Japanese Language and Culture

Imperative

Production Rules:

Rule Meaning
Abrupt Affirmative Ichidan: [root] + ろ
[root] + ro
Ichidan: [root] + よ
[root] + yo
Godan: [え-stem]
[e-stem]
[do]
Plain Affirmative [い-stem] + なさい
[i-stem] + nasai
Abrupt Negative [う-stem] & な
[u-stem] & na
don't [do]
Plain Negative [い-stem] + なさる & な
[i-stem] + nasaru & na

Inflection Examples:

Abrupt Affirmative Abrupt Negative Plain Affirmative Plain Negative
食べる
taberu (to eat)
食べろ/食べよ
tabero / tabeyo
食べるな
taberu na
食べなさい
tabenasai
食べなさるな
tabenasaru na
話す
hanasu (to speak)
話せ
hanase
話すな
hanasu na
話しなさい
hanashinasai
話しなさるな
hanashinarasu na
歩く
aruku (to walk)
歩け
aruke
歩くな
aruku na
歩きなさい
arukinasai
歩きなさるな
arukinasaru na
泳ぐ
oyogu (to swim)
泳げ
oyoge
泳ぐな
oyogu na
泳ぎなさい
oyoginasai
泳ぎなさるな
oyoginasaru na
呼ぶ
yobu (to call)
呼べ
yobe
呼ぶな
yobu na
呼びなさい
yobinasai
呼びなさるな
yobinasaru na
飲む
nomu (to drink)
飲め
nome
飲むな
nomu na
飲みなさい
nominasai
飲みなさるな
nominasaru na
死ぬ
shinu (to die)
死ね
shine
死ぬな
shinu na
死になさい
shininasai
死になさるな
shininasaru na
作る
tsukuru (to make)
作れ
tsukure
作るな
tsukuru na
作りなさい
tsukurinasai
作りなさるな
tsukurinasaru na
待つ
matsu (to wait)
待て
mate
待つな
matsu na
待ちなさい
machinasai
待ちなさるな
machinasaru na
洗う
arau (to wash)
洗え
arae
洗うな
arau na
洗いなさい
arainasai
洗いなさるな
arainarasu na

Irregulars:

Abrupt Affirmative Abrupt Negative Plain Affirmative Plain Negative
する
suru
(to do)
しろ
shiro
するな
suru na
しなさい
shinasai
しなさるな
shinasaru na
来る
kuru
(to come)
こい
koi
来るな
kuru na
来なさい
kinasai
来なさるな
kinasaru na
くれる
kureru
(to give)
くれ
kure
くれるな *
kureru na
くれなさい *
kurenasai
くれなさるな *
kurenasaru na

* These forms are regular.

Usage Notes & Examples:

  1. Take careful note that you cannot politely use any imperative form to someone of higher status or someone who is not an intimate. This is even more true than in English. Let's say I'm giving my boss or someone I don't know directions. I will say "Go left at the end of the hall, then take the first right." Both of the verbs there are imperative mood. The equivalent situation in Japanese may not use an imperative form. Ever. Period. Even with an intimate, I'm not going to use imperative form in this particular case. The take away message here is, be very careful that you have experience hearing and understand the use of these imperative forms before you ever try using them yourself.
  2. The abrupt forms here come across clearly as orders. They are used frequently from bosses to subordinates, and in other cases by people of clearly higher status to people of clearly lower status, and in those cases don't display any particular rudeness or emotion, just a sense of "I'm telling you what to do and I expect you to do it." In other cases when you hear or use the abrupt forms, there is likely to be some emotion or anger involved in the situation.
  3. The plain forms here are generally used in very familiar situations. They are more gentle sounding, but still require a clear superior-inferior relationship. A common use of this form is from a mother to her child, or an older sibling to a younger one.
  4. In any polite conversation, when you want to instruct someone to do something, use the request forms. And depending on relative status or the situation, you may need to be even more polite (which usually means more indirect) than even those forms.
  5. The ichidan imperative ending in -yo is an older, more literary form not likely to be heard in conversation. It might be found in textbooks (instructions for exercises, for example), on tests, and so forth.

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