Even as a beginner, you can’t last very long in a real-world conversation without having to use the imperative mood at least once. Imperative is the form your verb takes when you’re directly asking someone to do something, either as a command or as a request. One good thing about the Spanish imperative is that there are far fewer verb-endings to memorize in this form as compared to its non-imperative counterparts. That being said, it’s still a menace when compared to how English imperatives work. For example, the English verb go is go in its imperative form and doesn’t care if you’re requesting, ordering, asking one to go, or forbidding one from going. In Spanish however, the verb is ir and its imperative form could be ve, vaya, id, and a few more things depending on the situation. This makes them a mess to remember.
Another annoying thing about the Spanish imperative is that it doesn’t follow the usual conjugation that underscores almost all other tenses and moods. You may be able to conjugate a verb entirely in any given tense with just the singular first-person form given to you as long as you remember its conjugation in the present indicative form. Not so with the imperative. That’s the pain area we will try to address here using an incredibly cunning mnemonic I came up with during my own struggles with Spanish conjugations.
The Indispensable Eight
Needless to say, not all verbs are made equal. Some are easier to do away with, others not so much. In Spanish, there are eight verbs without which your conversations would completely fall apart. These are the eight most heavily used verbs in the language. And as if out of some personal vendetta Spanish might have against us, most of these core verbs happen to be irregular in the imperative! What this means is that they entirely abandon the commonsense conjugation pattern at least in the imperative form and without any grammatical reason whatsoever for doing so. Let’s say hi to them:
- venir (to come)
- decir (to say)
- salir (to leave)
- hacer (to make, to do)
- tener (to have)
- ir (to go)
- poner (to put)
- ser (to be)
Of course, these aren’t the only irregular verbs in all of Spanish but looking at what they mean, you can easily see why they are the most important ones. At least in the context of commands or requests, no other verb holds as much clout on your conversations as these eight. If by any means you could have their command forms – the tú forms – down, you should be good to go at least for now. So that’s what we will be focussing on here. Oh and also, we’re only talking affirmatives here, e.g., eat, sit, go, come, etc. Negatives, such as don’t eat, don’t sit, etc., conjugate slightly differently and are a topic for another day.
So to summarize, here’s what we’ll attempt to learn with the trick at hand here: The affirmative command form of the eight most commonly used verbs that are also grammatically irregular. With a concrete goal in sight, the job is nearly half done!
The Unruly Imperative
I know you’re growing impatient for Vin Diesel already but bear with me. Like all good things, this trick is worth the wait. Before we call upon your heartthrob, it’s imperative that we get acquainted with the imperative. You’ve got to first see what the conjugation actually looks like, don’t you?
Imperative Conjugation for the Eight IrregularsNote that this list only includes the singular second-person conjugation for affirmative commands.
|Base Form||Conjugated Form||Usage|
|venir||ven||¡Ven aquí! (Come here!)|
|decir||di||Dime (Tell me).|
|salir||sal||¡Sal ahorita! (Leave right now!)|
|hacer||haz||¡Hazlo! (Do it!)|
|tener||ten||¡Tenlo! (Have it!)|
|ir||ve||Ve a donde quieras (Go wherever you want).|
|poner||pon||Ponlo sobre la mesa (Put it on the table).|
|ser||sé||¡Sé un hombre! (Be a man!)|
What a sadist bunch! How could one apply any memory hook whatsoever to something this irregular and unpredictable? No pattern, no rules of grammar. Frustratingly, cramming them seems to be the only viable solution, and it might even work – if you have to write a test the very next morning. But each of the seven heavens know what a train-wreck of an idea rote memorization is when your agenda includes more practical things like using Spanish in live conversations.
This is where the lazy learner in you ought to thank the sexy bald actor’s parents for naming him Vin Diesel. That’s because it’s his name that’s going to save the day for you now.
The Vin Diesel Trick
Finally the time has come to unveil the star attraction of the day. But before we do it, let’s imagine our baldie in something other than a Fast and the Furious flick. Picture him as a lone ranger fighting a bunch of baddies. Of course, he’s no Bruce Lee and must be well-armed for the job. In fact, he is armed to the teeth with no less than ten very sophisticated killing machines. Let this visual linger for a few seconds because it is important. Very important. Now repeat after me:
Vin Diesel has ten weapons.
How hard can it be to picture someone like him with an arsenal of ten weapons going all out to save the day for the rest of us? And this is your magic spell. Notice how the entire line is highlighted in red? That’s because everything in it is a mnemonic. How’s that for maximum bang for the buck? Here, let me break it down for you:
Vin – corresponds to ven
Die- – corresponds to di
-sel – corresponds to sal
has – corresponds to haz
ten – corresponds to ten
wea- – corresponds to ve
-pon- – corresponds to pon
-s – corresponds to sé
Unless you are compulsively obsessed with perfection, this mnemonic should seem pretty spot-on. I mean look at the rhyme! Agreed there are some caveats like Vin and ven not exactly being homophones, or Die- rhyming better with hi than with di, the overall trick hardly fails in its mission. If you argue that -sel and sal sound ever-so-slightly different (as do wea- and ve) and that -s seems a bit off when representing sé, do remember that your brain can easily sift through those anomalies. And look at the bright side: ten and ten are exact rhymes, as are -pon- and pon! Has and haz are almost there too. To me, that looks like a sweet deal.
So that’s eight top Spanish verbs conjugated and nailed in the imperative form right there. I sincerely doubt you’ll ever lose them again and it took what, less than eight minutes? That’s the power of mnemonics and ingenuity. Such tricks can be brewed on the fly and help you memorize just about anything, no matter how unfamiliar or twisted. Go ahead, give your brain some exercise and see how it surprises you. And if you have already been there done that, I would for you to share your ninja moves with us!