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How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Parts 1-3)

How to use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Parts 1-3) is a summary page of our first three blogs on the Italian subjunctive mode.  

All of the phrases used to introduce the subjunctive mode are given on this page.  

Click on the link at the end of each section for the complete blog, which will include present tense conjugation of the Italian subjunctive mode and example sentences.

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Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               The Italian subjunctive mode is easy to conjugate, but tricky to use!

 

How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3)

Have you ever wondered how to use the Italian subjunctive mode?  To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mode. Learning how to use the Italian subjunctive mode is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and it’s something that I am always working on! This is the third blog post in the “Speak Italian” series that focuses on how to conjugate and use the Italian subjunctive mode, or “il congiuntivo.” 

To take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian, in this segment, we will discuss how to express one’s needs in Italian and learn about other important introductory phrases and individual words that take the subjunctive mode

In Part 3 of our series of blogs on how to use the Italian Subjunctive Mode, we will repeat the conjugation of the subjunctive mode for the auxiliary -are, -ere, and -ire verbs and learn the conjugation of the auxiliary, or helping, verbs dovere, potere, and volere. Example sentences will follow!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode

In each blog post in the “Speak Italian” series about the subjunctive mode (“il congiuntivo”), phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mode will be presented. Then we will review the Italian conjugation for the subjunctive mode in the present and past tenses. Finally, examples of common phrases used in daily life with the subjunctive mode will be presented. Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mode in your next Italian conversation!

Enjoy the third blog post in this series, “Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3)!”
—Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of this material is adapted from our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC, found on www.learntravelitalian.com. Special thanks to Italian instructors Simona Giuggioli and Maria Vanessa Colapinto.


Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3)

Once Again… Phrases That Take the Italian Subjunctive Mode

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mode that is used to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

The subjunctive mode is said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mode, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mode in the phrase to follow.

In our first blog about the Italian subjunctive mode, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Group 1  through Group 5.

In our second blog about the Italian subjunctive mode, we discussed Groups 6 and 7.

These groups are again listed for review.

  1. Phrases that use the verbs credere (to believe), pensare (to think), and sperare (to hope). These verbs use the pattern: [verb  di + infinitive verb to describe the beliefs, thoughts, or hopes that one has. When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows, the pattern changes to: [verb + che + subjunctive verb].*
  2. Impersonal constructions that begin with, “It is…” such as, “È possibile che…”
  3. Phrases that express a doubt, such as, “I don’t know…” or “Non so che…”
  4. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…”
  5. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…”
  6. Phrases that use the verbs volere and desiderare when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
  7. Phrases that use the verbs piacere and dispiacere when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
  8. Phrases that express feelings and use the pattern: [avere, essere, or augurarsi verb  +  di + infinitive verb When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows, the pattern changes to: [avere, essere, or augurarsi verb + che + subjunctive verb].
  9. Sentences that begin with words that end in –ché, or complex conjunctions that end with che:  affinché, perché (so as, so that, in order that), purché (as long as, provided that), a meno che (unless), può darsi che (it may be possible that, possibly, maybe), prima che (before that).  Also the many words that mean although/though, one of which ends in -che: benché  (also sebenne, malgrado, nonostante).
  10. Sentences that begin with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of any in a description of a person, place or thing:  qualsiasi, qualunque (any), chiunque (whoever), dovunque (anywhere).
  11. Sentences that begin with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of nothing or only  in a description of a person, place, or thing: niente che, nulla che (nothing that), nessuno che (nobody that), l’unico, il solo, a che (the only one that).
  12. Phrases that begin with se (if) or come se (as if) in certain situations.

 

To follow in the next sections is an explanation of several more phrases and also individual words that can be used to introduce the subjunctive mode, which we have added into our original list as Group 8 through Group 11.  Group 12 will be the topic of a later series of blogs on hypothetical phrases, but is included here for completeness.

As usual, there is a summary table at the end of each descriptive section that shows how to use these  additional groups that take the subjunctive mode in Italian. The present tense phrases are in the first two columns and the past tense phrases in the last two columns. Notice that the imperfetto form of the past tense is given in our table.

Points to remember about the subjunctive mode:

 In Italian, the introductory phrases usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  We now see from Group 9 that some words or phrases already have -ché or che as an integral part of them. In these cases, che is not repeated.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

Note that the simple present or past tenses can also be used after the introductory phrases listed below, rather than the subjunctive mode, if you are speaking about a fact or something you believe to be true. This use will make perfect sense to the Italian listener, even when the subjective mode is otherwise commonly used.

*When the speaker in the introductory phrase will carry out the action in the phrase to follow, Italian will use the following construction to link the phrases for credere, pensare, and sperare, and :  di + infinitive verb. Example: Penso di andare a Roma domani.  =  I think I will go to Rome tomorrow.


 

Expressing One’s Feelings with “Di” and “Che” and the Italian Subjunctive Mode

Phrases Used to Express Feelings with “Di” in Italian

When expressing one’s feelings in Italian in the first person (io conjugation), many common Italian expressions are followed by di (of). In this case, when di is followed by another verb, the verb in the second phrase will be in the infinitive tense (if you remember, infinitive verbs end in -are, -ere, -ire, and translate as “to…”). Below are some examples of these phrases, along with example sentences, adapted from Chapter 7 of the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook.

 

avere bisogno di to have need of Ho bisogno di… riposare.
 
avere paura di to be afraid/have fear of Ho paura di… guidare.
 
avere voglia di to feel like Ho voglia di… mangiare una pizza.
 
essere certo di to be certain of Sono certo(a) di… ricordare il tuo nome.
 
essere sicuro di to be certain of Sono sicuro(a) di… ricordare questo posto.
 
essere felice di to be happy to Sono felice di… incontrare mio cugino oggi.
 
essere fortunato di to be lucky to Sono fortunato(a) di… mangiare questa cena.
 
essere libero di to be free to Sono libero(a) di… viaggiare.
 
essere stanco di to be tired of Sono stanco(a) di… volare.
 
temere di… to be afraid of Temo di… essere in ritardo.
 
augurarsi di… to wish/to hope (of) Mi auguro di… fare una buona vacanza.

 

Phrases Used to Express Feelings with “Che” and the Italian Subjunctive Mode

Some of the expressions listed in the following table are most commonly used with the same subject for the second phrase. As noted in our previous discussions, these phrases will be followed with “di” and an infinitive verb. They are reprinted here to correspond with the previous table, followed by an asterisk and an explanation in parentheses.

For most of the expressions of feeling we have been talking about, though, it is possible to express a feeling that the speaker (io) has regarding another person or people. In this case, then, these expressions must be followed by che, and the subjunctive mode should be used for the verb in the second phrase.

In our example table, we will illustrate this by following the Italian phrases in which the subjects can be different with ...che tu, which we know means …that you, although of course, this rule follows no matter which subject pronoun we use.

Phrases Used to Express Feelings with “Che” and the Italian Subjunctive Mode

Present Tense Subjunctive Phrase
Group 8
    Past Tense Subjunctive Phrase
Group 8
 
Ho bisogno… che tu I need… that you*

*(This expression is not commonly used in Italian to tell another person what needs to be done; voglio che is used instead.)

Avevo bisogno… che tu I needed… that you*

*(This expression is
not commonly used
in Italian to tell
another person what
needs to be done;
volevo che is used
instead.)

       
Ho paura… che tu I am afraid… that you Avevo paura…  che tu I was afraid… that you
       
Ho voglia di… * I feel like… *
*(always used with the same subject +di in both phrases)
Avevo voglia… * I felt like…*

*(always used with
the same subject + di
in both phrases)

 

       
Sono certo(a)…
che tu
I am certain…
that you
Ero certo… che tu I was certain… that you
       
Sono sicuro(a)…
che tu
I am certain…
that you
Ero sicuro… che tu I was certain… that you
       
Sono felice… che tu I am happy… that you Ero felice… che tu I was happy… that you
       
Sono fortunato(a)… che tu I am happy… that you Ero fortunato(a)… che tu I was fortunate… that you
       
Sono libero(a) di… *

 

I am free… *
*(always used with the same subject +di in both phrases)
Ero libero(a)… * I was free… *
*(always used with
the same subject +di
in both phrases)
       
Sono stanco(a) di…

 

I am tired…*

*(always used with the same subject +di in both phrases)

Ero stanco(a)… che tu I was tired…*

*(always used with
the same subject +di
in both phrases)

       
Temo… che tu I am afraid…
that you
Temevo… che tu I was afraid… that you
       
Mi auguro… che tu I hope… that you Mi auguravo… che tu I hoped… that you

 


Idiomatic Use of the Italian Subjunctive Mode

The final group of words in the table below take the subjunctive mode when used to start a sentence . These conjunctions, adjectives, and pronouns imply that a second phrase is necessary to complete the sentence.

Only the most commonly used have been given in the table.  For a more complete list, see first section of this blog.

Phrases Used to Introduce the Subjunctive Mode—Idiomatic
Present Tense Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 9, 10, 11
 
Prima che Before that
Benché, Sebbene Although, though
Può darsi che It may be possible that, Possibly, Maybe
Affinché So as, so that, in order that
Perché So that (Perché is only used in the subjunctive mode when it means “so that.” Other meanings of perché include “why” and “because,” and in these cases, the subjunctive mode is not used.)
Purché As long as, provided that

Finally, our usual reminder:

DO NOT USE THE SUBJUNCTIVE WITH THE FOLLOWING THREE PHRASES!

Forse = Perhaps       

Secondo me = According to me

Per me = For me

The above may seem like exceptions to the rule, but perhaps… because these phrases already express doubt or your personal opinion… in the Italian way of thinking, it would be redundant to use these phrases along with the subjunctive!

Read the full blog “Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3). Click here!


Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2): Speak Italian!

For Part 2 of our blog series on “how to use the Italian subjunctive mode,” we will discuss the situations in which phrases that use the verbs volere, desiderare, piacere, and dispiacere take the subjunctive mode. We will also learn the conjugation of the subjunctive mode for the -are, -ere, and -ire verbs and the commonly used irregular verbs andare, fare, sapere, and venire. 

How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode with
Volere and Desiderare

When expressing one’s desire in Italian in the first person (io conjugation), voglio/vorrei and desidero are used in similar situations to mean I want and I would like. In this case, these helping verbs are followed directly by another verb that is in the infinitive tense (if you remember, infinitive verbs end in -are, -ere, -ire and translate as “to…”).  Of course, these verbs can also be followed by a noun, the “object of our desire”!

Volere and desiderare are covered in detail in Chapter 4 of our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers, if you would like a review. Below are some simple examples:

Voglio imparare l’italiano.      I want to learn Italian.

Vorrei viaggiare in Italia.         I would like to travel in Italy.

Desidero andare al cinema.    I want to go to the movies.

But when these same verbs—voglio/vorrei and desidero—are used to express a desire for something that the speaker in the first person (io) wants another person to do, then these helping verbs must be followed by che, and then the subjunctive mode should be used for the verb in the next phrase.


How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode with
Piacere and Dispiacere

The verb forms mi piace, mi piacerrebbe and mi dispiace, mi dispiaccerebbe follow the same rule given for the verbs in Group 6 we just discussed: when the verb that follows these introductory phrases refers to the speaker (io form), then a verb in the infinitive form follows directly.  When the verb that follows refers to someone else, che is used as a link to a verb in the subjunctive mode in the second clause.

In our example table that follows, we will illustrate the use of che followed by a different speaker from the introductory phrase with ...che tu.  This conjunction  means …that you.  Of course, we can replace tu with any of the other subject pronouns, and then the phrases would be: ….che Lei, che lei, che lui, che noi, che voi, or che loro.

Phrases Used to Introduce the Subjunctive Mode  with Volere, Desiderare, Piacere, Dispiacere
Present Tense &
Conditional Tense
Subjunctive Phrases
Groups 6 and 7
    Past Tense &
Past Conditional Tense
Subjunctive Phrases
Groups 6 and 7
       
Voglio… che tu I want… that you Volevo… che tu I wanted… that you
Vorrei… che tu I would like…
that you
Volevo… che tu I wanted… that you
Desidero… che tu I want… that you Desideravo… che tu I wanted… that you
Mi piace… che tu I like… that you Mi piaceva… che tu I liked… that you
Mi dispiace… che tu I am sorry… that you Mi dispiaceva… che tu I was sorry… that you
Mi piacerebbe…
che tu
I would like…
that you
Mi sarebbe piaciuto… che tu I would have liked…
that you
Mi dispiacerebbe…
che tu
I don’t mind…
that you
Mi sarebbe piaciuto… che tu I didn’t mind… that you

Read the full blog “Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2). Click here!


Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 1): Speak Italian!

In Part 1 of our blog series on “how to use the Italian subjunctive mode,” in this segment, we will discuss the phrases that take the subjunctive mode and the how to conjugate the subjunctive mode for avere, essere and stare.

To follow is a (long) list of phrases that can be used to introduce the Italian subjunctive mode, with the present tense in the first two columns and the past tense in the last two columns. Notice that the imperfetto form of the past tense is given in our table.

Phrases That Take the Subjunctive Mode
Present Tense
Subjunctive 
Phrase
Groups 1 and 2
    Past Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 1 and 2
 
Credo che I believe that Credevo che I believed that
Penso che I think that Pensavo che  I thought that
Spero che I hope that Speravo che I hoped that
         
È possibile che It is possible that Era possibile che It was possible that
È probablile che It is probable that Era probabile che It was probable that
       
È bene che It is fine/good that Era bene che It was fine/good that
Sarebbe bene che It would be good that Sarebbe stato bene che It would have been good that
È giusto che It is right that Era giusto che It was right that
È meglio  che It is better that Era meglio che It was better that
       
È incredible che It is incredible that Era incredibile che It was incredible that
È un peccato che It is a shame that Era un peccato che It was a shame that
È una vergogna che It is a disgrace that Era una vergogna che It was a disgrace that
È normale che It is normal that Era normale che It was normal that
       
Present Tense
Subjunctive 
Phrase
Groups 3, 4, and 5
    Past Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 3, 4, and 5
 
Non so che I don’t know that Non sapevo che I didn’t know that
Non so dove I don’t know where Non sapevo dove I didn’t know where
Non sono sicuro che I am not sure that Non ero sicuro che I wasn’t sure that
Non ho idea che I have no idea that Non avevo idea che I had no idea that
Non mi aspetto che I couldn’t wait that Non mi aspettavo che I couldn’t wait that
Non c’è nulla che There is nothing that Non c’era nulla che There was nothing that
       
Mi pare che It seems to me Mi pareva che It seemed to me
Mi sembra che It seems to me Mi sembrava che It seemed to me
Può darsi che Perhaps    
Ho l’impressione che I have the impression that Avevo l’impresione che I had the impression that
Suppongo che I suppose that Supponevo che I supposed that
Immagino che I imagine that Immaginavo che I imagined that
Dubito che I doubt that Dubitavo che I doubted that
Sono convinto che I am convinced that Ero convinto che I was convinced that
 
A meno che Unless    
Conviene che It is best that Conveniva che It was best that
Basta che It is enough that Bastava che It was enough that
Malgrado che In spite of that    
Si dice che It is said that Si diceva che It was said that
Dicono che They say that Dicevano che They said that
 Bisogno che  It’s necessary that  Bisognavo che  It was necessary that

*When the speaker in the introductory phrase will carry out the action in the phrase to follow, Italian will use the following construction to link the phrases for credere, pensare, and sperare, and :  di + infinitive verb. Example: Penso di andare a Roma domani.  =  I think I will go to Rome tomorrow.

Read the full blog “Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 1). Click here!

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Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books, is a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

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How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Parts 1 – 3)

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