Ultimate Guide to Negative Commands in Spanish: Formal & Informal

During a recent trip to Spain, there were numerous road signs with prohibitions in Spanish.

Phrases like “No Entrar” and “Prohibido Girar“… What are they exactly? Well, they are negative commands in Spanish. As a Spanish student, you have to learn and understand these constructions.

Beyond just “No” for negation, Spanish uses words like “Nunca,” “Jamás,” and “Nada de” to express stronger prohibitions. Spring Spanish (a project I co-founded) made a video on how to make commands. This will be useful when using negative commands. Check it out!

With negative commands in Spanish being in front of us every day, from traffic signs to daily conversations, let’s explore them further!

1. What are negative commands in Spanish?

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Negative commands in Spanish, or negative imperatives, are a type of verb form used to give orders, instructions, or directions in the negative sense.

They are used to tell someone not to do a particular action or to prohibit (!) an action from being carried out.

Let’s first take a look at how negative commands are used in English before we analyze how it works in Spanish!

In English, we form negative commands by adding “don’t” before the verb:

  • Don’t talk.
  • Don’t go there.
  • Don’t touch that.

In Spanish, it’s a little bit different. Negative commands in Spanish are formed by using the subjunctive mood of the verb, and it’s preceded with the word “no“. (You can check present subjunctive Spanish and imperfect subjunctive on the blog.)

Here are some examples of negative commands in Spanish:

Negative commands in SpanishEnglish
No hables.Don’t speak.
No corran.Don’t run.
No lo toques.Don’t touch it.
No comas eso.Don’t eat that.

Negative commands in Spanish are important for expressing prohibitions, giving warnings, setting rules, or instructing someone not to do something.

2. How to form negative commands in Spanish: formal and informal

As mentioned earlier, negative commands in Spanish are formed using the subjunctive mood of the verb, preceded by the word “no“.

However, the specific conjugation pattern depends on whether the command is informal (tú/vosotros forms) or formal (usted/ustedes forms).

Informal Negative Commands (Tú/Vosotros)

1. Singular (Tú): To form a negative command in the singular informal form, use the subjunctive form of the verb preceded by “no”:

Informal negative commands in singularEnglish
No corras.Don’t run.
No grites.Don’t shout.
No toques eso.Don’t touch that.
No mientas.Don’t lie.
No olvides tu tarea.Don’t forget your homework.
No te preocupes.Don’t worry.

2. Plural (Vosotros): For plural informal negative commands, use the subjunctive form of the verb, but with an accent mark on the stressed vowel, and preceded by “no“:

Informal negative commands in pluralEnglish
No hagáis ruido.Don’t make noise.
No entréis sin permiso.Don’t enter without permission.
No os olvidéis de las llaves.Don’t forget the keys.
No discutáis en clase.Don’t argue in class.
No comáis demasiado dulce.Don’t eat too much candy.
No juguéis con fuego.Don’t play with fire.

Note: The “vosotros” form is mainly used in Spain. In Latin American countries, the plural informal form is the same as the formal “ustedes” form.

Formal Negative Commands (Usted/Ustedes)

1. Singular (Usted): For formal singular negative commands, use the third-person singular subjunctive form of the verb, preceded by “no“:

Formal negative commands in singularEnglish
No coma tan rápido.Don’t eat so fast.
No se preocupe.Don’t worry.
No llegue tarde.Don’t arrive late.
No toque eso, está caliente.Don’t touch that, it’s hot.
No olvide sut cita.Don’t forget your appointment.
No se distraiga.Don’t get distracted.

2. Plural (Ustedes): For formal plural negative commands, use the third-person plural subjunctive form of the verb, preceded by “no“:

Formal negative commands in pluralEnglish
No entren sin permiso.Don’t enter without permission.
No hagan ruido, por favor.Don’t make noise, please.
No se retrasen.Don’t be late.
No olviden traer sus materiales.Don’t forget to bring your materials.
No corran en los pasillos.Don’t run in the hallways.

3. Types of commands in Spanish

While “no” is the most common way to form negative commands, there are other words and expressions that can be used to add emphasis or to express a stronger prohibition.

Nunca (Never)

Nunca is used to indicate that an action should never be performed, showing a strict prohibition.

Nunca llegues tarde a clase.Never arrive late to class.
Nunca dejes tus tareas para el último momento.Never leave your homework until the last minute.

Jamás (Never)

Jamás is a stronger variant of “nunca,” showing an even more emphatic prohibition.

Jamás reveles ese secreto a nadie.Never reveal that secret to anyone.
Jamás olvides quién eres.Never forget who you are.

Ni (Nor/Neither)

Ni is used to negate an action or idea more strongly, often expressing a warning.

Ni se te ocurra mentirme.Don’t even think about lying to me.
Ni lo sueñes.Don’t even dream about it.

Nada de (Nothing of)

Nada de is used to forbid a specific action or situation.

Nada de gritar en la biblioteca.No shouting in the library.
Nada de salir hasta que termines tus deberes.No going out until you finish your chores.

Ni siquiera (Not even)

Ni siquiera is used to reinforce the prohibition, suggesting that the action should not even be considered.

Ni siquiera lo intentes.Don’t even try it.
Ni siquiera pienses en rendirte.Don’t even think about giving up.

Prohibido (Prohibited)

Prohibido is an adjective that can be used to express a strict prohibition or ban.

Prohibido fumar en estas instalaciones.Smoking is prohibited in these facilities.
Prohibido acampar en esta área.Camping is prohibited in this area.

4. When to use Spanish negative commands

Spanish negative commands, or negative imperatives, are used in different situations where you want to prohibit, restrict, or warn someone against doing a particular action.

negative commands in spanish with no running sign

Some common scenarios where negative commands are appropriate:

  1. Giving instructions or rules:
  • In a classroom setting: No hablen sin permiso. (Don’t speak without permission.)
  • At a public place: No se siente en el césped. (Don’t sit on the grass.)
  • In a workplace: No utilicen el elevador en caso de incendio. (Don’t use the elevator in case of fire.)
  1. Expressing prohibitions:
  • In a restaurant: No se admiten mascotas. (Pets are not allowed.)
  • At a museum: No tomar fotografías. (No photography allowed.)
  • In a public area: No arrojar basura. (Do not litter.)
  1. Giving warnings or advice:
  • Safety warnings: No se acerque demasiado al borde. (Don’t get too close to the edge.)
  • Health advice: No comas alimentos grasosos. (Don’t eat fatty foods.)
  • General advice: No confíes en extraños. (Don’t trust strangers.)
  1. Setting boundaries or limits:
  • Parental guidance: No veas televisión después de las 9 p.m. (Don’t watch TV after 9 p.m.)
  • Personal relationships: No me interrumpas cuando estoy hablando. (Don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking.)
  • Social etiquette: No hables con la boca llena. (Don’t speak with your mouth full.)
  1. Expressing urgency or emphasis:
  • In an emergency: ¡No entren, hay peligro! (Don’t enter, there’s danger!)
  • Emphasizing importance: No olvides tus llaves. (Don’t forget your keys.)

Negative commands are also used in written form, like with signs, labels, or instructions manuals. Pay attention to these too when you’re on the road, or looking for warnings.

5. Practice saying no and negative commands in Spanish

Fill in the blanks with the correct word from this blog post!

This is just a sneak peek of the exercises. If you want to practice more, click the button now!

6. Use Spanish commands (affirmative and negative) with Conversation Based Chunking

Conversation Based Chunking is a method that teaches language in meaningful phrases (chunks) rather than isolated words.

If we’re talking about Spanish commands, it is all about using them in dialogues so you can understand the context.

You can practice these command chunks through role-plays and conversations. We have tons of content for that. And what’s even better is that you can now request the Spanish Chunking Starter Pack to learn more about Conversation Based Chunking and get an essential Spanish chunking list for start.

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