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Combining the Subjunctive with the Imperative

Can you give orders or express requests using the subjunctive? In this lesson, we are going to answer that question. Let's analyze some model sentences to learn how to combine the subjunctive with other moods and tenses. You can read our previous lesson on subjunctive and indicative here.

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You can combine the imperative (which is only conjugated in the present tense) with two different tenses of the subjunctive. The easiest and the most common case is when you use the imperative with the present subjunctive. Here are two examples (remember we're using bold for the subjunctive):

 

Tú haz lo que quieras y yo también.

You do whatever you want and so do I.

Caption 74, Jugando a la Brisca En la calle

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Y decile a tu amigo que deje de llamarme Vicky.

And tell your friend to quit calling me Vicky.

Caption 19, Muñeca Brava 1 Piloto - Part 4

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Keep in mind that decí (tell) is typically Argentinian. In other countries, you would hear di (tell): dile a tu amigo (tell your friend).

 

But going back to the subjunctive, let's analyze the meaning of the expression in the last example. Spanish uses the subjunctive here because what has been said is in the realm of possibilities (in this case, it is the expression of a desire) not in the realm of facts. So you can't say dile que me deja de llamarme Vickythis is incorrect because the indicative deja (he quits) is reserved to state facts, as in tu amigo deja de llamarme Vicky (your friend quits calling me Vicky).

 

Another way to phrase the same request could be dile a tu amigo que no me llame Vicky (tell your friend not to call me Vicky). Note that instead of using the verb dejar (to quit) we use a negation plus the verb llamar (to call) in present subjunctive (llame). Again, you could not possibly use the indicative mood here and say dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky. This is incorrect— well, at least if what you want to express is a desire or a request.

 

For the pure pleasure of curiosity, consider an expression in which this last construction could happen, for example: dile a tu amigo que no me llama Vicky que venga a mi fiesta (tell your friend who doesn't call me Vicky to come to my party). See? We use the indicative llama (he calls) to express that it's a fact that he doesn't call Victoria "Vicky," and then we use the subjunctive venga (to come) because it states Victoria's desire for him to come to her party. 


But let's not torture ourselves with games and let's see the second case of imperative combined with subjunctive, this time the pretérito perfecto (equivalent to present perfect subjunctive) which is a compound tense that uses the auxiliary verb haber (to have):

Haz lo que te hayan dicho los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors have told you. 

 

Dame lo que hayas cocinado.
Give me whatever you have cooked.

 

Dime lo que María te haya contado.
Tell me whatever Maria has told you.
 

This is not exactly an easy tense, right? Compare these sentences with the following ones that use the imperative with the present subjunctive (reviewed first in this lesson):

Haz lo que te digan los doctores.
Do whatever the doctors tell you. 


Dame algo de lo que cocines mañana.
Give me some of what you cook tomorrow.


Dime lo que María quiera.
Tell me whatever Maria wants.
 

The good news is that you can find ways to get away without using the pretérito perfecto del subjuntivo. For example, you can just use the simple past indicative. It's much less... let's say sophisticated, because the subtle meaning of indeterminacy that the subjunctive gives to the expression (which in English is expressed using the word "whatever") gets lost. Still, the past indicative gets the job done:

Haz lo que te dijeron los doctores.
Do what the doctors told you


Dame lo que cocinaste.
Give me what you cooked.


Dime lo que María te contó.
Tell me what Maria told you.

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That's it for today. We hope you liked this lesson and don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.

 

¡Hasta la próxima!

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