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Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2): Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2): Speak Italian!

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

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode

Can you speak Italian? By now, many of you have passed the beginning stages of learning how to speak Italian and can read and comprehend quite a bit of the language. Meraviglioso!

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you use the Italian subjunctive mode in the correct situations? To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mode. Using 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 second 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 using the subjunctive, in this segment, 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, dare, dire, fare, sapere, and venire. 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. 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 second blog post in this series, “Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2)!”
—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 2)

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, which are given below 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.

To follow in the next sections is an explanation of several more phrases that can be used to introduce the subjunctive mode, which we have added into our original list as Group 6 and Group 7.

As usual, there is a summary table at the end of the next section that shows how to use these phrases. 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.  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.

 


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

 

Finally, a word of caution:

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!


Speak Italian: The Present Tense Subjunctive Mode (Part 2)

How to Conjugate the Italian Subjunctive Mode Present Tense for -are, -ere, and -ire Verbs

 

To change any regular infinitive verb into the present subjunctive mode, first drop the final -are, -ere, or -ire to create the stem. Then add the endings given in the first table below to the stem that has been created. Examples for each verb type are given in the second table below.*

The word che is included in parentheses in the subject pronoun column as a reminder that these verb forms typically are used with  the conjunction che. Also, use the subject pronoun in your sentence after che for clarity, since the endings for the singular forms are all the same!

Practice the subjunctive verbs out loud by saying che, the subject pronoun and then the correct verb form that follows!

Subjunctive Mode – Present Tense

 

Subject Pronoun -are ending -ere ending -ire ending
io i a a
tu i a a
Lei/lei/lui i a a
       
noi iamo iamo iamo
voi iate iate iate
loro ino ano ano

 

  Tornare

(to return)

Vendere

(to sell)

Partire

(to leave)

(che)  io torni venda parta
(che) tu torni venda parta
(che) Lei/lei/lui torni venda parta
       
(che) noi torniamo vendiamo partiamo
(che) voi torniate vendiate partiate
(che) loro tornino vendano partano

*(The stressed syllable for the example verbs has been underlined in the table above.)

  1. When pronouncing the subjunctive verbs, the stress will fall in the same place as in the conjugated verb forms for the present tense. This will be in the beginning of the verb (first or second syllable) for the io, tu, Lei/lei, lui, and loro forms, and one syllable to the right (second or third syllable) for the noi and voi forms.
  2. Notice that all of the singular subjunctive endings (io, tu, Lei/lei lui) are the same for each infinitive form of the verb.
  3. Also, all the endings for the -ere and -ire verbs are identical in the first person!
  4. The noi and voi forms are the same for all infinitive verb forms as well.
  5. The noi form is identical to the present tense!

 


 

The Subjunctive Mode – Irregular Present Tense
Commonly Used Verbs

Here are the irregular subjunctive forms for six commonly used  verbs in Italian.  It may be useful to commit these forms to memory, as these verbs are often used in the subjunctive mode in written and spoken Italian. Notice that the translation is the simple present tense in English.

Andare – to go – subjunctive mode

(che) io vada I go
(che) tu vada you (familiar) go
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

vada you (polite) go

she/he goes

     
(che) noi andiamo we go
(che) voi andiate you all go
(che) loro vadano they go

 

 

Dare – to give – subjunctive mode

(che) io dia I give
(che) tu dia you give
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

dia you give

she/he gives

     
(che) noi diamo we give
(che) voi diate you all give
(che) loro diano they give

 

 

Dire – to say/ to tell – subjunctive mode

(che) io dica I say/tell
(che) tu dica you (familiar) say/tell

 

(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

dica you (polite) say/tell

she/he says/tells

     
(che) noi diciamo we say/tell
(che) voi diciate you all say/tell
(che) loro dicano they say/tell

 

 

Fare – to do/ to make– subjunctive mode

(che) io faccia I do/ make
(che) tu faccia you (familiar) do/make

 

(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

faccia you (polite) do/make

she/he does/makes

     
(che) noi facciamo we do/make
(che) voi facciate you all do/make
(che) loro facciano they do/make

 

 

Sapere – to know (facts) – subjunctive mode

(che) io sappia I know
(che) tu sappia you (familiar) know
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

sappia you (polite) know

she/he knows

     
(che) noi sappiamo we know
(che) voi sappiate you all know
(che) loro sappiano they know

 

 

Venire – to come – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io venga I come
(che) tu venga you (familiar) come
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

venga you (polite) come

she/he comes

     
(che) noi veniamo we come
(che) voi veniate you all come
(che) loro vengano they come

 


 

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2)

Example Phrases Using the Present Tense Subjunctive Mode

To follow are some examples of how the Italian subjunctive mode in the present tense might be used in conversation during daily life. (In later blog posts in this series, we will cover examples of how to use the subjunctive when the introductory phrase is in the conditional or past tense.) Remember, even in Italian, the subjunctive is not an absolute requirement, but in the phrases below, the subjunctive mode is often used.

Notice that in English we do not use the subjunctive mode in the present tense. Also, in general, we often leave out the word “that” from our sentences that contain two phrases. But, as mentioned previously, the Italian word for “that,” “che,” is not an option when linking two phrases! For the translations, the Italian sentence structure is given first in italics to help us to think in Italian. The correct English is in bold.

We will use the example introductory phrases and verbs from earlier in this section. How many more combinations can you think of?

 

Voglio che tu torni presto. I want that you return soon. =
I want you to return soon.
   
Voglio che lui  venda la macchina vecchia. I want that he sells the old car. =
I want him to sell the old car.
   
Desidero che lei parta questa sera. I want that she leaves tonight. =
I want her to leave tonight.
   
Desidero che Lei faccia una bella festa per il presidente. I want that you make a nice party for the president.
I want you to make a nice party for the president.
   
Mi piace che tu vada a Roma ogni giorno. I like that you go to Rome every day. =
I like you to go to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiace che lui non sappia questa informazione. I am sorry that he doesn’t know this information. =
I am sorry he doesn’t know this information.


 

Voglio che noi torniamo presto. I want that we return soon. =
I want us to return soon.
   
Voglio che noi vendiamo la macchina vecchia. I want that we sell the old car. =
I want us to sell the old car.
   
Desidero che voi partiate questa sera. I want that you all leave tonight. =
I want you all to leave tonight.
   
Desidero che voi facciate una bella festa per il presidente. I want that you all make a nice party for the president. = I want you all to make a nice party for the president.
   
Mi piace che voi  andiate a Roma ogni giorno. I like that you all go to Rome every day. =
I like you to go to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiace che voi  non sappiate questa informazione. I am sorry that you all don’t know this information. =
I am sorry you all don’t know this information.

 

 

Voglio che loro tornino presto. I want that they return soon. =
I want them to return soon.
   
Voglio che loro  vendano la macchina vecchia. I want that they sell the old car. =
I want them to sell the old car.
   
Desidero che loro partano questa sera. I want that they leave tonight. =
I want them to leave tonight.
   
Desidero che loro facciano una bella festa per il presidente. I want that they make a nice party for the president. = I want them to make a nice party for the president.
   
Mi piace che loro vadano a Roma ogni giorno. I like that they go to Rome every day. =
I like them to go to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiace che loro non sappiano questa informazione. I am sorry that they don’t know this information. =
I am sorry they don’t know this information.

 

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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Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 2): Speak Italian!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!

Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.com Speak Italian: Everything

you need to know … 

to describe your day in Italian!

Can you speak Italian? By now, many of you have passed the beginning stages of learning how to speak Italian and can read and comprehend quite a bit of the language. Meraviglioso!

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you describe your daily routine and talk about yourself in Italian? Can you speak Italian the way you would speak in your native language, with complex and varied sentences? This is more difficult than it may seem at first, and it’s something that I am always working on!

This series will focus on the situations that have come up most frequently in my everyday conversations with Italian instructors and friends. The “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on the type of sentence structure and vocabulary we all need to remember to be more fluent when we speak Italian!

To take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian, we must know many things; in this segment, we will discuss how to use reflexive verbs, how to use irregular verbs to say what we like, and how to describe the passage of time.

Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!

In the “Speak Italian” blog series, a short essay or dialogue in Italian will be presented about a commonly used topic of conversation. Then, we will review the Italian grammar that is necessary to talk about the particular topic in detail. And finally, the same material will be presented in Italian and English, with blanks for the reader to fill in with descriptions from his or her own life!

Remember these examples about yourself as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian in your next conversation!

Enjoy the second topic in this series, “Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!”
—Kathryn Occhipinti

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 language instructor Simona Giuggioli.

 


Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!

Here is a short description of what I do every day. The reflexive verbs used in Italian for daily activities (many of which often translate as “to get” in English) have been underlined.

Also underlined are the verbs for “to like” (“to be pleasing to”) and “it takes time,” because they follow a different pattern of conjugation than regular Italian verbs.

Do you have a schedule that you follow every day? What do you like to eat for breakfast? Where do you go? After reading my daily routine, use the blank spaces in the form that follows to fill in the Italian for your daily routine!

 

Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!

On the days that I have to work, I get up at 7 in the morning.
I giorni che devo lavorare, mi alzo alle sette di mattina. 

My cell phone rings at 6:15 and I wake up, but I do not get up until 7!
Il mio telefonino suona alle sei e quindici e mi sveglio ma non mi alzo fino alle sette!

The first thing I do is take a shower.
Per prima cosa, mi faccio la doccia.

Then, I like to eat something for breakfast, so I make a cup of coffee and also have some bread or an Italian cookie.
Allora, mi piace mangiare qualcosa per la prima colazione, cosi faccio un caffè ed anche mangio del pane o un biscotto.

If I am not in a hurry, sometimes I will have a fried egg, toast, and orange juice instead.
Se non ho fretta, qualche volta,  invece, mangio un uovo fritto, il pane tostato e bevo un bicchiere di succo di arancio.

My morning routine to get ready for work includes the usual things: I brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, and brush my hair.
La mia routine di mattina per prepararmi per il lavoro include le solite cose: mi lavo i denti, mi lavo la faccia, mi vesto, e mi pettino.

I always wear makeup (for men: shave) when I go out of the house and especially to work.
Mi trucco sempre (per gli uomini: mi faccio la barba) quando esco di casa e specialmente quando vado a lavorare. 

But it is not easy and it takes time, usually about 20 minutes.
Ma non è facile e ci vuole tempo, normalmente quasi venti minuti. 

On some days, I can put on makeup (for men: shave) quickly.
Qualche giorno, però, mi posso truccare (per gli uomini: mi faccio la barba) rapidamente.

All of this usually takes me until 8:00 and then I must take the children to school.
Per fare tutto, mi ci vuole fino alle otto e poi devo portare i miei figli a scuola.

After I have dropped off the children at school, I take the train into the city to work.
Dopo avere portato i miei figli a scuola, prendo il treno per la città per andare a lavorare.

The train is very reliable, and it takes only 30 minutes to reach the city.
Il treno è molto affidabile e ci vogliono solamente trenta minuti per arrivare in città. 

On the way, I read the newspaper.
Durante il viaggio, leggo il giornale.

By 3 PM, I take the train back home.
Per le quindici, prendo il treno e torno a casa.

At 4 PM, I pick up the children from school and take them home.
Alle quattro di pomeriggio, io vado a prendere i miei figli dalla scuola e li porto a casa.

When I come home in the evening, I take off my coat and shoes and get changed into jeans or athletic wear to be more comfortable.
Quando torno a casa di sera, mi tolgo il cappotto e le scarpe e mi metto i jeans o la tuta (indumento da ginnastica)per stare più comoda.

I make dinner for my children during the workweek, but on the weekend, we usually go out to eat for dinner.
Preparo la cena per i miei figli durante la settimana lavorativa, ma il fine settimana di solito ceniamo fuori.

Then I try to relax.
Più tardi, provo a riposarmi.

I get undressed and put on my pajamas.
Mi svesto e mi metto il pigiama.

I watch the news on the television and fall asleep at 11:30 at night.
Guardo le notizie alla televisione e mi addormento alle undici e mezzo di notte.

I start this same routine all over again the next morning!
Comincio di nuovo questa routine la mattina dopo!

 


Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know…

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Use of Prepositions: “Da,” “Di,” and “A”

Many Italian verbs are followed by prepositions, those “little words” that link one phrase to another for descriptive purposes; improper use of prepositions is a common issue for all non-native speakers, because one must tap into the “way of thinking” of each language to use prepositions correctly. It is often the prepositions that give away the fact that one has had to study to learn a language—no matter how well one speaks otherwise.

Learning when to use which preposition in Italian can be challenging, and often, the “rules” of preposition use do not make sense and just need to be memorized.

Da and di are two common Italian prepositions. “Da” usually means “from,” and “di” usually means “of,” although “di” is often used in situations where in English we would use “from.”

The Italian verb “uscire,” which means “to go out,” or “to leave” is usually followed by da + definite article (il, lo, la, etc.), but when referring to the act of leaving one’s house (casa), uscire takes the preposition di without the definite article. You might want to remember this detail by thinking of the alternate meaning of the word “casa,” which is the very personal “home,” and that when speaking in Italian about one’s family and home in other situations, a definite article is not necessary. Also, notice from the last example below that the verb andare (to go) is always followed by the preposition “a,” for “to,” without the definite article.

 

1. Prepositions for Uscire

da + definite article
di (with reference to casa)

2. Preposition for Andare a

 

Examples of use:

Io esco dal ristorante. I go out to the restaurant to eat.
Io esco di casa. I go out of the house./I leave the house.
Io vado a casa mia. I go to my house.
   
Mi trucco sempre quando esco di casa e specialmente quando vado a lavorare
I always wear makeup when I leave the house and especially when I go to work.


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Use of Preposition: “Per”

The preposition “per” is used in Italian to express intent and purpose and will be used to start phrases that will then describe what you are going to do. The English translation will usually be “for” but can also be “to.” When referring to time, “per” takes the place of “by” in English. The combination “stare per” means “to be about to.”

Per prima cosa, mi faccio la doccia.
The first thing I do is take a shower.

 

Per fare tutto
To do all this

 

Per le quidici…
By 3 PM…

 

La mia routine di mattina per prepararmi per il lavoro include…
My morning routine to get ready for work includes…

 

Io sto per studiare l’italiano stasera.
I am about to study Italian tonight.


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Tell Time

On any given day, the time we need to do things frequently comes up. We often have to ask specifically what time our transportation will be leaving or what time an event will be starting. Here are some examples of questions you may need to ask. Remember, there is no insertion of the word “does” in Italian when asking a question, the way we do in English.

A che ora…? (At) what time (does)…?
   
A che ora arriva l’aeroplano? At what time (does) the airplane arrive?
  (lit. At what hour arrives the airplane?)
A che ora parte il treno? At what time (does) the train leave?
A che ora comincia* il viaggio? At what time (does) the trip start?
A che ora inizia* il film? At what time (does) the film begin?
A che ora finisce il film? At what time (does) the movie end?
A che ora apre il museo? At what time (does) the museum open?
A che ora chiude il museo? At what time (does) the museum close?

*Cominciare and iniziare are interchangeable in Italian.

The answers to the above questions will also use the word “at,” which is the word “a” in Italian. We can mention our special times of day if they apply, such as “a mezzogiorno” or “a mezzanotte.” Otherwise, the word a will be combined with the definite article (the) (l’ or le). The Italian definite article l’ is combined with a to make all’ before the word una for the phrase “all’una,” which means “at one.” For all numbers greater than one, use a with the definite article le to make “alle” (alle due – ventiquattro) (at two through 24).

A mezzogiorno. At noon.
A mezzanotte. At midnight.
All’una.         At one o’clock.
Alle sette. At seven o’clock.
All’una e cinque. At 1:05 AM.
Alle sette e mezzo. At 7:30 AM.

If desired, to emphasize the time of day, as in morning, afternoon, evening, or night, you can add the following expressions after stating the numerical time: “di mattina, di pomeriggio, di sera, or di notte.”

 


 

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Common Reflexive Verbs

Here is a list of regular direct reflexive verbs that includes all three conjugations. Reflexive forms are extremely important for conversation because they often involve activities and emotions that we encounter every day. Note that many of these verbs are not reflexive in English.

accomodarsi to make oneself comfortable preoccuparsi to worry/get worried
accorgersi to realize rilassarsi to relax oneself
addormentarsi to fall asleep riposarsi to rest
alzarsi to get up sbagliarsi to be wrong
annoiarsi to be/become bored sbrigarsi to hurry up
arrabbiarsi to become angry scusarsi to excuse oneself
asciugarsi to dry oneself spogliarsi to get undressed
bagnarsi to get wet/to take a bath sposarsi to get married
dirigersi to go over to/head over svegliarsi to wake up
divertirsi (a) to enjoy oneself/play with svestirsi to get undressed
fermarsi to stop oneself togliersi to take off
innamorarsi to fall in love truccarsi to put on make-up
mettersi to put on (clothes) vergognarsi to be ashamed
laurearsi to get a university degree vestirsi to get dressed/to wear
muoversi to move oneself
pettinarsi to comb one’s hair

Also,  many verbs that describe what we do every day and are translated as “to get…” in English are reflexive in Italian. Let’s take these commonly used verbs that mean “to get” out of the list above:

alzarsi to get up
annoiarsi to get bored
arrabbiarsi to get angry
bagnarsi to get wet / take a bath
laurearsi to get a university degree / to graduate
mettersi to put on clothing / to get (oneself) in trouble
preoccuparsi to get worried / to worry
spogliarsi to get undressed
sposarsi to get married
vestirsi/svestirsi to get dressed/to get undressed
Ho deciso di sposarmi. I have decided to get married.
   
Non ti metti nei guai. Don’t get (put) yourself in trouble.
Mi sono messo nei guai. I got (put) myself in trouble.

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Conjugate Reflexive Verbs

Reflexive verbs take a reflexive pronoun before the verb. They are conjugated in the usual way, by dropping the –are, –ere, and –ire verb endings and adding the regular endings for each type of verb to the stem that remains.

Infinitive
Present
Reflexive

Pronouns

–are –ere –ire ire (isco)
io mi o o o isco
tu ti i i i isci
Lei/lei/lui si a e e isce
           
noi ci iamo iamo iamo iamo
voi vi ate ete ite ite
loro si ano ono ono iscono

When we use an infinitive reflexive verb in a sentence, the reflexive pronoun must come after the verb; the –si is dropped from the infinitive ending, and the reflexive pronoun is then added directly onto the stem at the end of the verb.

This is the same word order that we routinely use in English! This situation usually occurs in Italian when one of the helping verbs (dovere, potere, or volere) (to have to, to be able to, or to want) precedes a reflexive verb.

Voglio divertirmi. (I) want to enjoy myself.
   
Volgio riposarmi. (I) want to rest (myself).
   
Devo alzarmi. (I) must get (myself) up.


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Sentences with Reflexive Verbs

Here are some example sentences that use the regular verbs listed on the previous page. The Italian subject pronoun “io,” meaning “I” is included in the Italian examples, although, unlike the I in English, io is almost always omitted with reflexive verbs (as in most general conversation). Parentheses have been used in the Italian sentences as a reminder of this fact. In the same way, parentheses are used in the English translation to indicate Italian reflexive pronouns that are not necessary in English.

Getting up in the morning:

(Io) Mi sveglio. I wake up. (lit. I wake myself up.)
(Io) Mi alzo. I get up. (lit. I get myself up.)
(Io) Mi alzo presto. I get (myself) up early.
(Io) Mi alzo alle sei. I get (myself) up at 6 AM.
(Io) Mi alzo tardi domani. I (am going to) get (myself) up late tomorrow.

 

Getting ready to go out for the day:

(Io) Mi faccio il bagno. I take a bath. (lit. I make myself the bath.)
(Io) Mi lavo. I wash myself.
(Io) Mi asciugo. I dry myself off.
(Io) Mi pettino. I comb (myself) my hair.
(Io) Mi preparo per il lavoro. I get (myself) ready for (the) work.
(Io) Mi vesto. I get (myself) dressed.
(Io) Mi metto i vestiti. I put on (myself) the clothes.
(Io) Mi trucco. I put on my makeup.
(Io) Mi metto la giacca e le scarpe. I put on (myself) the jacket and the shoes.
(Io) Mi sento molto bene! I feel very well!
Vado al lavoro./Vado a lavorare. I go to work.

 

At the end of the day:

Torno a casa. I return home.
(Io) Mi tolgo la giacca. I take off (myself) the jacket.
Preparo la cena per la famiglia. I make the dinner for the family.
Alle nove (io) mi svesto. At nine (I) get (myself) undressed.
(Io) Mi tolgo le scarpe. (I) take off my shoes.
(Io) Mi metto il piajama e le ciabatte. I put on (myself) the pajamas and slippers.
(Io) Mi rilasso. I relax (myself).
(Io) Mi riposo. I rest (myself).
(Io) Mi addormento. I fall (myself) asleep.

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Describe Getting Dressed
 with the Reflexive Verbs Vestirsi and Mettersi

The Italian verb “vestirsi” carries the general meaning of “to get dressed.” To use this verb, just conjugate it as you would any other reflexive verb to make a simple sentence. Remember that in Italian, the subject pronoun is always left out of the sentence, so it is given in parentheses below.

(Io) Mi vesto. I get dressed.
(Tu) Ti vesti. You get dressed.
(Lei/Lui) Si veste. She/he gets dressed.

When talking about putting on an article of clothing, such as a dress or suit (vestito),* for instance, Italian uses the reflexive verb “mettersi” (to put on oneself). 

*A note: Don’t confuse the verb vestire with the noun vestito, which means dress and also suit (pants and jacket or skirt and jacket).  These words are similar but have different meanings!  Also,  it should be mentioned that the plural noun, vestiti, means clothing.(Other words for suit that can be used for both sexes are abito and completo.)

Here is how it works:

“Mettersi” can be used to convey the ideas of, “I put on the dress,” “I put on my dress,” and “I put my dress on.” The reflexive pronoun mi (myself) is placed before the conjugated form of mettersi, as usual, and the article of clothing to be put on is then placed after the verb. The subject pronoun is omitted. So the final sentence for “I put on the/my dress,” is, “Mi metto il vestito.” 

Just remember the simple phrase “mi metto” and replace il vestito with the article of clothing of your choice to describe your own action! To describe action in the tu (you) form, just conjugate mettersi normally and then add the article of clothing, as in “ti metti,” or in the lei/lui (she/he) form, use “si mette,” and so on.

(Io) Mi metto il vestito. I put on the dress./I put the dress on./I put on my dress.
(Tu) Ti metti l’anello. You put on the ring.
(Lei/lui) Si mette le scarpe. She/he puts on shoes.

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Describe Wearing Clothes
 with the Verbs Portare, Mettersi, and Vestire

In order to say I am wearing…”  or I take the size…”  the verb portare, which is not reflexive, is usually used in the present tense. You no doubt remember that portare is commonly used to mean to bring”  or to carry.” 

Porto il mio vestito preferito. I am wearing my favorite dress.
Porto la (taglia) quarantotto. I take size 48.

Portare can also be used to say I wore”  in the past tense. But perhaps because portare is used so commonly with its other meaning of to bring”  in the past tense, to describe what they wore, most Italians prefer to revert to mettersi and use its past participle messo. Here is how it works:

(Io) Mi sono messo un completo.
(Io) Mi sono messa una gonna.
I wore a suit.
I wore a skirt.
Ho portato una gonna. I wore a skirt.

Another way to describe how someone was dressed, is to use the past tense verb “essere vestito(a,i,e).”  This verb can be used to make generalizations, as well as to refer to a specific article of clothing.  When being specific, the preposition “con” is used in these phrases, as in the examples below.

Era vestito con un abito grigio. He was dressed in a suit.
Era vestita con una gonna blu. She was dressed in a blue skirt.
Eravamo vestiti tutto in rosso per la festa. We were dressed all in red for the party.

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Describe Wearing Clothes
 with the Verb Indossare

The verb indossare also means “to wear” and “to put on.”  This verb can is used in exactly the same way as portare or mettersi.  To the Italian ear, the verb indossare is said to have a more elegant sound than portare or mettersi, and perhaps this is why indossare is more common in written Italian than in conversation.

Just like the other two verbs that have the same meaning, indossare must always be followed by the article of clothing that the person is wearing.

Caterina indossa un abito rosso. Kathryn is wearing a red dress.
La signora indossava un cappotto molto elegantamente. The lady was wearing a very elegant coat.

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Finally, when something fits perfectly on you or another, to really fit into Italian society, use the idiomatic expression calzare a pennello.”  Calzature refers to shoes, or “footwear,” so this Italian saying is the equivalent of  the English saying, It fits you like a glove” or It fits you to a T.”

Mi calza a pennello! It fits me perfectly!
Ti calza a pennello! It fits you perfectly!
Lo/la calza a pennello! It fits him/her perfectly!

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Conjugate the Irregular Verb Piacere

The irregular verb piacere literally means to like, as in “to be pleasing to.” It is the verb that Italians use when they want to express the idea that they like something. In English, when we say we like something, we mention two things: what thing is being liked and by whom. So in English, we would say, I like the car,” and fulfill these two requirements with the subject pronoun “I” and the direct object “car.”

But in Italian, the indirect object is used instead of the direct object, to describe to whom the thing is liked or pleasing to. If we wanted to change up this same English phrase into the Italian way of thinking, we could say, “The car is pleasing to me.” You will hopefully find the mixed Italianized-English phrase “is pleasing to” to be very helpful to understand how piacere really works!

The tricky thing about this type of phrase in Italian is that the conjugation of piacere will have to agree with the number of things that are being liked.

So, if one thing is liked, or an infinitive verb follows, piace is used.

If many things are liked, piacciono is used.

Italians then put the indirect object pronoun (mi, ti, Le, le, gli, ci, vi, or gli) before the verb, at the beginning of the sentence, to denote to whom the thing is pleasing to.

Piace—to be pleasing to: if one thing is liked/before infinitive verbs

 

Mi piace il vestito. The dress is pleasing to me. I like the dress.
Ti piace il vestito. The dress is pleasing to you. (fam.) You like the dress.
Le piace il vestito.

Gli/le piace il vestito.

The dress is pleasing to you. (pol.)

The dress is pleasing to him/her.

You like the dress.

He/she likes the dress.

     
Ci piace il vestito. The dress is pleasing to us. We like the dress.
Vi piace il vestito. The dress is pleasing to you all. You all like the dress.
Gli piace il vestito. The dress is pleasing to them. They like the dress.

 

Piacciono—to be pleasing to: if more than one thing is liked

 

Mi piacciono i vestiti. The dresses are pleasing to me. I like the dresses.
Ti piacciono i vestiti. The dresses are pleasing to you. (fam.) You like the dresses.
Le piacciono i vestiti.

Gli/le piacciono i vestiti.

The dresses are pleasing to you. (pol.)

The dresses are pleasing to him/her.

You like the dresses.

He/she likes the dresses.

     
Ci piacciono i vestiti. The dresses are pleasing to us. We like the dresses.
Vi piacciono i vestiti. The dresses are pleasing to you all. You all like the dresses.
Gli piacciono i vestiti. The dresses are pleasing to them. They like the dresses.

 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Conjugate Volerci for Phrases Describing Time

To describe the general passage of time that it takes to do something, an English speaker will often say, “It takes time.”  Volerci is used to express this idea in Italian.  Volerci is called a pronomial verb because the impersonal adverb “ci” is an integral part o this verb.  This verb takes on a different meaning from volere.

To follow is the method to translate the phrase “it takes time” into Italian using the verb volerci.  First, it should be noted that the impersonal adverb “ci” is always used to begin the phrase.  “Volere” is then conjugated to reflect the amount of time taken, in either the third person singular or plural. This is the similar to the way we conjugate the verb piacere, except with piacere the reference is to what we like, rather than to how much time something takes.

 

So when saying, “It takes time,” the word “time” is considered one segment of time, and the third person singular form of volere, which is “vuole,” is used.

If the time “it” takes is one minute, one hour, one month, or one year—that is, if the reference is to one time segment, use “vuole.”

 

If the time “it” takes is more than one of each time segment (plural), the third person plural form of volere, which is “vogliono,” is used.

Ci vuole tempo. It takes time.
     
Ci vuole un minuto. Ci vogliono due minuti. It takes one minute/two minutes.
Ci vuole un’ora. Ci vogliono due ore. It takes one hour/two hours.
Ci vuole un giorno. Ci vogliono due giorni. It takes one day/two days.
Ci vuole un mese. Ci vogliono due mesi. It takes one month/two months.
Ci vuole un anno. Ci vogliono due anni. It takes one year/two years.

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Commonly used questions that refer to time begin with “how much,” such as, “How much time does it take?” These phrases always begin with “Quanto.”  We remember that “quanto” always changes to match the gender and number of the noun it is placed before and modifies.  Answer using the phrases in the table given in this section!

Quanto tempo ci vuole per arrivare a Roma da Milano?
How much time does it take to get to Rome from Milan?

Quante ore ci vogliono per finire il tour?
How many hours will it take to finish the tour?

 ******************************

Other verbs that act like piacere, but will not be discussed here, include the following:

Dispiacere to displease/to upset
Mancare to be lacking/to miss
Occorrere to require/to need
Servire to need

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Use Volerci for Phrases Describing Time
with Reference to People

If we want to speak in a little more complicated manner (and why not?) we can use the verb volerci* to describe how much time it will take someone to do something.  Remember to place the indirect object pronouns (mi, ti, le, gli, vi, gli) before vuole  to refer to the “someone” we are talking about.

Looking at the table below, you will notice that “a noi”  is used to mean to us” before ci vuole.”  In this case, the indirect object pronoun ci” for to us,” is not used.  The word “ci” is already a part of volerci, and is always placed before the conjugated verb form.  To avoid the repetition that would occur in the phrase ci ci vuole tempo, Italians revert to a noi.”

Of course, we can always replace the word tempo in the examples below with a unit of time. Remember the rules we just learned:  If one unit of time is referred to, use the verb vuole, as in the examples.  If more than one unit of time is referred to, we need to use vogliono.

Mi ci vuole molto tempo. It takes me time.
Ti ci vuole molto tempo. It takes you time.
Le ci vuole molto tempo. It takes her time.
Gli ci vuole molto tempo. It takes him time.
   
A noi ci vuole molto tempo. It takes us time.
Vi ci vuole molto tempo. I takes you all time.
Gli ci vuole molto tempo. It takes them time.

*Volerci is a pronomial verb and takes on a different meaning from volere, as described in the previous section.

******************************

Commonly used questions that refer to time begin with “how much,” such as, “How much time does it take?” These phrases always begin with “Quanto.”  We remember that “quanto” always changes to match the gender and number of the noun it is placed before and modifies.  Answer using the phrases in the table given in the section above, but change the word time to the number of minutes or hours!

Quanto tempo ti ci vuole per arrivare a casa mia?
How much time does it take you to get to my house?

Quante ore ti ci vogliono per arrivare a casa mia?
How many hours will it take you to get to my house?

******************************

If we want to use the past tense with volerci in a phrase regarding time, we need to use the past participle voluto, with essere as the helping verb to form the passato prossimo. 

For a general statement about time in the past tense, as in the examples below, use the passato prossimo verb è voluto. 

Of course, we can always replace the word tempo in the examples below with a unit of time. Remember the rules we just learned:  If one unit of time is referred to in the past, use the verb  è voluto, as in the examples.  If more than one unit of time is referred to in the past, we need to use sono voluti(e).

To make these statements negative, just put “non” at the beginning of the sentence (with the exception of the “a noi”).

Below are some commonly used phrases that use volerci to refer to time in the past tense:

Non mi … ci è voluto molto tempo. It did not take me much time.
Non ti…  ci è volulto molto tempo. It did not take you much time.
Non le … ci è voluto molto tempo. It did not take her much time.
Non gli… ci è voluto molto tempo. It did not take him much time.
A noi non… ci è voluto molto tempo. It did not take us much time.
Non vi… ci è voluto molto tempo. It did not take you all much time.
Non gli… ci è voluto molto tempo. It did not take them much time.

 


Speak Italian: All About… What YOU Are Doing!

Do you have a schedule that you follow every day? What do you like to eat for breakfast? Where do you go?

Fill in the blanks in the Italian sentence that follows each English sentence, using
the examples given previously, or instead describing what you actually do.

Watch out for those reflexive verbs—the verbs that often mean “I get,” and the phrases
that translate as “I like” and “it takes time.”

On the days that I am working, I get up at ___________________________________.
I giorni che devo lavorare, ______________________________________________.

My cell phone rings at _________________ and I wake up, but I do not get up until 7!
Il mio telefonino suona _________________e ___________________________,ma

_____________________________________fino_____________________________!

The first thing I do is take a shower.
Per prima cosa, _______________________________________________________.

Then, I like to eat something for breakfast, so I make a cup of coffee and
have some bread or an Italian cookie.
Allora, ____________________________________qualcosa per la prima colazione,


cosi faccio_______________________________________________ed anche mangio

_____________________________________________________________________.

If I am not in a hurry, sometimes I will have a fried egg, toast, and orange juice instead.
Se non ho fretta, qualche volta, mangio ___________________________________ 

e bevo _________________________________________________________________.

My morning routine to get ready for work includes the usual things:
I brush my teeth, wash my face, get dressed, and brush my hair.
La mia routine di mattina ______________________________include le solite cose:

_________________________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________________________.

I always wear makeup (for men: shave) when I go out of the house and especially to work. ________________________________ quando esco di casa e specialmente quando vado a lavorare.

But it is not easy and takes time, usually about 20 minutes.
Ma non è facile e ______________________, normalmente

_________________________________________________________________________.

On some days, I can put on makeup (or shave) quickly.
Qualche giorno, però, __________________________________________ rapidamente.

All of this usually takes me until 8:00 and then I must take the children to school.
Per fare tutto, ___________________ fino ___________________ed poi devo portare i miei figli a scuola.

After I have dropped off the children at school, I take the train into the city to work.
Dopo aver portato i miei figli a scuola, ________________________________________
per andare a lavorare.

The train is very reliable, and it takes only 30 minutes to reach the city.
Il treno è molto affidabile e _____________________ solamente ___________________ per arrivare in città.

On the way, I read the newspaper.
Durante il viaggio, leggo il giornale.

By 3 PM, I take the train back home.
_______________________________________________, prendo il treno e torno a casa.

At 4 PM, I pick up the children from school and take them home.
_______________________, io vado a prendere i miei figli dalla scuola e li porto a casa.

When I come home in the evening, I take off my coat and shoes and get changed into jeans or athletic wear to be more comfortable.
Quando torno a casa di sera, __________________________________________________________________________

e ________________________________________________________________________

per stare più comoda.

I make dinner for my children during the workweek, but on the weekend, we usually go out to eat for dinner.
Preparo la cena per i miei figli durante la settimana lavorativa, ma il fine settimana di solito ceniamo fuori.

Then I try to relax.
Più tardi, _________________________________________________________________.

I get undressed and put on my pajamas.
__________________________________________________________________________

e ________________________________________________________________il pigiama.

I watch the news on the television and fall asleep at 11:30 at night.
Guardo le notizie alla televisione e _________________________________________________________________________.

I start this same routine all over again the next morning!
Comincio di nuovo questa routine____________________________________________ !

******************************

Kathryn for learntravelitalian.comKathryn 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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Speak Italian: All About… What I Am Doing!