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I know you can say in the imperative way the following:

  • a matar

  • a matarlo

Questions:

  1. Can you use the negative form? Example: "A no matar"?

  2. How do you use apply this construction to reflexive verbs? For example, should it be "A ducharte", "a ducharse"?

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  • Excellent question! May be better to ask in two different posts, for a better handling of the feedback – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jan 3 '20 at 18:40
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    @fedorqui the title now looks funny, as one cannot help wondering why someone would want to say "a matar" in reflexive ;) . But on the other hand, it will get more clicks this way... – wimi Jan 3 '20 at 18:48
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    @wimi hahaha didn't think about it :) I just wanted to make sure the title covers the body of the question, so it is easier to find in the future – fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Jan 3 '20 at 18:53
  • I really don't think if you using the imperative here, you would use this forms. Don't you watch any telenovelas. They are full of: Matelo and matalo. A mother would say to a kid: Venga, a ducharse. Sure. It is not used in the negative. I am surprised that no Spanish speaker is pointing this out. I guess if you had to kill a herd of diseased sheep, you might use it. But preceded my Venga, or something else. – Lambie Jan 4 '20 at 0:08
  • @Lambie true, "matar" is not a good example of this. That is why none of the answers give any example with this verb... – wimi Jan 4 '20 at 13:42
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I could not find any official sources for this, so this answer is about the way I am used to hearing it in Spain.

The use of "a+infinitive" as an imperative transmits a sense of urgency, as in "do it now". The typical example "¡A comer!" means that the food is ready and it is time to eat. Therefore, this construction is seldom used in negative, as negative imperatives do not usually require immediate action*.

Regarding pronouns, there is a poem by Pablo Neruda with the title "A callarse", so at least Pablo Neruda seems to prefer the infinitive pronoun "se" to the person-related pronouns "te", "os". This is consistent with what I am used to hearing.

*That said, I have been known to say "A no preocuparse", which would answer both your questions but is only one data point.

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  • The reason it is callarse is because the verb to be quiet in Spanish is reflexive. And I am not a native speaker but I don't believe the negative exists, which makes sense as it is a call to action. – Lambie Jan 4 '20 at 17:48
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This is a partial answer, to supplement the answer by @wimi.

Your options for the duchar example are

  • A duchar

  • A ducharse

with the latter preferred. You wouldn't say "A ducharte" because in this construction the verb is expressed for a general person, not for a particular person. (Note this is consistent with what wimi said about Neruda's work.)

I would generally prefer the latter option, "A ducharse," because the shorter one could sound abrupt and a bit like a drill sergeant barking an order. However, sometimes in family life one needs to minimize the number of syllables and so one might say "A duchar."

My personal opinion about the negative is that since this construction is a call to immediate action, in general the negative doesn't work. That's what makes "A no preocuparse" charming. It is a breaking of a grammatical rule, and the irony helps the worry wart laugh. As a parent of a child with OCD, I've seen that the laughter distraction is one of the best ways of coping with worrying.

As a more common example, consider the command to not pay taxes. There are no slogans or posters saying "A no pagar impuestos." Instead, the imperative form "No pagar impuestos" is used.

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    thank you for providing additional examples. Very interesting indeed to see how it is sometimes possible to break the rules. – Alex Jan 1 '20 at 17:41
  • Would you mind addressing the semantics of the matar example? It's really odd except in exceptional circumstances, like killing infected animals like sheep or goats or chickens. – Lambie Jan 4 '20 at 0:11
  • @Lambie - I'm not sure what you want me to talk about. I can say what I was imagining for a context, if that helps: I was imagining a drug lord talking to an underling. – aparente001 Jan 4 '20 at 1:31
  • What do you mean by the command to not pay taxes?? Also, the matar thing I commented on under the question. Why doesn't any Spanish speaker just say there is not negative form of this usage? It is exhortatory. – Lambie Jan 4 '20 at 17:51
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The ten Commandments include commands in the negative that I, as a native speaker, perceive as imperative. For example: "no matarás". But I'm not a grammar expert.

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  • Hello Pablo, and welcome to the site -- hope you'll stick around. // I think your contribution would work better as a comment than a post. Perhaps a moderator will convert it to a comment for you. If not, keep in mind that you can build up reputation by asking good questions, editing posts, etc. I think once you've gotten up to 15 points then you can post comments yourself. – aparente001 Jan 1 '20 at 21:28

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