Using preposition a + infinitive to express a command

There is a verbal structure in Spanish that is used to express a command:

Preposition "a" + Infinitivo

With this structure we don't need to specify who the command is directed to, so it is used to ask whoever is in front of you to do something, it can be one or more people. 

Have a look and listen to these examples:

  • The situation is "it is noisy". Someone says:   

    ¡A callar!
    Be quiet!

  • The situation is "the food is ready at the table". Someone says:

    ¡A comer!
    Let's eat!

When the verb is a pronominal verb, remember to keep the reflexive pronoun "se".

For example:

¡A lavarse las manos!
Wash your hands!

It is also acceptable to use the specific reflexive pronoun

  • te (i.e when the command is directed to one person)
  • os (i.e when the command is directed to more than one person)

Andrés, ¡A lavarte las manos!
Andrés, wash your hands!

Vosotros dos, ¡A lavaros las manos!
You two, wash your hands!

We don't use this type of command to ask someone to "not" do something, for example:

 ¡A no pintar en la pared! (Don't paint on the wall!)

In these cases, we would use the more usual form for negative commands.  See also Forming simple negative commands : No + El Presente de Subjuntivo (present subjunctive)

 

As a general rule, remember that the verbal form after a preposition (a, de, por, para, en...) is an infinitive. Have a look at this example:

¡Todos a bailar! (Let's all dance!)
¡Todos a bailando!
¡Todos a bailamos!

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Phrasal/Prepositional

Examples and resources

¡A lavarse las manos!
Wash your hands!


¡A callar!
Be quiet!


¡A comer!
Let's eat!


Vosotros dos, ¡A lavaros las manos!
You two, wash your hands!


Andrés, ¡A lavarte las manos!
Andrés, wash your hands!


Q&A

allison

Kwiziq community member

15 May 2018

4 replies

This link doesn't answer my question

With a subject "vosotros" why would the imperative ever be "a lavarse el pelo"?

Alan

Kwiziq community member

15 May 2018

15/05/18

As I understand the lesson, with vosotros you do say "a lavaros". But if you don't want to be specific or you want to be polite, you use "a lavarse".

Alan

Kwiziq community member

15 May 2018

15/05/18

I want to modify my answer to your question! I interpret the lesson to mean you can use lavarse with any group of people (including 'vosotros' people) but you can also be more specific if you want to and use lavaros with vosotros people. I guess using lavaros with 'ustedes' people would be impolite ! 

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

15 May 2018

15/05/18

As Alan said on his first comment, using the specific pronoun "os" that refers to "vosotros" is also correct, but, as explained in the lesson, this structure "a + infinitive" is used in a more general way. When the verb is a pronominal one, e.g lavarse, and still using this structure in a general way, directed to people in general, you keep the general reflexive pronoun (se).

Here are other similar examples:

¡A ducharse!  Have a shower!

¡A peinarse! Comb your hair!

¡A concentrarse! Concentrate!

I hope this clarifies your doubt.

Inma

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

15 May 2018

15/05/18

Hi Alan

Thanks for your comments.

With formal pronouns usted or ustedes we don't use this structure, we would use the subjunctive form instead.

Inma

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