Italian Negative Imperative: Italian Grammar Lesson 127


Key Takeaways

Dive into the art of Italian commands with our guide on mastering the negative imperative! From the simple “non” to the nuanced “congiuntivo esortativo,” you’ll be bossing around in Italian like a pro in no time. 😉

  • Start with “non”: The Italian negation non is your go-to for the negative imperative. Just pop it before the verb, and you’re halfway there!
  • Keep it infinitive for “tu”: When telling someone “you” not to do something, stick the verb in the infinitive form after non. Example: Non mangiare! (Don’t eat!)
  • Imperative for the rest: For other pronouns like noi or voi, use the imperative form of the verb. Remember, non still leads the way.
  • Subjunctive for softness: Want to soften the blow? Use the present subjunctive (congiuntivo presente) with voi for a gentler command. It’s like saying “pretty please” with a cherry on top.
  • Exceptions to note: Verbs like essere and avere often get the subjunctive treatment. It’s like they’re too cool for regular rules.

Quick facts

How is the negative imperative formed in English?

In English, adding "do not" before the verb forms the negative imperative, without changing the verb's form.

What word signifies negation in Italian?

The negation word in Italian is "non," placed before the verb.

How is the negative imperative formed for "tu" in Italian?

For "tu," the verb takes the infinitive form after "non," creating "non + verb in infinitive."

Can you give an example of a negative imperative for "tu" in Italian?

"Non mangiare" means "do not eat," using the infinitive "mangiare" after "non."

How do you form the negative imperative for pronouns other than "tu"?

For pronouns like voi, noi, lei, add "non" before the verb in its imperative form.

What is an example of a negative imperative for "voi" in Italian?

"Non andate" translates to "do not go," using the imperative "andate" after "non."

How is the negative imperative formed in formal situations for "Lei"?

Add "non" before the formal imperative, like "Non apra" for "do not open."

How can "noi" use the negative imperative?

For "noi," add "non" before the imperative, as in "non cominciamo" for "let's not start."

What is the congiuntivo esortativo and when is it used?

Congiuntivo esortativo uses the present subjunctive for exhortations, often with "essere," "avere," "pensare," and "credere."

Provide an example of congiuntivo esortativo for "voi."

"Non siate tristi" means "do not be sad," using the subjunctive "siate" after "non."

My Thoughts

Negative Imperative in Italian

Quite surprisingly, in order to create the Italian negative imperative, you don’t really need to use the affirmative Italian imperative.

Non fare così!

Don’t be like that!

In English, to form a negative imperative, we add the negation do not before the verb, and nothing else changes.

In Italian, it isn’t always that simple. Let’s have a look at how to form it!

How to form the negative imperative in Italian?

As you probably know, the negation word in Italian is non, so we will undoubtedly have to place that before the verb.

The only thing to remember, though, is that in the second person singular (tu), the verb after the negation non will take the infinitive form (mangiare, fare, uscire, etc.), resulting in the structure: Tu + non + verb in the infinitive.

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Have a look at the examples below:

Gianluca, non mangiare a quest’ora, tra poco è pronta la cena.

Gianluca, do not eat at this time; dinner will be ready soon.

(Tu) Non uscire stasera, rimani qui con me!

Don’t go out tonight, stay here with me!

Anna, non chiudere la porta, sta per arrivare Ludo.

Anna, don’t lock the door, Ludo’s coming.

With all the other personal pronouns we simply need to add the word non before the verb in its imperative form: voi, noi, lei + non + verb in the imperative.

(Voi) Non andate al lago oggi, non c’è neanche il sole!

Don’t go to the lake today; it’s not even sunny!

(Lei formale) Non apra la porta!

Do not open the door!

(Noi) Per favore, non cominciamo!

Please, let’s not start!

What are the exceptions for using the negative imperative in Italian?

Sometimes, when we invite someone not to do something, we can use non + congiuntivo presente (present subjunctive) for the second person plural (voi).

This is called congiuntivo esortativo (exhortative subjunctive), and it is often used with the verbs essere (to be) and avere (to have) and always with the verbs pensare (to think) and credere (to believe).

All the examples below are addressed to voi:

Non siate tristi!

Do not be sad!

Non pensiate male di me!

Do not think ill of me!

Non abbiate paura!

Do not be afraid!

Non crediate a quel che vi racconta!

Do not believe what he tells you!

Test your knowledge in 10 quick questions

How do you use negative in Italian?

Italian language has a different approach to making sentences negative. Unlike English, where we use don't, doesn't, or didn't before the main verb, in Italian, you only need to add non to the verb.

Does Italian use double negatives?

In English, it is a commonly accepted grammar rule to use only one negative word in a sentence. However, it is interesting to note that in Italian, the use of double negatives, and even triple or quadruple negatives, is considered grammatically correct.

Italian word of the day
Hai la febbre! Sì, mi è venuta l’influenza.
You have a fever! Yes, I got influenza.
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