ordonner vs commander

I have been teaching French online since late-2013 and one of the most common mistakes I’ve heard students make is confusing ordonner commander. In short, ordonner means to order a person to do something and commander means to order something in a restaurant or bar. This post will provide some great example sentences.

Before moving any further, let’s take a quick look at the verbs in the present tense:

tu ordonnes
il, elle, on ordonne
nous ordonnons
vous ordonnez
ils, elles ordonnent
je commande
tu commandes
il, elle, on commande
nous commandons
vous commandez
ils, elles commandent

ordonner usage

First let’s take a look at ordonner. Specifically, the usage is as follows: ‘ordonner à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose‘ – to order somebody to do something. Let’s look at some example sentences:

  • Je vous ordonne d’apprendre ces verbes. I order you to learn these verbs.
  • Je lui ordonne de mettre un masque ! I’m ordering him to wear a mask!
  • Il nous ordonne d’aller voter. He’s ordering us to go vote.

Separately, ordonner has two other usages: 1) to put in order (e.g. numerically or alphabetically) and 2) to tidy, organize or put in order. Example sentences:

  • J’ordonne les chiffres du plus petit au plus grand. I put the numbers in order from least to greatest.
  • J’ordonne toujours mes affaires avant de faire un voyage. I always put my things in order before taking a trip.

commander usage

Commander also means to order but it specifically means to order something as in to ‘order online’.

  • Je commande tous mes manuels scolaires en ligne. I order all my textbooks online.
  • Vous êtes prêts a commander ? Are you ready to order?
  • Je vais commander le filet mignon. I’m going to order the filet mignon.

To confuse matters, you can also say, ‘commander à quelqu’un de faire quelque chose‘ to mean ‘to order somebody to do something’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Le professeur commmande aux étudiants de se taire. The teacher order the students to be quiet.

Lastly, commander also means to be in charge of or to order around. For example:

  • Le patron commande ses employés. The boss is in charge of his employees.
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