Teaching Negative Commands in Spanish Class

By Evelyn Silva

Formal Commands

As in English, in Spanish we use commands to give someone advice or to tell people what you don’t want them to do. Formal negative commands (usted & ustedes) are used when addressing people in a formal manner or to be polite. When you do not know well a person or when you are talking to people older than you, you should use a formal command. By using the formal command, you express respect for that person. Moreover, Hispanic people use commands while talking to/with doctors, supervisor, boss, priest, professors, etc.  Last but not least, use these commands to address any group of people.

Negative commands are preceded by the adverb NO and they keep the affirmative formal command form of the verb:

1) Always conjugate the verb in first person singular (yo).

2) For -AR Verbs, drop the –O.

3) Add -E (for singular) / -EN (for plural).

4) Remember!!! Always use the adverb NO before the command.

CANTAR→ (yo) CANTO→ NO CANTE  (singular command)

                                            NO CANTEN  (plural command)

5) For -ER / -IR Verbs, drop the –O.

6) Add -A (for singular) / -AN (for plural).

BEBER→ (yo) BEBO→ NO BEBA / NO BEBAN  (mandato)

ESCRIBIR→ (yo) ESCRIBO→ NO ESCRIBA / NO ESCRIBAN (mandato)

 

It is very important that your students conjugate the verbs in first person singular (yo) because some irregular and stem-changing verbs change orthographically.

 

Informal commands

Informal negative commands () are used among friends, coworkers, relatives, or when addressing a child. Informal negative commands use the affirmative formal command form of the verb but you must add an -S to it:

1) Always conjugate the verb in first person singular (yo).

2) For -AR Verbs, drop the –O.

3) Add -ES.

4) Remember!!! Always use the adverb NO before the command.

CANTAR→ (yo) CANTO→ NO CANTE  (negative formal command)

                                            NO CANTES  (negative informal command)

5) For -ER / -IR Verbs, drop the –O.

6) Add -AS.

BEBER→ (yo) BEBO→ NO BEBA(negative formal command)

                                       NO BEBAS  (negative informal command)

ESCRIBIR→ (yo) ESCRIBO→ NO ESCRIBA  (negative formal command)

                                                 NO ESCRIBAS  (negative informal command)

Verbs that require stem-change in present tense usually have the same change in the formal (singular/plural) and informal commands:

A)  Stem Change: -E → IE

pensar

      Formal Command

       pienso –   No piense(n)

Informal Command

pienso –   No pienses

 

B)  Stem Change: O/-U → UE

     volver

        vuelvo – No vuelva(n)  

vuelvo – No vuelvas

 

C)  Stem Change: -E → -I

seguir

           sigo – No siga(n)

   sigo – No sigas

 

D)  Verbs ending in –CAR (Formal Commands)

tocar

 TOCO → drop [-CO] → add [-QUE(N)(S)]

             No toque(n) (formal)

             No toques   (informal)

 

E)  Verbs ending in –ZAR (Formal Commands)

empezar

 EMPIEZO → drop [-ZO] → add [-CE(N)(S)]

              No empiece(n) (formal)

              No empieces   (informal)

 F)  Verbs ending in – GAR (Formal Commands)

entregar

 ENTREGO → drop [-GO] → add [-GUE(N)(S)]

             No entregue(n) (formal)

             No entregues   (informal)

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