Imperative Japanese Phrases

Learn more about the imperative sentences in japanese and expand your vocabulary!
Imperative Japanese PhrasesDespite being a subject aimed at students of Japanese at an intermediate level, I believe it is time to talk a little about the imperative mood in Japanese. In an ordinary Japanese course, you might only see this subject after a long period of study in the Japanese language.

Imperative Japanese Phrases

But as we are not in a normal Japanese course, we are learning both the colloquial Japanese side and the formal side of the Japanese language. Therefore, nothing prevents us from making leaps when it does not interfere with the progress of studies and understanding of it. I am not right?

Do Japanese use imperative phrases?

This is something that I have slowly come to realize. I'm still not quite sure about the subject, but it seems that the Japanese don't usually use sentences in the imperative. Giving orders in normal conversation seems to be seen as somewhat rude and rude.

Because of that, during conversations, the Japanese use the form a lot along with ください, as discussed in the article the TE form of Japanese verbs.

On the other hand, in anime, manga, movies and series, imperative phrases are striking and widely used. I believe that this happens because the colloquial language, in these cases, ends up prevailing over the formal language, which is so valued by the Japanese.

The conjugation of verbs in imperative sentences

To conjugate a verb, leaving it in the imperative form, we will need to remember the concepts of Japanese verbs in the informal mode, where we learn to divide verbs into groups and its simplest form, also known as the dictionary form.

In fact, we will only use the dictionary form of Japanese verbs to perform their conjugation in the imperative.

Verbs ending in 

For all verbs ending in  in its simplest form, we will change the ending  by termination .

教える change to 教えろ

起きる change to 起きろ

Verbs ending in 

For all verbs ending in , in dictionary form, we change the ending  by termination .

待つ change to 待て

買う change to 買え

帰る change to 帰れ

飲む change to 飲め

about irregular verbs

As we already know, these verbs do not have conjugation rules. Therefore, it is necessary to learn them little by little, literally decorating their shapes.

For this case, I'll leave two very simple examples.

する change to しろ

来る change to 来い

Putting sentences in the negative imperative

This is the easiest conjugation form I've found in the Japanese language, at least so far. To explain better, there is no conjugation of verbs in the negative imperative, this tense of imperative sentences is performed by the use of the particle .

To put sentences in the negative imperative mood, just use the particle  followed by the verb in dictionary form.


Other forms of imperative in Japanese

During my studies of imperative sentences in Japanese, I discovered something quite interesting. There are other forms of imperative in the Japanese language that are not as rude as the form we learned in the previous article. Some of these forms are used by women and others are composed to convey an imperative.

The imperative form that women can use

In many everyday life situations, women need to demonstrate their voice of authority, whether with their children or with their husbands :-). In fact, whenever a woman needs to express herself with authority, she can use the form なさい.

But remember, in order not to be labeled as rude, quarrelsome or anything like that, a woman should only use the form なさい with people very close to her, like her children and her husband.

Man who is a man also uses なさい?

This doubt hovered over my mind when I read that men could also use the form なさい. In fact, the form なさい seems to be quite used when the speaker is, or feels, in a superior position.

This means that the form なさい it can be used by a teacher when talking to a student, or by a manager when talking to their subordinates.

Conjugating the form なさい

Conjugate a verb in form なさい it is extremely easy, since there is only one rule for all verbs and there are no exceptions, not even for irregular verbs.

Just change the ending ます of all verbs conjugated in the form ます by termination なさい. So we will have:

書きます change to 書きなさい

買います change to 買いなさい

In a sentence with these verbs, the translation will need to convey an idea of kindness instead of order or command as we know it. See the example below:


Imperative phrases with たまえ

This form of imperative is rarely used by the Japanese, but appear a lot in anime and manga. It has the same sense of form なさい, only denoting more authority and arrogance.

The shape たまえ is constructed in the same way as the form なさい. Just change the ending ます of verbs by the ending たまえ.

遊びます change to 遊びたまえ.


The shape てくれ

This was the last of the imperative forms I learned. If you noticed, this imperative uses the verbs in the form  along with the verb くれる, creating a sense of giving me something or doing me a favor, clearly forming an imperative mood and expressing an order or request.

くれ is simply the imperative form of the irregular verb くれる.



From what we could see, creating sentences with verbs in the imperative is not something that difficult to do. Just use the verbs as we learned to use them, putting them in the imperative form. As for the female audience, just be careful to use the proper imperative form. Nothing too complicated.

Image credits: germister

Kanji calligraphy exercise

Below are the Japanese ideographic symbols used in this article. Selecting the desired kanji, copy and paste them into Worksheet for Kana and Kanji Practice , a new window will open where you can view the printable file and practice Japanese calligraphy by covering the gray symbols and then trying to write yourself. Just print and practice.