Finnish for busy people

The Imperative Mood – Imperatiivi – Tule! Mene! Syö!

The imperative mood is something you probably want to learn pretty early on when studying Finnish. The singular imperative is easy to form and used so much that it’s a great way to expand your communication skills (e.g. Syö! Mene! Tule!). The plural imperative is a whole lot more complicated.

In this article we will only look at the very basics of forming the imperative mood of verbs.

Table of Contents
  1. The Use of the Imperative Mood
    1. Functions of the imperative
    2. The imperative can be polite
    3. Sometimes the imperative is impolite
  2. The Formation of the Imperative
    1. Singular Imperative
    2. Plural Imperative
  3. The Object in Imperative Sentences

1. The Use of the Imperative Mood

1.1. Functions of the imperative

The imperative mood is used in orders and requests. It’s one of the ways to express necessity, just like “täytyy” and “pitää”. It’s common to add an exclamation point to the end of an imperative sentence.

Finnish English
Wish
Voi hyvin! Be well!
Parane pian! Get well soon!
Pidä hauskaa! Have fun!
Warning
Varo autoja! Watch out for cars!
Katso taaksesi! Look behind you!
Älä astu lätäkköön! Don’t step into the puddle!
Order
Ole hiljaa! Be quiet!
Kuuntele minua! Listen to me!
Sulje ja lukitse portti! (pic) Close and lock the gate!
Prohibition
Älä tallaa nurmikoita! Don’t trample the lawns!
Älä jätä tavaraa terassille! (pic) Don’t leave stuff on the terrace!
Älä osta karkkeja! Don’t buy candy!
Directive
Vatkaa munat kuohkeiksi. Whisk the eggs into fluff.
Käänny vasemmalle. Turn left.
Maksakaa kassalle, kiitos. (pic) Pay at the cash register, please.

1.2. The imperative can be polite

Despite what is sometimes taught in classes, the imperative is not necessarily impolite. It’s a neutral, polite way of phrasing instructions. The politeness is especially apparent in cases where to person receiving the instruction benefits from following the instructions. There is nothing impolite about, for example, instructions on how to act when there’s an emergency situation (#1). In advertisements (#2), doctor related documents (#3) and recipes (#4) you will also find a lot of imperative forms.

# Finnish English
1 Soita hätänumeroon 112. Call the emergency number 112.
1 Kerro, mitä ja missä on tapahtunut. Tell us what kind of emergency it is.
1 Toimi annettujen ohjeiden mukaisesti. Follow the instructions given.
1 Lopeta puhelu vasta saatuasi siihen luvan. Don’t end the call until you get permission to do so.
2 Osta kolme, maksa kaksi. Buy three, pay two.
2 Tilaa uutuus heti! Order the new product now!
3 Liuota jauhe veteen. Dissolve the powder in water.
3 Ota lääke tyhjään mahaan. Take the medicine on an empty stomach.
3 Ota kaksi kapselia ruoan kanssa. Take two capsules with food.
4 Paista uunin keskiosassa 150 asteessa 1 h. Bake in the middle of the oven at 150 degrees.
4 Lisää lopuksi ruokakerma. Finally, add the cream.

Parents (#1) or teachers (#2) can also address their children with imperatives without a negative interpretation.

# Finnish English
1 Pane piposi päähän. Put you beanie on.
1 Tule tänne! Come here!
2 Lukekaa sivut 10–15. Read pages 10–15.
2 Palauta essee tiistaihin mennessä. Turn your essay in by Tuesday.

1.3. Sometimes the imperative is impolite

Sometimes the imperative will be too direct. This is especially the case in situations where the recipient of the order doesn’t benefit from doing as they’re told. In these situations the recipient can be taken aback by the directness of the order.

Here are some impolite examples of the imperative:

Finnish English
Vaihda tämä seteli kolikoiksi. Change this banknote to coins. (customer to cashier)
Lähetä minulle korvaava tuote. Send me a replacement product. (customer to the manifacturer)
Tule ja korjaa vesihana. Come and fix the faucet. (resident to the plumber)
Ottakaa paita pois. Take your shirt off. (doctor to an elderly patient)

In those, you might want to use the polite conditional instead (#1). You can also soften the imperative by adding the clitic -pa/-pä or -han/-hän to the end of the imperative verb (#2).

# Finnish English
1 Voisitteko tulla korjaamaan vesihanaa? Could you (polite) come fix the faucet?
1 Antaisitko minulle uuden kuitin? Could you give me a new receipt?
1 Olisiko mahdollista saada kolikoita? Would it be possible to get coins?
2 Odotapas pieni hetki. Please wait a short moment.
2 Avaapa tuo ovi minulle. Please open that door for me.
2 Tulethan huomenna ajoissa. Do come on time tomorrow.
2 Otattehan paita pois. Please take your shirt off.

2. The Formation of the Imperative

The Finnish imperative can be conjugated in all the personal forms except the first person singular. The more difficult forms will be addressed in a different article.

2.1. The singular imperative

To form the imperative, you take the first person singular without the -n. This is the case for all verbtypes (VT). The negative form will be the exact same, but with älä “don’t” in front of it. You can find more example sentences of the negative imperative here.

If you’re a beginner, note that I’m only adding verbtype 6 to be complete. In the beginning of your studies, it’s fine to forget about verbtype 6 because it’s so rarely used.

VT # Verb Minä Imperative Negative
VT 1 antaa anna-n anna! älä anna!
VT 1 nukkua nuku-n nuku! älä nuku!
VT 1 ostaa osta-n osta! (pic) älä osta!
VT 2 imuroida imuroi-n imuroi! älä imuroi!
VT 2 juoda juo-n juo! älä juo!
VT 2 tehdä tee-n tee! älä tee!
VT 3 suudella suutele-n suutele! älä suutele!
VT 3 pestä pese-n pese! (pic) älä pese!
VT 4 tavata tapaa-n tapaa! älä tapaa!
VT 4 pudota putoa-n putoa! älä putoa!
VT 5 valita valitse-n valitse! älä valitse!
VT 6 lämmetä lämpene-n lämpene! älä lämpene!
VT 6 vanheta vanhene-n vanhene! älä vanhene!

2.2. The plural imperative

The plural imperative’s marker -kaa/-kää (see vowel harmony) will be added to infinitive’s stem of the verb. You can find the infinitive’s stem by removing the infinitive’s marker.

  • Verbtype 1: remove the final -a/-ä
  • Verbtype 2: remove the final -da/-dä
  • Verbtype 3: remove the final two letters
  • Verbtype 4: remove the final -a/-ä (not the -t-!)
  • Verbtype 5: remove the final -a/-ä (not the -t-!)
  • Verbtype 6: remove the final -a/-ä (not the -t-!)

For the negative plural imperative, your auxiliary verb will be “älkää“, and your main verb will get -ko/-kö added to its infinitive stem. This means the stem of both the positive main verb and the negative one will be identical.

VT # Verb Imperative Negative
VT 1 anta-a antakaa! älkää antako!
VT 1 nukku-a nukkukaa! älkää nukkuko!
VT 1 silittä-ä silittäkää! älkää silittäkö!
VT 2 imuroi-da imuroikaa! älkää imuroiko!
VT 2 juo-da juokaa! älkää juoko!
VT 2 teh-dä tehkää! älkää tehkö!
VT 3 suudel-la suudelkaa! älkää suudelko!
VT 3 nous-ta nouskaa! älkää nousko!
VT 4 tavat-a tavatkaa! älkää tavatko!
VT 4 pudot-a pudotkaa! älkää pudotko!
VT 5 valit-a valitkaa! älkää valitko!
VT 6 lämmet-ä lämmetkää! älkää lämmetkö!
VT 6 vanhet-a vanhetkaa! älkää vanhetko!

3. The Object in Imperative Sentences

A regular sentence can have an object that looks like the genitive (Ostan omenan). When you turn a sentence like that into an imperative sentence, you will need to use the basic form of the object.

Regular Imperative
Avaan oven. Avaa ovi!
Luen kirjan. Lue kirja!
Ostan uuden takin. Osta uusi takki!
Annan kukan äidille. Anna kukka äidille!
Lainaan kynän kaverille. Lainaa kynä kaverille!

Partitive objects will remain partitive in an imperative sentence, and so will plural forms.

That’s it for the basic rules of the imperative!

If you have mastered the imperative, you might want to look at some other pages:


Overview

In addition to the basic rules, there are other imperative forms that are interesting once you hit level B1. You can read more about the kertokoon, kertokoot and kerrottakoon forms in our article on the jussiivi.

Person Positive Negative
minä
sinä kerro! älä kerro!
hän kertokoon! älköön kertoko!
me kertokaamme! älkäämme kertoko!
te kertokaa! älkää kertoko!
he kertokoot! älkööt kertoko!
passive kerrottakoon! älköön kerrottako!
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Eric

Section 3 about objects of the imperative states that you should remove “n” from the genitive object for imperative sentences but that would result in “ove”, “uude”, and “kuka” instead of “ovi”, uusi”, and “kukka” in the examples.

Shouldn’t the imperative object be in the nominative form as stated in the cooking recipe phrases page? (URL below)

“All these phrases use the imperative in order to tell you what to do. In addition you can analyze these sentences for objects, which all appear in either the basic form or the T-plural (nominative plural).“

https://uusikielemme.fi/finnish-vocabulary/vocabulary-phrases/cooking-recipe-phrases-keittion-ruokaohje

Inge (admin)

You’re right, that section was just weirdly phrased. It’s indeed the basic form (the nominative) that’s used instead of the genetive case. Thank you!

Kalevo

Moi! Silloin imperatiivi käyttää aina partitiivi? Kiitos!

Inge (admin)

Ei! Lue “3. The Object in Imperative Sentences”. Imperatiivissa ei käytetä genetiiviä, mutta perusmuoto, T-monikko ja partitiivi ovat kaikki mahdollisia.

Kalevo

Kiitos avusta!