сломайте; не разбейте.

Don't break.

He потеряйте.

Don't lose.

Also, the imperative of забывать, забыть is – more often than not – in the perfective:

He забудьте принести деньги.

Don't forget to bring the money. (perf.)

He забудь позвонить мне завтра.

Don't forget to call me to­morrow. (perf.)

He забывайте нас!

Don't (you) forget us. (imperf.)

Note: An additional emphasis may be placed here by adding смотрите (смотри), the imperative of смотреть (which, of course, loses its literal meaning here):

Смотрите, не забудьте!

Be sure not to forget!

Смотри, не опоздай!

Be sure not to be late!

3. The Perfective Imperative may refer to an immediate, or more distant future. It is usually more polite, since it may imply doing something at a convenient time.

Прочитайте это.

Read this.

Подметите комнату.

Sweep the room.

Напишите ваш адрес.

Write down your address.

Напишите нам, когда вы приедете в Париж.

Write us when you come to Paris.

Remark: Oddly enough, the implication is exactly the reverse with intransitive verbs involving motion; for instance, with the imperfectives:

Приходите вечером.

Come tonight.

Садитесь сюда.

Sit here (take a seat).

Here, the perfectives – придите вечером;  сядьте сюда – may sound somewhat abrupt (without really being impolite).

Third-Person Imperatives

Although, strictly speaking, the imperative mood is only used with the second person, the equivalent of an imperative may be found with the third person, singular or plural. In these constructions, пусть or пускай are added to the future or present.

Пусть он придёт утром.

Let him come in the morning (He should come in the morning).

Пускай мальчики играют там.

Let the boys play there.

Joint Imperative

The joint form of the imperative normally coincides with the future perfective, the only difference being the omission of the pronoun "мы". This form is an invitation for participation:

Напишем ему.

Let's write him.

Сделаем это так.

Let's do it that way.

Пойдём в театр вечером.

Let us go to the theater tonight.

With definite verbs of motion идти and ехать, the joint imperative may coincide with the present:

Идём скорей.

Let's go quickly.

Ну, едем домой.

Well, let's go home.

Note: The present is not used with the so-called indefinite verbs of motion – ходить, ездить.

 Adding -те to the ending of the joint imperative of the verb "идти" somewhat softens the suggestion without really introducing too much difference in the meaning:  "Пойдёмте в театр";  "идёмте скорей".

Remark:  The form without -те (пойдём) expresses a suggestion directed to one man. The form with -те (пойдёмте) – to one or more persons:

Пойдём в город.

Let us go to town.  (we two)

Пойдёмте в город.

Let us go to town   ("we two" or "all of us)

Another way of expressing the joint imperative is with the aid of давайте (let us). This construction suggests a proposal and has nothing of a command:

Давайте напишем ему.   (perf.)

Let us write him.

Давайте писать чаще друг другу. (imperf.)

Let us write each other more often.

It will be seen from the above examples, that when the meaning of a sentence calls for the perfective – the future perfective is used: напишем. When the meaning calls for the imperfective – the infinitive must be used: писать. (In other words, давайте can not be followed by пишем or написать.)

Note:   Дайте я...  means let me....

 

Remarks :

(a)   The usage of personal pronouns with the imperative is infrequent. It usually emphasizes a contrast:

Я пойду направо, а ты иди налево.

I'll go to the right and you go to the left.

Я буду работать, а вы отдохните.

I will work and you have a rest.

(b)   Adding да to the imperative expresses impatience:

Да уходите же!

Go away (this minute)!

Да говорите, в чём дело!

Come on, say what's the matter!

(c)   Adding -ка to the imperative makes the sentences rather familiar or informal:

Поставь-ка это сюда.

How about putting it here?

Пойдёмте-ка на пляж.

Why don't we go to the beach?

(d)   Another, quite informal, way of expressing "let's" is with the past perfective. This usage is practically limited to the following types:

Ну, поехали.

Well, let's go (let's get off").

Пошли домой.

(Come on) let's go home.