13.6 - The imperative mood

When we tell other people (and ourselves) what to do, we use the imperative (command or order) form of the verb e.g. "Come here!", "Don't get on my nerves!", "Let's do it!". This is not a tense, as we are not saying when something happens, this is rather a mode in which the verb is used. In English, this has evolved into the word "mood".

In Ukrainian we can give an order to:

  • one person in a familiar way, the 2nd person singular (ти)
  • more than one person or one person formally, using 2nd person plural (ви)
  • a group of people, including ourselves, using the 1st person plural (ми)

The imperative stem is based on the stem of the present tense. The endings depend on the place where the stress falls in the present. The aim on this page is not to present an exhaustive analysis of the imperative (neither its form or use), but to give an overview of the forms, so that you can identify them when reading Ukrainian texts. A selection of frequently used verbs is given in the tables below (you will see that the endings fall broadly into three types, and that imperatives can be either perfective or imperfective):

Type 1 endings

infinitive 2nd person singular 2nd person plural 1st person plural
"Let's ..."
  zero ending -те -мо
знати знай знайте знаймо
читати читай читайте читаймо
зрозуміти зрозумій зрозумійте зрозуміймо
стояти стій стійте стіймо
займатися займайся займайтеся займаймося

Type 2 endings

infinitive 2nd person singular 2nd person plural 1st person plural
"Let's ..."
  -іть (іте) -ім (імо)
сказати скажи скажіть скажім (скажімо)
писати пиши пишіть пишім (пишімо)
сидіти сиди сидіть сидім (сидімо)
робити роби робіть робім (робімо)
брати бери беріть берім (берімо)

Type 3 endings

infinitive 2nd person singular 2nd person plural 1st person plural
"Let's ..."
  -ьте -ьмо
бути будь будьте будьмо
позбутися
(get rid of)
позбудься позбудьтеся позбудьмося 
приходити приходь приходьте приходьмо
сісти сядь сядьте сядьмо

Exception

infinitive 2nd person singular 2nd person plural 1st person plural
"Let's ..."
їсти їж їжте їжмо

The phrase "Let someone do ..." is expressed in Ukrainian by the words «хай» or «нехай» with the third person singular or plural of the present tense, for example:

Він хоче йти додому? Хай іде! He wants to go home? Let him.
Хай люди знають правду. Let people know the truth.

There are a number of useful phrases containing the imperative, including:

Вибач(те) / Пробач(те) Excuse me, sorry
Скажи (скажіть), будь ласка... Please could you tell me ...
Бувай здоров(а) / Бувайте здорові! All the best (when parting from someone);
(literally: "Be in good health")
Не бійся (бійтеся) Don't be afraid
Будьмо! A traditional toast, reputedly originating
in Cossack times, which was adopted as
an expression of solidarity and defiance by
the Шестидесятники, the artists and writers
of the 1960s Ukrainian cultural revival
(literally: "Let's be!").

In Ukrainian texts the context often, but not always, suggests whether a verb is in the present tense or the imperative. To practise distinguishing between the two, go to Exercise 13.6A.

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© 2007 Marta Jenkala