Lesson 22. The Imperative Mood in Russian

Like in English, verbs in Russian can be used in imperative mood. What is an imperative mood? This is a grammatical mood which is used for commands, requests, inducement to actions, and similar.

Please, be quiet! is an example of imperative mood in English. When you use an imperative mood you address one person or a group of people which means that imperative mood will only have two forms in Russian: second person singular and second person plural.

When you address one person you use the second person singular form, correspondingly if you address a group of people you use the second person plural form.

How to form the imperative?

To form an imperative of the Russian verb you have to add an ending to the stem. The ending can vary based on the verb. There are a lot of complicated rules about it but we can simplify it a bit for you.

Here are the steps:

1. Use the verb in present tense, third person plural

Example:

Читать (to read) – (они) читают (they read)

2. Cut down the ending, you will find the stem

Чита-ют – the stem is чита

3.

a) If the stem is ending with a vowel like in our example you add the consonant й and so you have the imperative mood for the verb читать, addressing one person.

Читай! (Read!)

b) If the stem is ending with a consonant and the last syllable of the verb is stressed, you add the vowel и to form the imperative.

Example:

Писать (to write) – (они) пишут (they write)

Пиш-ут – the stem is пиш

Пиши! Write!

c) If the stem is ending with a consonant and the last syllable of the verb is not stressed, you add the letter ь to form the imperative.

Example:

Готовить (to cook) – (они) готовят (they cook)

Готов-ят – the stem is готов-

Готовь! Cook!

If you address a group of people you add one more step. You will need to add the ending те to the singular form.

Читайте!

Пишите!

Готовьте!

If you have to deal with reflexive verbs you go through the same steps but add the reflexive particle to the final form.

Example:

Мыть (to wash) – (они) моют

Мо-ют – the step is мо-

Мой – addressing one person (Wash!)

Мойте – addressing a group of people (Wash!)

Мойся – addressing one person, reflexive (Wash yourself!)

Мойтесь – addressing a group of people, reflexive (Wash yourselves!)

Exceptions:

Of course, as in every other rule there are exceptions here.

Russian verb English translation Imperative Singular Imperative Plural
Пить To drink Пей Пейте
Шить To sew Шей Шейте
Лить To pour Лей Лейте
Бить To beat Бей Бейте
Есть To eat Ешь Ешьте
Вставать To get up Вставай Вставайте

 

All of this might sound a bit confusing but actually it is quite simple. You only have to practice the formation of this form. Here are a few exercises which might be helpful for you.

 

1. Translate the following sentences into Russian in 2 different ways (addressing one person, and addressing a group of people.)

  • Please open the window.
  • Please sing a song.
  • Please draw a picture.
  • Please learn the words.
  • Please help me.

2. Form both forms of the imperative for the following verbs:

  • Играть
  • Учиться
  • Рисовать
  • Думать
  • Позвонить
  • Бить
  • Включить

The correct answers to the exercises are in the comments section.

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One Response to Lesson 22. The Imperative Mood in Russian

  1. Elena says:

    1. Translate the following sentences into Russian in 2 different ways (addressing one person, and addressing a group of people.)

    Please open the window. Пожалуйста, открой/откройте окно.
    Please sing a song. Пожалуйста, спой/спойте песню.
    Please draw a picture. Пожалуйста, нарисуй/нарисуйте рисунок.
    Please learn the words. Пожалуйста, выучи/выучите слова.
    Please help me. Пожалуйста, помоги/помогите мне.

    2. Form both forms of the imperative for the following verbs:

    Играть – Играй/Играйте
    Учиться – Учись/Учитесь
    Рисовать – Рисуй/Рисуйте
    Думать – Думай/Думайте
    Позвонить – Позвони/Позвоните
    Бить – Бей/Бейте
    Включить – Включи/Включите

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