Commands in GermanIt's imperative to learn these!

Giving commands in German sounds like something you'd only need to learn if you want to boss someone around - but that's true! Learning about German commands is incredibly helpful for all kinds of situations.

The German Imperative

In German Grammar, the imperative is used to express commands. Let's take the verb gehen, for example.

In order to use the word gehen as a command, we first have to learn that the imperative is used in partnership with the three personal pronouns du, ihr and Sie.

Now let's learn the three main imperative forms, using these three personal pronouns, and our verb gehen:

PronounImperativeExample
duverb stem with -egeh(e)
ihrverb stem with -tgeht
Sieverb in infinitive form + Siegehen Sie

The third form, using Sie, is the polite form. The forms using du and ihr are informal.

Let's place some example commands into context.

Formal Commands

Imagine that you are visiting Berlin for the weekend. You are going to a restaurant to meet a friend, who lives in the city.

@IMAGE - restaurant w schnitzel and beer + waiter?

At the restaurant, the waiter makes some polite commands:

Kommen Sie herein.

Come inside.
Setzen Sie sich!

Sit down.
Schauen Sie sich die Karte an.

Have a look at the menu.

These commands use the personal pronoun Sie - the polite form of address.

With these polite commands in mind, try out the exercise below. Turn each English verb into a polite German command (polite command = use of Sie):

to eat

to drive

to listen

Well Done! 🎉

Let's move on to learning how to form informal commands.

Informal Commands

Now imagine that your friend has arrived at the restaurant. Whilst catching up, you tell him where you plan to go out tonight: Berghain. You need his advice, though. How does one get into Berghain? What should you wear? Who should you bring?

Don't worry. Your friend is a self-described party-monster, and has some specific instructions (commands) for you to give you the best chance at getting in.

Geh um Mitternacht!

Go around midnight!
Trag bunte Kleidung!

Wear colorful clothing!
Erzähl dem Türsteher einen Witz!

Tell the bouncer a joke!
Bring sehr viele Freunde mit!

Bring a big group of friends with you!

Here are some examples of verb stems with no need for a -e:

EnglishInfinitiveImperative
to makemachenmach!
to moveumziehenzieh um!
to laughlachenlach!
to beseinsei!
to writeschreibenschreib!

Now, if the verb stem ends in -t, -d or -fn, this is when a + e is needed.

EnglishInfinitiveImperative
to guessratenrate!
to findfindenfinde!
to openöffnenöffne!

Additionally, when using the imperative with du some verbs also require a vowel change. This is not needed when using the imperative with ihr.

☝️Important

There are no specific rules to help identify which verbs need this change. You will need to memorise them!

Here are some examples of such verbs being used in the imperative, with du:

EnglishInfinitiveImperative
to speaksprechensprich!
to eatesseniss!
to helphelfenhilf!
to forgetvergessenvergiss!

Lastly, whenever just the verb is being used (Wait! / Stop! / Listen!), we simply use the verb stem:

Stop!
Stop!
Mach!
Do it!
Komm!
Come!

Now turn each english verb into an informal German command (informal command = use of du or ihr).

nehmen

schauen

spielen

warten

essen

Well done! 🎉

You have completed this lesson, and you are ready for Berghain!

@IMAGE - you dressed for Berghain

Whenever you're ready, head over to the next and final lesson on this course: Prepositions (of place)