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Using preposition a + infinitive to express a command in Spanish

Use of the Spanish Infinitivo for 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!

As you can see on these last examples, you can also be more specific and direct the command to a person in particular (e.g. Andrés) or you could also add the pronoun at the beginning (e.g. Vosotros dos).

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 the imperative for usted/ustedes/nosotros/nosotras (affirmative and negative commands) and  Forming the Spanish imperative of tú/ vosotros/vosotras (negative commands)

 

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!

See also Using the infinitive to express a request/command/give instructions in Spanish

 

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Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

¡A callar!Be quiet!
¡A lavarse las manos!Wash your hands!
Andrés, ¡A lavarte las manos!Andrés, wash your hands!
Vosotros dos, ¡A lavaros las manos!You two, wash your hands!
¡A comer!Let's eat!
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