The German Imperative

Der Imperativ im Deutschen

German Imperative – Summary


Formation of the Imperative

1st/3rd Person Plural (“wir”/”Sie”)

The imperative for “Sie” and “wir” is formed with the infinitive form of the verb + “Sie” or “wir”. When forming the imperative forms of “sein”, we add the vowel “e”.

  • “Reden Sie!”
  • “Reden wir!”

2nd Person Plural (“ihr”)

The imperative for the second person plural (“ihr”) is its finite form of the verb, just without a pronoun.

  • “Bleibt!”

2nd Person Singular (“du”)

The imperative for the second person singular (“du”) is normally built by erasing the ending “-en” of the verb infinitive, thus, the bare stem.

  • “Bleib!”

Special Treats of the Second Person Singular Imperative Form

The change of the vowels of the stem of a verb from “e” to “i”/”ie” is also valid for the imperative forms.

  • “Lies!” (not: Liese!)

In contrast, the vowel change of the stem from “a” to “ä” is not valid for the imperative.

  • “Fahr!” (but: ich fahre, du fährst)

In case the stem of the present form ends in “d”/”t”, you always add an “e”.

  • “Warte!” (not: Wart!)

When the stem of the present form ends with a consonant + “m”/”n”, you always add an “e”. But this is not the case when this consonant is an “m, n, l, r” or “h” (but not “ch”).

  • “Atme!/Zeichne!” but: “Schwimm(e)!/Lern(e)!”

In case the verb ends with “eln” or “ern” you normally add an “e”. But in every-day language you often leave that “e” out.

  • “Feiere!/Feire!/Feier! Angele!/Angle!/Angel!”
German Imperative

Well – *cough* – I know that German might not be the language of love. Okay, maybe it can sound a little bit rude sometimes. Others might even say that it sounds horrible. And there are these ignorant people that only know the sound of German from speeches of Nazis out of documentaries on TV.

Nevertheless, on the one hand, German CAN be beautiful! Well, on the other hand, you have to consider that German is simply a rather direct language. So, where English-speaking people wouldn’t use the imperative because it might sound rude, Germans use it to express things more directly.

So, as you have chosen this article on, I think you’d like to enter into this part of German grammar. In the following, we will try to clear up in which contexts you can use the German imperative. After that, we will define what it actually is and have a detailed look at its usage.

And now… VERLIEREN SIE KEINE ZEIT! … We have a lot of work to do!

When to Use the German Imperative

So, let’s just start right ahead with the basics of the German imperative. Well, first of all we should talk about when you actually should use the German imperative. Obviously, it depends on the context. In the following, we will list some situations where the usage of German imperative is absolutely right.

  1. Offering encouragement
    Exactly, for offering encouragement, you can use the German imperative. “Mach das!” (Do it!) is a quite usual way to express your encouragement for something.
  2. Giving instructions
    Well, whether you describe the way to the restaurant or you tell the guy who goes housekeeping for you in your vacation what to do… The German imperative is just a short and precise way of expressing your instructions.
  3. Responding to Rudeness, Aggression or Generally Anti-Social Behavior
    Of course, there are also idiots in Germany, like in every country of this world. So, just use the imperative to express that you don’t agree with the rude behavior or just tell someone to go away. “Hau ab!” (Go away!) would be a good example for that.

Now, as we have talked about the context is which you can use the German imperative, let’s go the most important parts of this article and look at its definition and usage.

Definition and Usage of German Imperative

Definition und Anwendung des Imperativs im Deutschen

Well, first of all we should clear up what the German imperative actually is. So, the German imperative mood expresses requests and commands.

So, you can apply this to order someone to do something.

  • Fahren Sie mich nach Hause!” – Drive me home!

Or, you can also express an order including yourself.

  • Gehen wir!” – Let’s go!

You can use this mood to talk to people in the second person singular and plural and, of course, polite form and the first person plural.

Please, keep in mind that the German imperative mood is quite common in the German language. Well, that’s because of its ‘attributes’ – it’s simply the most efficient way to express something. Exactly, that’s very German. Although this may sound rude to you sometimes, it is not meant like that. And, in case you want to be more polite, just add “bitte” (please).

The Conjugation of German Imperative

Die Konjugation des Imperativs im Deutschen

So, let’s come to the central aspect of this article about German imperative. Well, it’s conjugation is actually not too difficult. Unfortunately, there are some exceptions. In the following we will take a closer look at each one of them.

The conjugation of the German imperative in the polite form “Sie”

So, this first form of the German imperative is quite easy to form. Well, we just use the infinitive form + “Sie”. As we know, we use the “Sie” always, if we want to show respect. Also, the plural form works the same.

  • “Gehen Sie nach Hause!” (Go home!)
  • “Fahren Sie nicht zu schnell!” (Do not drive too fast!)
  • “Machen Sie die Hausaufgabe!” (Do your homework!)

The conjugation of the German imperative for the “du” 

Unfortunately, this form is a little bit more difficult. Actually, we form the imperative of “du” by removing the ending ‘-en’ from the infinitive. But, in elevated language we often add an ‘-e’ to many verbs, but in colloquial speech we generally leave it.

  • “Geh nach Hause!” (Go home!)
  • “Fahr nicht zu schnell!” (Do not drive to fast!)
  • “Mach deine Hausaufaben!” (Do your homework!)

The German imperative with “ihr”

Well, the imperative for “ihr” is the finite verb form of the 2nd person plural, but without the pronoun. So, here are some examples:

  • “Seid ehrlich!” (Be honest!)
  • “Geht nach Hause!” (Go home!)
  • “Fahrt nicht zu schnell!” (Do not drive too fast!)
  • “Macht das Frühstück!” (Prepair the breakfast!)

The Irregular Conjugation of German Imperative Mood

Well, as I have already told you, there are some exceptions in the context of German imperative. So, I think we should just do a short list of all the most important ones to get a good overview.

  • First, there is no vowel change from ‘a’ to ‘ä’ in the German imperative. “Lies die Zeitung bitte fertig!” (not “lese”)
  • Second, in case the stem of the present tense form ends in ‘d’ or ‘t’, just add ‘e’. Well, an example would be: “Warte!” (Wait!)
  • Third, if the verbs end in ‘ein’ or ‘ern’, we should always add an ‘e’.  “Bedauere das bitte nicht!”
  • Fourth and last, the root vowel change from ‘e’ to ‘i/ie’ also happens in the imperative; in this case, however, we never add the imperative ‘-e’ ending.

Some Last Advice

Einige letzte Ratschläge

Hopefully, this article was of some use for you. So, German imperative mood is not really difficult, as long as you keep on practicing! So, your credo should always be…


Of course, you will have to do the translation work. By the way, in case you want to go deeper into future tenses, have a look at this excellent article on Wikipedia. In the following you will see some phrases that you should complete with the correct terms. Once you have filled all the gaps, just click on the “correct” button and  you can see your errors and the correct results. Good luck and… auf Wiedersehen!

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