Unit 16: Finishing Touches
The imperative mood is used in forming commands, and can be recognized based on unusual word order, unusual verb forms, and / or an exclamation point at the end of the sentence. Note that German punctuation style is more reliable than English in requiring an exclamation point in imperative sentences. The verb will also appear at the beginning of the sentence, as do English imperatives. In the second person singular (du-form), an –e is added to the stem of regular verbs as follows, although this –e may be omitted:
Bring mir den Salz! [or:] Bringe mir den Salz!
Bring me the salt!
If the stem of the verb ends in a –d or a –t, the final –e is never omitted. Verbs featuring a vowel change from an e to an i in the stem retain this change in the imperative, and omit the final –e. Second person plural (ihr-form) imperatives retain their present-tense forms. The formal Sie-form also is identical with the present tense, but Sie-imperatives include this pronoun immediately after the verb. Separable-prefix verbs retain the separation of stem and prefix. Study the following examples:
Finde mir meinen Hut!
Find me my hat!
Gib mir das Buch!
Give me the book!
Singt bitte lauter, Kinder!
Please sing louder, children!
Sprechen Sie bitte langsamer, Herr Schmidt.
Please speak more slowly, Mr. Schmidt.
Mach(e) das Fenster zu, Wolfgang!
Close the window, Wolfgang!
The verb sein is irregular in the imperative form, as the following commands indicate:
Sei nicht so hastig, Wolfgang!
Don’t be so hasty, Wolfgang!
Seid nicht nervös, Kinder!
Don’t be nervous, children!
Seien Sie ein bißchen rücksichtsvoller, Herr Schmidt.
Be a bit more considerate, Mr. Schmidt.
The first-person plural (“we”) imperative in German is simpler than its English counterpart. It corresponds to English statements beginning with “Let’s . . .”:
Lesen wir die Zeitung!
Let’s read the newspaper!
Fahren wir im Sommer nach Kalifornien!
Let’s drive to California this summer!