In Spanish, the present tense "él/ella/usted" form of a verb is almost always identical to the "tú" imperative form with a few exceptions. The imperative form of "tener" is "ten" while its "él/ella/usted" form is "tiene." The same applies with "decir" and "di".

Verbs derived from "tener" with added prefixes contain "tén" in their "tú" imperative form. However, verbs derived from decir have identical "tú" imperative and present tense "él/ella/usted" forms.

This table shows examples of this phenomenon:

Verb Present Él/Ella/Usted Form Tú Imperative Form
Tener Tiene Ten
Obtener Obtiene Obtén
Contener Contiene Contén
Mantener Mantiene Mantén
Verb Present Él/Ella/Usted Form Tú Imperative Form
Decir Dice Di
Predecir Predice Predice
Maldecir Maldice Maldice
Contradecir Contradice Contradice

Why do Spanish verbs conjugate this way?

  • 1
    Interesting. My Collins ES-EN dictionary disagrees with you about predecir & contradecir, but I checked the RAE and it agrees with you. But in the words of a former Spanish teacher of mine "Because - end of argument".
    – Peter M
    Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 20:55

3 Answers 3


This might look odd when viewing the imperative in isolation, but there is something of a sliding scale of maintaining consistency with decir and regularising conjugations across a number of tenses, and seen from this perspective these verbs can be grouped into a few subgroups:

Verb Present 3rd
person Form
Tú Imperative
Future Past Participle
decir dice di diré dicho
redecir redice redí rediré redicho
entredecir entredice entredí entrediré entredicho
interdecir interdice interdice* interdiré interdicho
predecir predice predice* prediré /
condecir condice condice* condiré /
contradecir contradice contradice* contradiré /
desdecir desdice desdice* desdiré /
maldecir maldice maldice* maldeciré** maldito† /
bendecir bendice bendice* bendeciré** bendito† /

La respuesta corta es que no todos los verbos derivados del verbo "decir" utilizan en el imperativo la partícula "-dice" (ben-dice, mal-dice...), en lugar de la voz que el verbo "decir" emplea en su imperativo, "di (tú)".

La cuestión no está en reducir un tema, que es mucho más amplio, a partir de una regla general que en cualquier caso no es real, sino que la cuestión debería centrarse en la comprensión de los distintos modelos, formas y familias que componen con sus propias peculiaridades los verbos irregulares y que precisa de tiempo y esfuerzo, pues no se trata de una simple respuesta "Prêt-à-porter" que en muchos casos solo puede servir de confusión.

Así a parte del verbo "Decir", hallamos otros como "Redecir", "Entredecir y quizás también "esperdecir" (desperdiciar), cuyo imperativo lo hacen en (-di).

Redecir (Redi Tú), Entredecir (Entredí Tú). Por tanto no todos los verbos derivados de "decir" utilizan "-dice" en lugar de "-di" en su imperativo.

A esto se añade la discusión y curiosidades sobre los imperativos de algunos autores como Moliner, que pensaba que en el caso del verbo "contradecir", "contradice Tú" también habría que admitir en su imperativo la forma "contradi (Tú)" o Fray Luis de Granada que utilizaba abundantemente la voz "maldirás".

Podríamos pensar que existe una especie de regla general según la cual "si la base de un verbo compuesto es un verbo irregular, las mismas irregularidades de la base se podrán observar en la conjugación de los compuestos".

Así si pensamos en el presente del verbo "decir", (Yo) digo, probablemente la regla continuaría con el presente de "bendecir" (Yo) bendigo o (Yo) maldigo...

Sin embargo, la regla se rompe no solo con el imperativo, sino también en el participio. El participio de "decir" es "dicho", pero el de "bendecir" es "bendecido" y el de "maldecir" "maldecido", aunque en este último caso hasta hace poco también era común utilizar como participio la locución "maldito", del participio latino "maledictus" y que actualmente solo se utiliza como adjetivo.

Como curiosidad el verbo "decir" es el único que pertenece a la clase decimotercera de los verbos irregulares. Esta clase combina las irregularidades de la primera, la tercera, la quinta y sexta familias de inflexiones y en donde se conciben cinco raíces;

"dig", "dic", "dij" "dir" y "dec"

Verbo "Decir" histórico

Direre S. XII - S.XIV deik / dir (e)

Dicere Edad Media dezir, deçir, dizir

A partir del S. XVII dizir

A partir de 1780 decir / de'sir (decir) (Drae 1780)

Para saber más;

  • Suma de minucias del lenguaje De José G. Moreno de Alba


  • Gramática de la lengua castellana destinada al uso de los americanos De Andrés Bello. pág. 113

  • Las familias de palabras: Relaciones entre morfología, semántica y ... De Héctor Hernández Arocha

2.- Segunda Parte "la familia de palabras "decir". pág. 280


Tener -> ten (tú), tené (vos, southern cone), tenga (usted, third person) Decir -> di (tú), decí (vos), diga (usted)

Decir in present tense second and third (usted is the same as él/ella/eso from now on each time I conjugate in third person I also do in the second, to clarify what I think is a confusion of expectation with categories misplaced) person singular, so:

Decir -> dices (tú), decís (vos), dice (usted)

Se second part about added prefixes I didn't get, do you mean the added suffix pronoun? like from decir, dílo, or tener, ténlo. (you used the diacritic, in Spanish we use diacritic for one syllable words to specifically distinguish it from same sounding one syllable words, quite useful, from where I deduce that is what you mean when referring to the derived from "tener". Also, this derivations are "conjugations" not "verbs", since it's the same verb used in different ways, even the mood changing might look like verb changing for very irregular verbs. The table is incomplete, or at least misleading, mixing English and Spanish in some boxes, and some like predict is just as if it were in English as a comparison with "predecir" in Spanish, which its conjugated like "decir" one of the highly irregular ones, the word is simply an attached prefix pre- to decir. Much like how you would conjugate "contradecir" (contradict literally).

Lemme go on a limp and assume you are an English speaker, and try to fill in the gaps of what I understood is your question so if it isn't don't even bother reading my attempt at answering since it would be meaningless.

So English is your thinking and dreaming language; in Spanglish, thinking with both ways they treat the verb morphology or shape, the chart makes sense for one who is fluid in Spanish also, more than a chart of what people use to study, or synthesize ideas. Your chart seems like a chart of the thought direction and orientation of yours when thinking of this problem (vs. organized for anyone to understand), and you got confused with the third person imperative and present tense in the third person: because there are no "present" imperative, imperative has only it's default "tense". when using with a pronoun it goes as a suffix always, with tener ending in -lo/s -le/s -la/s depending on gender and number, so third person imperative ténlo (tú), tenélo (vos), Téngalo (usted). I hope I got the gist of your question, I guess your not even wrong, but conflated expectations where there was no hope in the first place to predict or divine this things (conjugations).

I have to say what I always hate being said to me: "Rules are necessary, deal with it, it's what people do", you won't understand it because there's no correspondence. You'll only get to know this and use this by heart, there's no mnemonic device that quick, reasoning or logic to the highly irregular verbs, which aren't many. All new verbs like googlear (to google) are rational, follow rules you can learn or memorize. Tiene is indeed the third person singular but it's not the imperative mood of the verb, it's the indicative mood (most common one, I'm just used it now). with "decir" you got it right! and both are irregular, it's just that what is affected b "irregularity" is far broader in some languages than others, for example in English, the conjugation chart to differentiate regular from irregular verbs is as simple 2 entry chart of each verb and the indicative mood of the present tense, past and past participle.

In Spanish the irregularity of those verbs, and there are handful only that have this level of morphing, change and custom, one ends up learning this by heart (no logic to it): ser is the worst to learn, and the paradigmatic example of an irregular verb.

Like in English, we have regular and irregular verbs in Spanish also. Unlike English, most Romance languages have pronominal verbs, where it is accompanied by a reflexive pronoun before/after or as a suffix; Tener is one these. Highly irregular but not as irregular as "ser" but a little more confusing/harder to remember than "satisfacer".

  • That does not really seem to answer the OPs question which I think you have not quite understood.
    – mdewey
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 11:49
  • Yes, I'm clumsy I didn't review what I wrote because I was so focused on being brief. Thank you for reminding me of capitalization and noun. Oh and I read it on askhistorians reddit, that same expression, Southern Cone, there's only one. It's even uncommon here; here in River Plate Basin (sounds worse).. mdewey, If you understand what my interpretation of OP's question is, doesn't my answer address it? anyway i ought to make "go on a limp" single line paragraph to separate this last part and seem tidy Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 22:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.