German imperative – building and tips

People tend to forget how to build German Imperative, especially the singular form. They ask themselves: should I add “-e” or not? Well, the answer to this question is very simple: don’t add “-e” at all (komm! fahr! sei!) except when the verb stem ends with  -d, -t, -n, -ig, -er, -el (rede! arbeite! zeichne! entschuldige! wandere! lächle!). If you apply this rule, you can be sure that you have built the singular form correctly.

“Rule of thumb: Don’t add the ending -e at all in singular (komm! fahr! sei!) except when the verb stem ends with  -d, -t, -n, -ig, -er, -el”

Would like more of German grammar?

Read the whole story about German Imperative:

First of all remember that Imperative is not a tense, but one of the grammatical moods and it is being used to express a demand.

You can express a demand to one person, to several people, you can be polite and address someone formally or you can even talk to the group to which you belong. That is why there are 4 scenarios for Imperative i.e. why there are forms for the 2. Person Singular, then to the 1., 2. and 3. Person Plural.


Imperative for the 2. Person Singular (du)

You should build it from the 2. Person Singular Präsens -> just remove the ending -st and and DON’T say “du”. Example: Präsens: du kommst / Imperative: komm!

You can add the ending -e if you wish. Example: Präsens: du duschst / Imperative: dusch(e)!

However, the ending “-e” should NEVER be added to Verbs which change stem vowel from “e” to “i(e)” in the 2. Person Sg. Präsens. Example: Präsens: (nehmen) du nimmst ein Stück Kuchen; (lesen) du liest ein Buch, Imperative: nimm noch ein Stück Kuchen!; lies ein Buch! Another important thing here is that the vowel change “e” to “i(e)” remains preserved in Imperative (as you can see from the above example).

On the other hand, if the Verb ends with -d, -t, -er, -el, -ig, (after you remove -en from Infinitive) then you MUST add -e in Imperative. Examples: rede nicht so schnell!, warte auf mich!, lächle ein bisschen!, wandere nicht so ziellos!

If there is the vowel change from “a” to “ä” inside the Verb in the 2. Person Sg. Präsens, it disappears in Imperative. Example: Präsens: du fährst schnell / Imperative: fahr(e) langsamer!

Auxiliary verbs have also interesting forms: sein -> Präsens: du bist ruhig; Sie sind so gut. / Imperative: sei ruhig! Seien Sie so gut!; werden -> Präsens: du wirst Arzt / Imperative: werd(e) Arzt!; haben -> Präsens: du hast viel Geduld. / Imperative: hab(e) mehr Geduld


Imperative for the 1. Person Plural (wir)

It is the same as the 1. Person Plural Präsens, just with inverted word order. Example: Präsens: wir nehmen lieber ein Stück Torte / Imperativ: nehmen wir lieber ein Stück Torte!

Imperative for the 2. Person Plural (ihr)

It sounds exactly the same as the 2. Person Plural Präsens, just without “ihr”. Example: Präsens: ihr geht nach Hause / Imperativ: geht nach Hause!

Imperative for the 3. Person Plural (formal; it is used only for “Sie”)

The form sounds exactly the same as the 3. Person Plural Präsens, just with inverted word order. Example: Sie folgen mir / Imperativ: Folgen Sie mir!

Now, relax and listen to this German song that contains Imperatives: zieh die Schuhe aus; bring den Müll raus; pass auf das Kind auf; räum hier auf; geh nicht spät aus…


Learn German online