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I was recently staying with a Mexican family, and during lunch, the children (ages 8 and 5) were being rather unruly. The grandmother would command them: ¡A comer!

I have never heard a command in this grammatical form. What is the use of this form of a (psuedo?) command? How commonly is this used?

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It's a shorten form of "pongamonos a comer".

The verb is "poner" in its imperative form:

tú:

ponte a + infinitive

nostros:

pongamonos a + infinitive

ustedes:

ponganse a + infinitive

Examples:

¡A trabajar!

¡Ponte a trabajar!

¡Pongamonos a trabajar!

RAE defines this use:

poner:

41 . prnl. Comenzar a ejecutar una determinada acción. Ponerse A escribir, A estudiar.

So basically it means "to begin doing something".

In the shorten form depending on the context you can infer the pronoun. In your example because it was a family and most family eat together the pronoun was "nosotros" thus "pongamonos a comer".

In its imperative form it is used to command. I don't know if it is used in all Spanish speaking countries but at least in Mexico is used.

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    Just to confirm it's quite commonly used in Spain too, usually preceded by ¡Vamos! or ¡Venga!, e.g. ¡Venga! ¡A currar! (Let's get back to work!) or ¡Vamos! ¡A cenar! (Let's have dinner!) Jan 28 '13 at 17:22
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It is definitively a VERY common form.

(Ve) ¡A dormir!

(Empecemos) ¡A correr! ¡Huyamos!

(?) ¡A callar!

(ponte)¡A trabajar!

I feel it is oft used to interrupt an activity in favor of what you command, immediatly.

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