The imperative in Egyptian Arabic

Forming direct commands

To form commands in Egyptian Arabic, step 1 is to start out with the imperfect form of the verb (المضارع). A few examples:

يحط (yiHoTT) to putيمشي (yimši) to go/walk
يروح (yiruuH) to goيفتح (yiftaH) to open

Step 2 is to get rid of the ي at the beginning:

حط (HoTT)مشي (mši)
روح (ruuH)فتح (ftaH)

Step 3 is to determine whether you can leave the verb like that or need to add an ا at the beginning.

امشي (imši)
افتح (iftaH)

This is the formula for a command to a man. So, step 4: in order to formulate commands to a woman or to a group, you just add an -i or -u suffix, respectively.

حطي - حطوا (HoTTi - HoTTu)امشي - امشوا (imši - imšu)
روحي - روحوا (ruuHi - ruuHu)افتحي - افتحوا (iftaHi - iftaHu)

Note: With defective verbs, where the base verb ends in a vowel (as with يمشي), you get rid of the ending vowel before adding -i or -u. Some more examples:

Step 1 - original verbStep 2 - take out the initial يStep 3 - masc. command formStep 4 - fem./pl. command form
يستنّى (yistinna) to waitستنّى (stinna)استنّى (istinna)استنّي - استنّوا (istinni - istinnu)
يصحى (yiSHa) to wake upصحى (SHa)اصحى (iSHa)اصحي - اصحوا (iSHi - iSHu)
ينسى (yinsa) to forgetنسى (nsa)انسى (insa)انسي - انسوا (insi - insu)

A table of some common commands:

Step 1 - original verbStep 2 - take out the initial يStep 3 - command formStep 4 - fem./pl. command form
يعمل (yi3mel) to do/makeعمل (3mel)اعمل (i3mel)اعملي - اعملوا (i3meli - i3melu)
يرجع (yirga3) to returnرجع (rga3)ارجع (irga3)ارجعي - ارجعوا (irga3i - irga3u)
يجري (yigri) to runجري (gri)اجري (igri)اجري - اجروا (igri - igru)
ينزل (yinzil) to go downنزل (nzil)انزل (inzil)انزلي - انزلوا (inzili - inzilu)
يتكلّم (yitkallim) to talkتكلّم (tkallim)اتكلّم (itkallim)اتكلّمي - اتكلّموا (itkallimi - itkallimu)
يفتكر (yiftikir) to rememberفتكر (ftikir)افتكر (iftikir)افتكري - افتكروا (iftikri - iftikru)
يشتغل (yištaġil) to workشتغل (štaġil)اشتغل (ištaġil)اشتغلي - اشتغلوا (ištaġli - ištaġlu)
يوعد (yiw3id) to promiseوعد (w3id)اوعد (iw3id)اوعدي - اوعدوا (iw3idi - iw3idu)
يغيّر (yiġayyar) to change s.t.غيّر (ġayyar)غيّر (ġayyar)غيّري - غيّروا (ġayyari - ġayyaru)
يكلّم (yikallim) to talk (to s.o.)كلّم (kallim)كلّم (kallim)كلّمي - كلّموا (kallimi - kallimu)
يساعد (yisaa3id) to helpساعد (saa3id)ساعد (saa3id)ساعدي - ساعدوا (saa3idi - saa3idu)
يذاكر (yizaakir) to studyذاكر (zaakir)ذاكر (zaakir)ذاكري - ذاكروا (zakri - zakru)
يقوم (yi'uum) to get up/riseقوم ('uum)قوم ('uum)قومي - قوموا ('uumi - 'uumu)
يشيل (yišiil) to carryشيل (šiil)شيل (šiil)شيلي - شيلوا (šiili - šiilu)

So to sum up with a simplified rule: if the verb is any of the following, you don't need to add an ا to the beginning of the command.

Note: With hamzated verbs that have a long alif right after the initial ي (like ياخد yaaxod and ياكل yaakol), you remove both the inital ي and the long alif in step 2. So the commands for these verbs are خد - خدي - خدوا (xod - xodi - xodu) and كل - كلي - كلوا (kol - koli - kolu).

And if the verb isn't in one of those categories, you do need to add an ا to the beginning of the command.

Note: There are a couple of irregular commands:

VerbCommand forms
جاب - يجيب (gaab - yigiib) to bringهات - هاتي - هاتوا (haat - haati - haatu)
جه - يجي (geh - yiigi) to comeتعالى - تعالي - تعالوا (ta3aala - ta3aali - ta3aalu)

Expressing indirect/polite wishes

To express a more polite/indirect desire for someone to do something, there are different ways to go about it:

You can use modals with the appropriate second-person imperfect verb conjugation:

لازم... (laazim...)المفروض... (il-mafruuD)
you must/have should...
أحسن... (aHsan...)ممكن...؟ (mumkin...)
it'd be better to...can you...?

Words like لازم are more imperative. ممكن is better to use with people you don't know; in general, it's the best all-purpose polite way to phrase a request.

And of course it's always good to say "please"!

من فضلك - من فضلك - من فضلكوا (min faDlak - min faDlik - min faDluku)
لو سمحت - لو سمحتي - لو سمحتوا (law samaHt - law samaHti - law samaHtu)


لازم تفكر في الموضوع من جميع نواحيه قبل ما تاخد قرار (laazim tifakkar fil-mawDuu3 min gamii3 nawaHiih 'able ma taaxod qaraar)كان المفروض توصل من زمان (kaan il-mafruuD tiwSil min zamaan)
You should think about the issue from every angle before you make a decision.You should have arrived a long time ago.
أحسن تخلص الكلية قبل ما تتجوز (aHsan tixallaS il-kolliyya 'able ma titgawwiz)ممكن توريني السكة؟ (mumkin tiwarriini s-sikka?)
It'd be better to finish college before you get married.Can you show me the way?

Forming direct negative commands

To form basic direct negative commands, forget about how you formed commands above. Step 1 is starting out with the appropriate second-person imperfect conjugation of the verb.

تحطّ (tiHoTT) you (masc.) putتمشي (timši) you (masc./fem.) go/walk
تروحي (tiruuHi) you (fem.) goتفتحوا (tiftaHu) you (pl.) open

Step 2: put ما at the beginning and ـش at the end.

ماتحطّش (matHoTTeš)ماتمشيش (matimšiiš)
ماتروحيش (matruuHiiš)ماتفتحوش (matiftaHuuš)

That's it! A table of negative commands, using the same words as the big table above.

Step 1 - original verb - 2nd personStep 2 - add ما and ـشFem./pl. forms
تعمل (ti3mel) you do/makeماتعملش (mati3melš)ماتعمليش - ماتعملوش (mati3meliiš - mati3meluuš)
ترجع (tirga3) you returnماترجعش (matirga3š)ماترجعيش - ماترجعوش (matirga3iiš - matirga3uuš)
تجري (tigri) you runماتجريش (matigriiš)ماتجريش - ماتجروش (matigriiš - matigruš)
تنزل (tinzil) you go downماتنزلش (matinzilš)ماتنزليش - ماتنزلوش (matinziliiš - matinziluuš)
تتكلّم (titkallim) you talkماتتكلّمش (matitkallimš)ماتتكلّميش - ماتتكلّموش (matitkallimiiš - matitkallimuuš)
تفتكر (tiftikir) you rememberماتفتكرش (matiftikirš)ماتفتكريش - ماتفتكروش (matiftikriiš - matiftikruuš)
تشتغل (tištaġil) you workماتشتغلش (matištaġilš)ماتشتغليش - ماتشتغلوش (matištaġliiš - matištaġluuš)
تغيّر (tiġayyar) you change s.t.ماتغيّر (matġayyarš)ماتغيّريش - ماتغيّروش (matġayyariiš - matġayyaruuš)
تكلّم (tikallim) you talk (to s.o.)ماكلّمش (matkallimš)ماتكلّميش - ماتكلّموش (matkallimiiš - matkallimuuš)
تساعد (tisaa3id) you helpماتساعدش (matsa3idš)ماتساعديش - ماتساعدوش (matsa3idiiš - matsa3iduuš)
تذاكر (tizaakir) you studyماتذاكرش (matzakirš)ماتذاكريش - ماتذاكروش (matzakriiš - matzakruuš)
تقوم (ti'uum) you get up/riseماتقومش (mat'umš)ماتقوميش - ماتقوموش (mat'umiiš - mat'umuuš)
تشيل (tišiil) you carryماتشيلش (matšilš)ماتشيليش - ماتشيلوش (matšiliiš - matšiluuš)

To negate those two irregular imperatives, you just do the two steps described above.

Verb - 2nd personNegated command forms
تجيب - يجيبي - تجيبوا (tigiib - tigiibi - tigiibu) you bringماتجيش - ماتجيبيش - ماتجيبوش (matgibš - matgibiiš - matgibuuš)
تيجي - تيجي - تيجوا (tiigi - tiigi - tiigu) you comeماتيجيش - ماتيجيش - ماتيجوش (matgiiš - matgiiš - matguuš)

Expressing indirect negative commands

And aside from the direct negated imperative, there are a few other ways to tell someone not to do something:

1. Use بلاش (balaaš) with the appropriate second-person imperfect verb conjugation. This is not as strong as a direct negative order; it can have the connotation of a polite request or even mere advice/preference on behalf of the person talking.

If you saw a friend standing in the street to catch a bus and there was a place to sit nearby, you might say,
بلاش تستنى كدة في الشارع، أحسن لك تقعد جوة (balaaš tistinna kida feš-šaari3, aHsan-lak te'3od gowwa)
"No need to wait like that in the street, it'd be better for you to sit inside."

بلاش can also be used with a مصدر.

If you were in a library and there were a bunch of children making noise nearby, you could tell them,
بلاش دوشة يا ولاد (balaaš dawša ya welaad)
"No noise, kids."

2. Use إوعى (ew3a) with the appropriate second-person imperfect verb conjugation. Note that if you're addressing a woman, إوعى changes to إوعي (ewa3i), and if you're addressing a group, it becomes أوعوا (ewa3u). This word can have different connotations depending on how it's used; it can be a "watch out/take care!" kind of statement (like خللي بالك often is), a warning, or a very strong "Don't dare do that!" kind of statement.

If someone tall was going into a room with a low door, you might tell them,
إوعى راسك (ew3a raasak)
Watch out for your head.

If someone was waiting and waiting for someone who wasn't going to come, you could say,
إوعى تفضل مستنياه على طول (ew3a tifDal mistinnyaah 3ala Tuul)
Don't keep waiting for him forever.

To warn someone not to forget their cellphone:
إوعي تنسي موبايلك (ewa3i tinsi mobaylek)

If you'd had an argument with someone and were really mad at them:
إوعى تكلّمني تاني، أنا مش عايزة أشوف وشك! (ew3a tkallemni taani, ana miš 3ayza ašuuf wiššak taani!)
Don't dare talk to me again, I don't want to see your face again!

3. And finally, there's إياك (iiyyaak) with the appropriate second-person imperfect verb conjugation. Note that if you're addressing a woman, إياك changes to إياكي (iiyaaki), and if you're addressing a group, it becomes إياكوا (iiyyaaku). إياك is from fuSHa but used colloquially to express a very strong prohibition (like "Don't you dare do that!!"). However, if it's used with someone you know well in a context that isn't angry, it doesn't necessarily express such strong feeling.

إياكي تاكلي من أكلي في التلاجة (iiyaaki takli min akli fet-tallaaga)
Don't eat any of my food that's in the fridge!

Main grammar page The active participle