In my Spanish class I have learnt that only the second person (s & pl) has distinct forms for the imperative, but the forms for all other persons are the same as for the subjunctive.

Pragmatically, that's all I need to know to express myself, but from a linguistic point of view, I'm interested to find out if the fact is that there is no imperative for other persons, but that we use a subjunctive expressing a desire or demand (I know that this is the case in Latin, in which the sole exception is a future 3rd person imperative).

So when I say "no hables", am I using an imperative (that just happens to look like a subjunctive) or a (jussive) subjunctive?

  • 1
    The way I learned it, it was a subjunctive. But this was very elementary education (1st through 6th grades), in a Spanish speaking country. I didn't take courses in Spanish in high school or college, except for one course in Latin American literature. So I know how to speak, but I really don't know the grammar. Sep 21, 2014 at 8:12
  • 2
    The RAE calls it the exhortative subjunctive. Sep 21, 2014 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


As it is supposed in the question, there is no imperative for third persons since you can not give orders to someone that you are not talking to directly (those others).

So in such cases you use the subjunctive:

Quiero que (ellos) hagan su trabajo

Here you express the wish, maybe to someone that may accomplish it for you.

The yell "no hables!" (or "no habléis!") from a teacher would be interpreted as a command (it is), although it is not an imperative tense but subjunctive, equivalent to "Quiero que no hables!". You can say the same with an imperative form:

Deja de hablar!

If the order is aimed at others (third person):

Quiero que se calle!
Dile que se calle!
Hazle callar!

Last two examples are actually imperatives, but not directed to third person but to a second person that may accomplish/transmit the command.

  • So is it that it is not possible to command someone to not do something?
    – Conrado
    Mar 27, 2020 at 0:15
  • @Conrado, yes, it is possible, using the subjunctive as in the examples in the answer. E.g. "no te muevas" (don't move) or "¡Nunca vuelvas a hacer eso!" (never do that again!).
    – Lucas
    Mar 28, 2020 at 1:21
  • But no negative imperative, right?
    – Conrado
    Mar 28, 2020 at 1:36
  • technically you can have a third person imperative or at least it exists in Latin, although it certainly sounds awkward in English; e.g "let him come forward!" without context could appear to be "let (permit) him to come forward". There's also a first person imperative - "let's go!" or "let us go!"
    – gpr
    Mar 30, 2020 at 0:28

In your example the tense in no hables is present of subjunctive. You can easily check in the DRAE site the meaning of the verb, but also pressing the button conjugar all the model of the conjugation as in this case.

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