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Textbook Conversational Italian for Travelers

Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               The Italian subjunctive mode can be used to make Italian hypothetical phrases and talk about love!

 

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mode with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

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? Have you ever wondered about if something were to happen and just how you would express this idea in Italian? Well, we can express hypothetical, or “if” ideas, called Italian hypothetical phrases, in several ways in Italian and often with the Italian subjunctive mode that we have been focusing on in this series! 

This is the fourth blog post in the “Speak Italian” series that focuses on how to use the Italian subjunctive mode, or “il congiuntivo,” and this blog will complete our list of uses for the subjunctive mode. 

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 form Italian hypothetical phrases for probable and improbable “if” situations in Italian in the present. We will learn how to conjugate the Italian subjunctive imperfetto mode  and how to use the Italian conditional tense to construct our improbable Italian hypothetical phrases.  

An example email between two friends talking about hypothetical situations of love will start our discussion! You may remember the characters and the story in the email from our recent Italian Subjunctive Mode Practice blog posts.

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mode with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

In the first three blog posts in the “Speak Italian” series about the subjunctive mode (“il congiuntivo”), we have presented Italian phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mode in the present and past tenses.

In this blog post, we will focus on how to construct Italian hypothetical phrases, as well as the different Italian verb forms needed for probable and improbable situations. Read our “real-life” dialogue for examples that can be used as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian. Then next time you are wondering about something, start a conversation and use Italian hypothetical phrases!

Enjoy the fourth blog post in this series, “Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love”!
—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 instructor Maria Vanessa Colapinto.


Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mode with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

All phrases that take the subjunctive mode have been underlined in this sample email. Try to pick out the Italian hypothetical phrases and then read about how to make your own Italian hypothetical phrases in the next section.

The characters Caterina and Susanna are cousins who grew up together in Abruzzo and now stay in touch with each other and discuss family happenings through email. Notice the many Italian idiomatic expressions that relate to dating and love, some of which are explained after each section.

Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Una breve email tra due cugine
A brief email between two cousins

Cara Susanna,
Dear Susan,

 

È stato bellissimo vedere te e i tuoi figli quest’estate in Abruzzo. E poi, lo shopping a Roma è stato fantastico!
It was wonderful to see you and your children this summer in Abruzzo. And afterward, the shopping in Rome was fantastic!

 

Se io non fossi occupata all’università, verrei a trovarvi di nuovo a Roma!
If I weren’t so busy at college, I would come to visit you all again in Rome!

 

Forse quando la sessione di gennaio è finita, posso fare un viaggio.
Maybe when the exam session in January is over, I can take a trip.

 

Fammi sapere se tu sei libera per un weekend presto!
Let me know if you are free for a weekend soon!

 

Ma oggi sto scrivendo perché ho una buona notizia.
But today I am writing because I have good news.

 

La nostra cugina Anna ha incontrato  un ragazzo molto simpatico quando è stata in Sicilia l’estate scorsa.
Our cousin Ann met a very nice boy when she was in Sicily last summer.

 

Lui si chiama Giovanni.
His name is John.

 

Anna mi ha mandato una foto. Mamma mia, è un figo da paura!*
Ann texted a photo to me. Wow, he is amazing!

 

Stanno insieme da un mese e frequentano la stessa università.
They have been (Italian: are [still]) together for a month and go to the same college.**

 

Secondo Anna, vanno molto d’accordo e sono gia una coppia.
According to Ann, they get along very well and are already a couple.

 

Se il tempo è bello, andranno al mare per il weekend a casa del papà di Giovanni.
If the weather is nice, they will go to the sea for the weekend to Giovanni’s father’s house.

 

A tutti e due piace molto la spiaggia e fare windsurf.
They both really like the beach and to go windsurfing.

 

Se Anna vuole andare al ristorante o al cinema, lui la porta.
If Ann wants to go to a restaurant or to the movies, he takes her.

 

Se lei vuole restare a casa, loro restano a casa insieme.
If she wants to stay at home, they stay at home together.

 

Mi sembra che siano innamorati.
It seems (to me) like they are in love.

 

Se Anna e il suo ex-fidanzato Paolo si fossero riconciliatilei non sarebbe felice ora.
If Ann and her ex-boyfriend Paul had gotten back togethershe would not be happy now.

 

Tu ricordi bene, sono sicura, come lui l’ha tradita, come le ha spazzato il cuore, e comunque erano gia agli sgoccioli da mesi prima.***
You remember well, I am sure, how he betrayed her, how he broke her heart, and anyway, they were already at the end of their relationship for months before.

 

Finalmente Anna si è resa conto che lui non era quello giusto per lei.
Finally, Anna realized that he was not right for her.

 

L’ha lasciato e ora quella storia è finita e un nuovo amore è cominciato per lei.
She left him and now that relationship is over, and a new one (Italian: a new love) has begun for her.

 

Sono molto contenta per Anna!
I am very happy for Ann!

 

Forse tra un anno si sposano!
Maybe in a year, they (will) get married!

 

Scrivimi quando hai tempo!
Write me when you have time!

 

Tanti baci.
Lots of kisses.

Caterina.

*“Un figo da paura” refers to a young man who is handsome and sexy.  Used alone, “Figo!” means “cool.”

And yes, “Mamma mia!” is still in use in Italy today. Variations include “Madre santa!” or simply “Maria!”

**In this case, Italian uses the present tense for an ongoing action, whereas English uses the past tense.

***The phrase “essere agli sgoccioli” literally means “to be at the last drops” and refers to when the last of the wine in the bottle is left and drips out. This phrase is used to suggest that the relationship is dying out and the couple is only seeing each other infrequently.

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

Cara Caterina,
Dear Kathy,

 

Anch’io sono molto contenta per nostra cugina Anna!
I am also very happy for our cousin Ann!

 

Lei è molto bella e penso che anche Giovanni sia un bel ragazzo come dicevi.
She is very pretty, and I think he is also good looking from what (Italian: as) you have told me.

 

Lui sembra molto simpatico e mi sembra che lui la tratti molto bene.
He seems very nice, and it seems to me that he treats her very well.

 

Mi sembra che a loro piaccia molto frequentarsi.***
It seems (to me) that they like seeing each other very much.

 

Mi pare che non sia solo una cotta ma si piacciano da vero.
It seems to me that it is not only a crush but they really like each other.

 

Ma si stanno frequentando solamente da un mese!
But they have been seeing each other (English: dating) (for) only one month!****

 

Loro sono molto giovani, come te.
They are very young, like you.

 

Uno non sa mai che cosa può succedere!  
(Italian: One never knows) You never know what could happen!

 

Nè uno nè l’altro lavorano. Non hanno vissuto con un’altra persona. Non hanno soldi…
Neither one of them works. They have never lived with another person. They don’t have money…

Spero che loro aspettino almeno un anno prima di cominciare a parlare di matrimonio.
I hope that they wait at least a year before starting to talk about marriage!

 

Sarei molto contenta se tu venissi a trovarmi a febbraio.
I would be very happy if you were to come to see me in February.

 

A presto!
See you soon!

Susanna

***Today in America, we “date,” “go out on a date,” or refer to two people who are “dating,” from the first romantic encounter until they become married. After they are married, they can still have “date nights.” But be careful when translating American romantic experiences into Italian! The English verb “to date” as used in America today to refer to a romantic relationship does not have a literal translation in Italian.

Of course, to “court” a woman was common in past centuries, and Italian language still reflects this. When a man tries to show he is interested in a woman, the phrase “fare la corte a…” is used from the verb corteggiare or “to court.”

If a woman wants to refer to dating a man, the following phrases can be used:

“Mi vedo un ragazzo.” “I’m seeing a boy.”
 “Esco con un ragazzo.” “I’m going out with a boy.”
“Il ragazzo con cui ho/avevo appuntamento.” “The boy with whom I have/had an appointment.”

There is another verb still in use in Italy today that refers to a man seducing, or “winning over,” a woman: “conquistare a… ” If a woman lets herself be “won over” or “captivated” by a man, she can use the phrase  “Mi lascio conquestare a…”

The usual Italian phrases used to refer to two people who have become romantically involved and are getting together regularly before marriage are “to go out with someone”—“uscire con qualcuno”—or “seeing each other”—“frequentarsi.”

Finally, to express a close romantic relationship in Italian, we can use the word “rapporto.” Any relationship in general is considered a “relazione.” But be careful, as an “affair” outside of marriage is also a “relazione,” whereas “affari” refers to more general personal and business “affairs.”

****In this case, Italian uses the present tense for an ongoing action, whereas English uses the past tense.

 

 


 

Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know for Italian Hypothetical Phrases

 

How to Make  Italian Hypothetical Phrases
“If” Phrases Refer to the Present:

Periodo Ipotetico con “Se” in Presente

 

To express complex thoughts and feelings, human beings have developed “hypothetical phrases”—phrases that enable us to think or wonder about situations that could occur. For instance, how many times have we said, “If I had…” or  “If I were…”?

When we want to express the idea that something may happen in English, we most often start with a phrase that begins with the conjunction “if.” The conjunction “if” starts a dependent clause in which we will describe a condition that could cause something else to happen. This dependent clause is then linked to a main clause that will describe the impending result or consequence that we are concerned about.

This sentence structure is the same in Italian, and the hypothetical clause in Italian starts with the word “se.” An Italian hypothetical phrase is called a “periodo ipotetico.”

Hypothetical phrases are composed using several different verb forms in English and Italian. For this blog post, we will talk about which Italian verb forms to use for the probable and improbable situations that may arise in the present and that are useful for every day conversation.

“Hold onto your hat!” as we say in English, because we will now start a “whirlwind tour” of the different types of hypothetical phrases that we can use to give depth to our Italian conversations. In the cases that we will present, knowledge of English will be very helpful. Read the technical information, but then focus on the actual phrases and you will soon see how thinking in English and Italian for this subject is really very similar!

 


Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations

Hypothetical phrases in the present tense describe situations that are likely to happen, or probable situations.

In probable situations, the stated condition given in the “if” clause is a condition that a person may experience in the present and the consequence that will follow is a situation that will almost certainly happen.

A common example usually given for a probable hypothetical phrase relates to the weather, such as “If it snows, my feet will get cold when I go out.” We all know that given the condition just described, the resulting situation will happen to some extent!

The “if” phrase does not need to start the sentence, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our example sentence again: “My feet will get cold when I go out if it snows.

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for Probable Situations

 

Italian Hypothetical  Phrases—Probable Situations
The condition described in the “if” clause and the consequence that will follow are  probable;
both will 
almost certainly happen.

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations

If + Present Verb > Present or Future Verb

Now read the following table, which describes the sentence structure and the verb forms to use when creating a hypothetical sentence for a probable situation. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:
Probable Situations
  English   Italian
Condition (If) If + Present Se + Present (or Future)
Consequence (Probable Result)   Present or Future   Present or Future

 

From the table above, it is easy to see that English and Italian both express hypothetical, probable situations in a very similar way!

  1. In English and Italian, for our condition in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian) and then most often use the simple present tense.
  2. For situations that are in the more distant future but really likely to happen (really probable), Italian may use the future tense for the condition clause.
  3. For the consequence in the main clause, the present or the future tense will work in English.
  4. In Italian, again, the present or the future tense can be used for the consequence in the main clause. In general, Italian uses the present tense for the immediate future, so the present tense is the most common form to choose for the consequence clause in Italian. But the future tense can also be used for an event in the more distant future.

A review of the  Italian future tense and the conjugations of the most commonly used Italian verbs in the future  can be found in Chapters 15 and 16 of our  textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers.

To follow are some examples of the probable hypothetical situation from our dialogue, with our “if” condition and the consequence phrases underlined.

You will notice that we introduced these lines in the dialogue with the idea, or condition, that the characters Anna and Giovanni have become a couple; therefore, the consequence is that in the future, they will do everything together.  And, for this couple, the consequence is almost certain to happen.

 

Se il tempo è bello, andranno al mare per il weekend a casa del papà di Giovanni.
If the weather is nice, they go (will go) to the sea for the weekend to Giovanni’s father’s house.

Se Anna vuole andare al ristorante o al cinema, lui la porta.
If Ann wants to go to a restaurant or to the movies, he takes (will take) her.

Se lei vuole restare a casa, loro restano a casa insieme.
If she wants to stay at home, they stay (will stay) at home together.

 


 

Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations with a Command

Hypothetical phrases in the present tense can be used to refer to a situation and then give “advice” in the form of a direct command.

Phrases like “If you feel… (this way)” or “If you make/do… (something)” are very common in conversation. The speaker may describe a certain situation two people know to be likely, and then, without waiting for a reply, the speaker may give a command about what should be done in that situation. In the speaker’s mind, perhaps, that command will virtually always solve a perceived problem.

Think about how often parents give advice to their children in this way—without first waiting to hear how the children really feel! Here is a common exchange in my house, parent to child, of course. “Dinner will be ready in a half hour. Don’t eat cookies. If you are hungry, eat some fruit!”

The “if” phrase need not start the sentence in these cases, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our example sentence again: “Eat some fruit if you are hungry!

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for Probable Situations with a Command

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases—Probable Situations with a Command
The condition described in the “if” clause is  probable, and the “advice” given in command form will almost certainly solve a problem, and/or result in the consequence that describes the future event.

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations with a Command

If + Present Verb > Imperative Verb

Now read the following table, which describes the sentence structure and the verb forms to use when creating a hypothetical sentence for a probable situation when giving a command. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:

Probable Situations
with a Command

  English   Italian
Condition (If) If + Present Se + Present (or Future)
Consequence
(Advice/Probable Result)
  Imperative   Imperative

 

From the table above, it is easy to see that English and Italian express hypothetical probable situations with a command in a very similar way!

  1. In English and Italian, for our condition in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian), and then most often use the simple present tense.
  2. For situations that are in the more distant future but are likely to happen (probable), Italian may use the future tense for the condition clause.
  3. For the consequence in the main clause, use the command verb form in English and Italian. The English command form is easy, and for the most part, we don’t even realize we are using it! Just remove the “to” from the infinitive form of the English verb. “To eat” is an infinitive in English. “Eat!” is a command.
  4. A review of the Italian command form will not be provided here, but can be found in Chapter 9 of our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers. (Note: In writing, Italian emphasizes that the command form is in use with an exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.)

Below is an example of a probable situation with a command from our dialogue, with our condition and consequence phrases underlined.

 

Fammi sapere se tu sei libera per un weekend presto!
Let me know if you are free for a weekend soon!

 


Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 Improbable Situations

Hypothetical phrases in the subjunctive mode with the conditional tense describe situations in the present that are not likely to happen and are  improbable.

These types of phrases are used in order to “wonder” out loud or “suppose” what  could happen in a particular situation if things were “different” from what we know to be true.

In improbable hypothetical situations, the stated condition given in the “if” clause and the consequence that will follow are  situations that could happen (possible), but they are very unlikely to happen and are therefore improbable.

A common example often given for an improbable hypothetical phrase relates to money, such as, “If I were rich, I would travel to Italy.” Here, the condition as stated is unlikely; in general, one is usually either rich or not.  This in turn makes the outcome unlikely to happen. With an improbable hypothetical phrase such as this, there may be a note of wishful thinking or irony in the statement. We are dealing with supposition, rather than facts.

The “if” phrase does not need to start the sentence, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our example sentence again: “I would travel to Italy if I were rich.”

In fact, I always remember this type of Italian sentence with the following rule: If you start an Italian sentence with the conditional tense, the imperfetto subjunctive tense must follow in the next phrase!

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Impossible Situations

Sometimes, a situation proposed for the present is so improbable that it is actually impossible, although it may be interesting to bring up in conversation. Think about how we sometimes pretend to be someone or something we know we cannot be.  By wondering about these impossible situations, we are able to reveal a little something about ourselves and the world we actually live in.

For instance, maybe I am someone who loves cats. What comes to my mind when I think of my cats in America is an “easy” life.  I may convey the complicated idea of how I might enjoy an “easy” life myself by relating my own life to my cats’ lives.

If I were a cat, I would live in a nice house and not have to work.
I would live in a nice house and not have to work if I were a cat.

Or, maybe I am someone who would like to change something about my appearance, which is easier today than in the past, but the condition and consequence are still impossible for me.

If my eyes were green,  I could find work as a model.
I could find work as a model if my eyes were green.

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for  Improbable Situations

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases—Improbable Situations
The condition described in the “if” clause is improbable and therefore is unlikely to result in the consequence that describes the future event one is wondering about.

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Improbable Situations

 If + Imperfetto Subjunctive Verb >
Present Conditional Verb

Now read the following table, which describes the sentence structure and the verb forms to use when creating a hypothetical sentence for an improbable situation when we want to wonder about something. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:

Improbable Situations

  English   Italian
Condition
(If: Wonder)
If + Subjunctive Se + Imperfetto Subjunctive
Consequence
(Supposition)
  Conditional   Present Conditional

 

From the table above, it is easy to see that English and Italian speakers think alike, although this may not be so evident to the English speaker at first.

Use of the subjunctive mode is becoming less common in English conversation, and even in widely respected American newspapers and magazines.

Some English examples:

For instance, instead of “If I was…,” correct English would be “If I were…” to signal that the phrase to follow is hypothetical and the consequence unlikely.

Or, instead of “If I saw…,” correct use of the subjunctive would be “If I had seen…” (It is never grammatically correct to say “I seen…,” despite what one may actually hear in some towns in America today!

To make matters more complicated, the English subjunctive form of many verbs is similar to the regular past tense form.

At any rate, let’s summarize how to make probable hypothetical phrases in English and Italian:

  1. In English and Italian, for the condition we are wondering about in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian), and then use the subjunctive mode.
  2. For the consequence/supposition in the main clause, use the present conditional tense in English and Italian. A review of the imperfetto subjunctive mode for avere, essere, and stare, and -are, -ere, -ire infinitive verbs will follow this section.

 

Below are some examples of phrases that used possible hypothetical situations from our dialogue, with our condition and consequence phrases underlined.

Se io non fossi occupata all’università, verrei a trovarvi di nuovo a Roma!
If I weren’t so busy at college, I would come to visit you all again in Rome!

Sarei molto contenta se tu fossi venire a trovarmi a febbraio.
I would be very happy if you were to come to see me in February.

 


Speak Italian: Italian Verb Tenses You Will Need to Know for

Improbable Italian Hypothetical Phrases

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

Auxiliary Verbs – “Essere, Avere, Stare”

The most commonly used improbable hypothetical phrases begin with the words, “If I were…” or “If I had…”  So in Italian, the two most important phrases of this type to remember are, “Se io fossi…” and “Se io avessi…” using the imperfetto subjunctive conjugations for essere and avere.

Here are the imperfetto subjunctive mode conjugations for the auxiliary verbs in Italian. You will notice that avere has a regular conjugation, whereas essere and stare have irregular conjugations.

In hypothetical clauses, because the imperfetto subjunctive mode is introduced by se, (se) is included in the subject pronoun column as a reminder. When conjugating these verbs, say “se” before the subject pronoun and each verb form to reinforce this way of thinking!

 

Avere—to have—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

(se) io avessi I had
(se) tu avessi you (familiar) had
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

avesse you (polite) had

she/he had

     
(se) noi avessimo we had
(se) voi aveste you all had
(se) loro avessero they had

 

Essere—to be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

(se) io fossi I were
(se) tu fossi you (familiar) were
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

fosse you (polite) were

she/he were

     
(se) noi fossimo we were
(se) voi foste you all were
(se) loro fossero they were

 

Stare—to stay/be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

(se) io stessi I stayed/were
(se) tu stessi you (familiar) stayed/were
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

stesse you (polite) stayed/were

she/he stayed/were

     
(se) noi stessimo we stayed/were
(se) voi steste you all stayed/were
(se) loro stessero they stayed/were

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

Regular “-are, -ere, -ire” Conjugations

Improbable hypothetical phrases always take the imperfetto subjunctive mode in Italian, and as we have seen in the last sections.

But, the imperfetto subjunctive mode has other uses.  Specifically, it is necessary with all of our many clauses that trigger the subjunctive mode when we are speaking in the past tense.  We will go over these rules in detail in later blogs.

For now, we will simply discuss the complete conjugation of the imperfetto subjunctive mode, which is actually quite easy.  So, keep the knowledge of how to conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mode handy for when we discuss its many uses!

Luckily, there are only a few irregular stem forms to learn for the imperfetto subjunctive mode, making it an easier tense to learn than the present, future and conditional tenses.

Finally, the imperfetto subjunctive mode endings are always regular and will be the same for all three conjugations!

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To conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mode…

As usual, we must first make our stem from the infinitive –are, -ere, and –ire verbs.  The method used to form the stems for the imperfetto subjunctive mode is easy – just drop the –re from the infinitive verb!

 

This will create stems that end in the letters –a for the –are verbs, -e for the –ere verbs, and –i for the –ire verbs. Then, add the following endings below to the stems for all three conjugations:

Subjunctive Mode – Imperfetto Endings

io ssi
tu ssi
Lei/lei/lui sse
   
noi ssimo
voi ste
loro ssero

 

The following table will put together our stems with our imperfetto subjunctive mode endings.  A few notes about this:

When pronouncing the imperfetto subjunctive mode verbs, the stress will always be on the syllable that begins with the last two letters of the stem and will incorporate one –s letter from the ending. (Remember the rule for Italian double consonants: one consonant will go with the syllable before and the second with the syllable after, in effect also stressing the double consonant itself.) The stressed syllables are underlined in our example table below.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea in improbable hypothetical phrases. Or, alternatively, were + infinitive form or gerund, such as, “If I were to live…” or “If I were living…”

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode – Example Verb Conjugations

  Abitare

(to live)

(lived/were living)

Scegliere

(to choose)

(choose/were choosing)

Finire

(to finish)

(finished/were finishing)

io abitassi scegliessi finissi
tu abitassi scegliessi finissi
Lei/lei/lui abitasse scegliesse finisse
       
noi abitassimo scegliessimo finissimo
voi abitaste sceglieste finiste
loro abitassero scegliessero finissero

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

Commonly Used Regular Verbs

Luckily, most verbs are regular in the imperfetto subjunctive mode.  So, there are many, many more regular than irregular verbs! Below are some commonly used regular verbs. Practice saying them out loud and listen to how each conjugated verb sounds.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea in improbable hypothetical phrases. Or, alternatively, were + infinitive form or gerund, such as, “If I were to go…” or “If I were going…” Also, had + past participle, such as, “If I had seen…”

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode Conjugations – Commonly Used Regular Verbs

  Andare

(to go)

(went/were going)

Sapere

(to know)

(knew/had known)

Vedere

(to see)

(saw/had seen)

Venire

(to come)

(came/had come)

Vivere

(to live)

(lived/were living)

io andassi sapessi vedessi venissi vivessi
tu andassi sapessi vedessi venissi vivessi
Lei/lei/lui andasse sapesse vedesse venisse vivesse
           
noi andassimo sapessimo vedessimo venissimo vivessimo
voi andaste sapeste vedeste veniste viveste
loro andassero sapessero vedessero venissero vivessero

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

Commonly Used Irregular Verbs

There are a few important verbs to know in the imperfetto subjunctive mode.  You will find them in the tables below. Practice saying them out loud and listen to how each conjugated verb sounds.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea in improbable hypothetical phrases. Or, alternatively, were + infinitive form or gerund, such as, “If I were to make…” or “If I were making…”

 

Fare – to do/make Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

io facessi I did/ made
tu facessi you (familiar) did/made
Lei

lei/lui

facesse you (polite) did/made

she/he did/made

     
noi facessimo we did/made
voi faceste you all did/made
loro facessero they did/made

 

 

Dare – to give – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

io dessi I gave
tu dessi you (familiar) gave
Lei

lei/lui

desse you (polite) gave

she/he gave

     
noi dessimo we gave
voi deste you all gave
loro dessero they gave

 

 

Dire – to say/tell – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

io dicessi I said/told
tu dicessi you (familiar) said/told
Lei

lei/lui

dicesse you (polite) said/told

she/he said/told

     
noi dicessimo we said/told
voi diceste you all said/told
loro dicessero they said/told


Grammar Note: The Italian Conditional Tense

The conditional tense is used to make a polite request, as we learned way back in Chapter 4 of our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook, when we discussed how to use the word vorrei, which means “I would like” or  “I wish.” In the “Important Phrases” section of Chapter 16, we also learned how to use the word vorremmo, which means, “we would like,” to place an order for the group at a table in a restaurant.

Notice that the meaning of a conditional verb is rendered in English with the combination of “would + infinitive verb.” The conditional tense, in summary, expresses a want or wish, an intention, a duty, or a preference.

The method used to form the stems for the Italian conditional tense is exactly the same as the method to form the Italian future tense. Also, the irregular stems for the conditional tense are identical to those for the future tense. The Italian conditional endings are always regular and will be the same for all three conjugations!

Please see Chapters 17 and 18 of the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook for a review of how to conjugate the conditional tense in Italian.

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

Grammar Note: Present versus Conditional Tense

The Meaning of  the Modal Verbs
“Dovere, Potere, Volere”

Throughout our Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook, we have emphasized the polite forms of volere (vorrei, vorremmo) in the conditional tense and recommended using this form to make requests for oneself or for a group. The English translation for the conditional verbs in general is that of “would + infinitive verb,” which describes a request or a wish, rather than a demand or an order.

Here are two examples below of the same request that might be made in a restaurant to a waiter, first in the present tense, and then in the conditional tense. The first, in the present tense, sounds more demanding and insistent. The second, in the conditional tense, sounds less forceful, as it describes a preference or wish.

Voglio un tavolo vicino alla finestra.       I want a table by the window.

Vorrei un tavolo vicino alla finestra.        I would like/wish to have a table by the window.

Let’s take a look at the other modal, or helping, verbs and see what connotation the conditional tense lends to them. For dovere, the idea relayed in the present tense is a forceful must. With devo (I must), we are led to understand that the action that follows has to be completed, no matter what else may come to pass. The conditional dovrei translates into “I should” or “I ought to,” which gives a feeling of necessity but also implies a bit of indecisiveness and an uncertainty as to whether the action described will be completed. Here are two examples using each tense:

Devo visitare mia nonna domenica.        I must visit my grandmother Sunday.

Dovrei visitare mia nonna domenica.      I should visit my grandmother Sunday.

For the verb potere, the present tense “posso” translates as “I can” and can be used to ask “May I?” “Può,” the present tense “polite you” form, is also used to make a polite request and in these situations means “Could you?” The conditional form we have just learned also translates as “could” and may be heard while traveling in Italy. Here are some commonly used phrases:

 Mi può auitare?                 Could you (pol.) help me?

Potrebbe aiutarmi?         Could you (pol.) help me?

Ti posso aiutare?               May I help you (fam.)?      

Potrei aiutarti?                   May I help you (fam.)?


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode
Modal Verbs – “Dovere, Potere, Volere”

The imperfetto subjunctive forms of the modal, or helping verbs, are used frequently in conversation.  All have regular stems, and of course, regular endings – as all imperfetto subjunctive mode verbs have regular endings! Here is a summary of the imperfetto subjunctive mode conjugations for all three modal verbs together, for easy reference.

Notice that the English translation for these verbs is in the conditional tense.

Dovere – to have to – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

io        dovessi I should
tu dovessi you (familiar) should
Lei/lei/lui dovesse you (polite) she/he should
     
noi dovessimo we should
voi doveste you all should
loro dovessero they should

 

Potere – to can – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

io potessi I could
tu potessi you (familiar) could
Lei/lei/lui potesse you (polite) she/he could
     
noi potessimo we could
voi poteste you all could
loro potessero they could

 

Volere – to want – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mode

io volessi I would like
tu volessi you (familiar) would like
Lei/lei/lui volesse you (polite) she/he would like
     
noi volessimo we would like
voi voleste you all would like
loro volessero they would like

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!”Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
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More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on these Stella Lucente Italian sites:
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Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 4) : Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Verbs

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog                          Everything you need to know
to talk over the phone about your Italian beach vacation… in Italian!

 

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

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 talk about what you did on your Italian beach vacation using the past tense correctly—over the phone?   

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 how to use the present and the past tense easily; in this segment, we will focus on the pronomial verb esserci and the past tense in Italian. We will discuss how to use the helping verbs avere and essere with the passato prossimo past tense, the trapassato past tense, the verb passare in the past tense, and the past progressive tense. At the end will be an introduction to the future tense as well!

If you need to refresh your memory on when to use the passato prossimo form of the past tense versus when to use the imperfetto, please visit the third blog post in this series, Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

 

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

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 or to practice verb conjugation! Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian in your next conversation!

Enjoy the fourth topic in this series, “Speak Italian: Italian Vacation Revisited by Phone”
—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: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

In the dialogue to follow,  we listen in on a conversation between an Italian mother and her daughter after the two have been separated for a few weeks. It turns out that the daughter has been enjoying a vacation on the beaches of Sicily. While reading their conversation, try  to pick out the past tense verbs and notice which helping verb—avere or essere—is used for each.

And… by the way, the southern coast of Sicily has beautiful beaches and really is a destination for windsurfing!

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited
by Phone

Una mattina, mentre Francesca stava preparando la prima colazione per se stessa e suo figlio che si chiama Carlo, i due hanno sentito lo squillo del cellulare.

One morning, while Frances was preparing breakfast for herself and her son Carl, they heard the cell phone ring.

 

Carlo ha detto, “Rispondo io” e si è diretto verso al soggiorno. Ha preso il cellulare dal tavolino e ha risposto.

Carl said, “I’ll get it (I’ll answer it),” and headed over to the living room. He took the cell phone from the end table and answered (it).

 

“Pronto,” ha detto lui. “Chi è? Chi parla?” E dopo: “Anna! Come stai? Ti passo mamma.”

“Hello,” he said. “Who is it? Who’s calling (lit. speaking)?” And after, “Anna! How are you? I’ll get (pass the phone to) mom for you.”

 

Era Anna, la figlia di Francesca, che era appena tornata dalla vacanza in Sicilia!

It was Anna, Frances’s daughter, who had just returned from vacation in Sicily!

 

Francesca aveva ricevuto qualche messaggio da Anna sul cellulare, ma non si erano parlate a telefono per tre settimane.

Frances had received some texts from Anna on the cell phone, but they had not spoken to each other on the phone for three weeks.

 

“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Francesca ad Anna, dopo che Carlo le ha passato il cellulare. “Sono molto contenta di sentirti!”

“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone. “I am so happy to hear from you!”

 

“Mamma! Sono solo tre settimane!” ha detto Anna a Francesca.

“Mom! (Up until now it) is only three weeks!”(English: has been only) said Anna to Frances.

 

“Lo so. Dimmi! Dove sei? Perché non sei tornata a casa? Sei ancora alla stazione? Passerò a prenderti prima del lavoro.”

“I know. Tell me! Where are you? Why haven’t you come home? Are you still at the station? I will pick you up before work.”

 

“Stai calma, mamma!” ha detto Anna. “Siamo arrivate a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ho passato la notte a casa di Giulia.”

“Calm down, mom!” Anna said. “We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

 

Anna ha continuato a parlare: “Verrò ad Avezzano in treno e sarò alla stazione alle quattordici. Chi può venire a prendermi alla stazione, tu or Carlo?”

Anna continued (to talk): “I will come to Avezzano by train and will be at the station at 2 p.m.  Who can come to pick me up at the station, you or Carl?”

 

“Questo pomeriggio sarà in ufficio, ma Carlo può portarti a casa in macchina sua.”

“This afternoon I will be at the office, but Carl can take you home in his car.”

 

“Ci sarò,” ha detto Carlo, che ha sentito la conversazione. “Non preoccuparti!”

“I will be there,” said Carl, who had heard the conversation. “Don’t worry!”

 

“È papà?” ha chiesto Anna. “Non c’è?”

“And dad?” asked Anna. “Is he (not) there?”

 

“No. Non c’è a casa questa settimana. È dovuto andare a Milano.”

“No. He’s not at home this week. He had to go to Milan.”

 

“Dimmi un po’ della tua vacanza. C’era bel tempo? Era bella la spiaggia in Sicilia? E come era l’appartamento della famiglia di Giulia?”

“Tell me a little bit about your vacation. Was the weather nice? Was the beach nice in Sicily? And how was Julia’s family’s apartment?”

 

“C’era molto sole, naturalmente! Eravamo in Sicilia! La spiaggia era molto bella. Mi piace molto la zona di Ragusa, lo sai. Ti ho mandato molte foto via SMS. Non le hai ricevute?”

“It was very sunny, naturally! We were in Sicily! The beach was very beautiful. I love the area around Ragusa, you know. I texted a lot of photos to you. Didn’t you receive them?”

 

“Si, le ho ricivute. Ma che hai fatto per tutti quei giorni sulla spiaggia?”

“Yes, I received them. But what did you do for all those days on the beach?”

 

“Ho preso il sole. Mi sono rilassata molto. Ho nuotato con Giulia e qualche amica che abbiamo incontrato là.”

“I sunbathed. I relaxed a lot. I swam with Julia and some friends that we met there.”

 

“Li conosco, questi amici?”

“Do I know these friends?”

 

“Ne conosci solamento uno. Ricordi Giovanni che ho incontrato all’università di Roma?”

“You know only one of them. Do you remember John whom I met at college in Rome?”

 

“No. Non me lo recordo affatto.”

“No. I really don’t remember him.”

 

“È un tipo corto ma magro… con i capelli neri. In ogni caso, l’ho incontrato per caso sulla spiaggia. C’erano tre ragazzi vicino a me. Ma Giovanni è passato davanti a me e l’ho riconosciuto.”

“He is the short type but thin… with black hair. In any case, I met him by chance on the beach. There were three guys near me. But John passed by in front of me and I recognized him.”

 

“L’ho riconosciuto subito, perché lui mi piaceva molto quando eravamo a scuola insieme.”

“I recognized him right away, because I really liked him when we were at school together.”

 

“Veramente? Non mi hai mai parlato di lui prima.”

“Really? You never talked to me about him before.”

 

“Allora, ci siamo passati i numeri di telefono e resteremo in contatto d’ora in poi.”  

“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will remain in contact from now on.”

 

“Va bene! Qual cos’altro è successo?”

“Very well!  What else happened?”

 

“Ho anche camminato molto sulla spiaggia e qualche volta ho corso un po’ sul lungomare dietro dell’appartamento. Una mattina sono corsa al porto di Ragusa per incontrari i miei amici.”

“I also walked a lot on the beach, and several times I ran a bit along the boardwalk in back of the apartment. One morning I ran to the port of Ragusa to meet my friends.”

 

“Che hai fatto al porto?”

“What did you do at the port?”

 

“Vicino al porto c’è la spiaggia pubblica. Abbiamo fatto windsurf.”

“Near the port is the public beach. We went windsurfing.”

 

“Meraviglioso! Lo so che ti piace molto fare windsurf.”

“Great! I know that you really like windsurfing.”

 

“E uno dei nostri amici ha una barca. Alcune sere siamo restati in barca fino alle nove di sera e abbiamo visti il tramonto sul mare.”

“And one of our friends has a boat. Some nights we stayed in the boat until 9 p.m. and watched the sunset from the sea.”

 

“Molto bello!”

“Very nice!”

 

“Un altra sera io e Giulia siamo andate al ristorante a Scicli. Giovanni e un ragazzo che si chiama Paolo ci hanno portato lì. Il ristorante era sottoterra, in una grotta, con le candele accesse sulle tavole. Era molto romantico.”

“Another night Julia and I went to a restaurant in Scicli. John and a guy called Paul took us there. The restaurant was underground, in a grotto, with candles on the tables. It was very romantic.”

 

“Dopo siamo andati a ballare in un piccolo discoteca vicino. Abbiamo ballato fino alle due di mattina. È stato molto divertente!”

“Afterward, we went to dance in a small club nearby. We danced until 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun!”

 

“Mi sembra di si!”

“It seems like it was!”

 

“C’è altro della storia di Giovanni e me. Ma ora ho appena finito un caffè e devo preparmi per uscire di casa. Ci parliamo più tardi.”

“There’s more to the story about John and me. But now I have just finished a cup of coffee, and I have to get ready to go out. We’ll talk more later.”

 

“Va bene. Ma ci vediamo presto!”

“OK. But we will see each other soon!”

 

“Si, mamma! La storia dell’estate è finita ma un altra storia sta per comminciare!”

“Yes, Mom! The summertime story is over, but another story is about to begin!”

 


 

Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know to Speak on the Phone…

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

How to Use the Pronomial Verb Esserci

The verb esserci means “to be there,” or “to be around.” Notice that the adverb “ci,” which takes on the meaning of “there,” is an integral part of this verb.

Anyone who has been speaking Italian for even a short time has probably heard the expressions “c’è” for “there is” and “ci sono” for “there are.” These phrases are mentioned in Chapter 6 of our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers. Now we know the infinitive verb that the above expressions originate from!

There are many, many expressions that use esserci. Below is a list of the most common expressions. “Ci sarò” for “I will be there!” comes up often in conversation. “Sarò là,” or “Sara lì,” are two equivalent phrases that may be heard today that use the verb essere instead of esserci.

A common idiomatic expression that answers the question of personal well-being, “Come stai?” is “Non c’è male,” with the meaning, “Not so bad.”

Many negative expressions use esserci as well.

Finally, esserci is used in the many idiomatic expressions about the weather. A few common weather expressions are listed below.

 

c’è there is
C’è una cosa…
C’è una cosa…?
There is something…
Is there something?
Non c’è problema. There is no problem.
Non c’è dubbio. There’s no doubt.
Non c’è bisogno. There’s no need.
Non c’è più. There is no more.
Non c’è internet. The Internet doesn’t work. There’s no Internet there/here.
Non c’è WIFI. There is no WiFi.
Non c’è male. Not so bad.
Non c’è verso di… There’s no way to…/It’s not possible to…
Non c’è da farsi illusioni… It’s no wonder that…
   
ci sono there are
Ci sono tanti turisti a Firenze. There are many tourists in Florence.
Ce ne sono tanti./Ce ne sono un miliardo. There are many (of them)./There are a billion (of them). (Any number greater than 1 can be used.)
Non ci sono con la testa. I am not thinking straight; I am exhausted.
   
c’era there was
C’era una volta. Once upon a time.
Una volta c’era… In the past there was…/Once there was…
   
c’erano there were
C’erano tanti turisti a Firenze. There were many tourists in Florence.
Ce n’erano tanti. / Ce n’erano un miliardo. There were many (of them)./There were a billion (of them). (Any number greater than 1 can be used.)
   
Ci sarò. I will be there.
Chi c’è con te? Who is there with you?
Tu avresti dovuto esserci. You should have been there.
Lei/lui avrebbe dovuto esserci. He/she should have been there.
   
Deve esserci una… festa. There must be a… party there.
   
Pronto. Chi è? Chi parla? Hello? Who is it? (telephone greeting uses essere)
C’è al telefono la signora Massa. Mrs. Massa is on the phone.
Non c’è (lui)? He/she is not around./He’s not there/here.
Non c’è (nessuno)? Is anybody around?/Is anybody there?
(Nobody is around/there/here?)
Non ci sono per nessuno per la prossima ora. (lit.) I’m not here for anyone for the next hour. (idiomatic: pretend I’m not here; don’t bother me; leave me alone)
   
C’è il sole. There is sun./It is sunny.
C’è bel tempo./Fa bel tempo. There is nice weather./It is nice out.
C’è brutto tempo./Fa brutto tempo. It is bad weather./It is bad out.
C’era sole. There was sun./It was sunny.
C’era bel tempo./Faceva bel tempo. There was nice weather./It was nice out.
C’era brutto tempo./Faceva brutto tempo. It was bad weather./It was bad out.

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo 
Verbs That Take Essere

 

Here is a list of the most common action verbs that take essere when forming the passato prossimo form of the past tense in Italian. Most of these verbs describe the act of going from one place to another, although not all of them do. We will break them down into their respective groups in the next sections and then give examples from our dialogue.

The infinitive form is in the first column, and the corresponding past participle is listed in the third column; the irregular past participles are given in red. Remember that when essere is the helping verb, the endings of the past participles will change to reflect the gender and number of the subject. The various endings are given in parentheses.

It should be noted again that all reflexive verbs, and the verb piacere, take essere.

 

Infinitive                                                           Past Participle

accadere to happen accaduto        (a)(i,e) happened
andare to go andato            (a)(i,e) went
arrivare to arrive arrivato           (a)(i,e) arrived
cadere to fall caduto            (a)(i,e) fell
cambiare to change cambiato        (a)(i,e) changed
cominciare to begin cominciato     (a)(i,e) began
correre# to run corso              (a)(i,e) ran
crescere to grow cresciuto         (a)(i,e) grown
diventare to become diventato        (a)(i,e) became
entrare to enter entrato           (a)(i,e) entered
finire+ to finish finito               (a)(i,e) finished
iniziare+ to begin iniziato           (a)(i,e) began
morire to die morto             (a)(i,e) dead
nascere to be born nato                (a)(i,e) born
partire to leave partito            (a)(i,e) left
passare* to pass through/put through passato           (a)(i,e) passed through; passed

put through

piacere to be pleasing to piaciuto          (a)(i,e) pleased
restare to remain restato            (a)(i,e) remained
rimanere to remain rimasto           (a)(i,e) remained
ritornare to return ritornato         (a)(i,e) returned
salire* to go up salito              (a)(i,e) went up
scendere* to do down sceso              (a)(i,e) went down
stare to stay/(to be) stato               (a)(i,e) stayed/been
succedere to happen successo         (a)(i,e) happened
uscire to go out uscito             (a)(i,e) went out
tornare to return tornato           (a)(i,e) returned
venire to come venuto            (a)(i,e) came

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Direction

ALWAYS Take Essere

Let’s break down the long list of action verbs that take essere into separate categories to make them easier to remember.

The most important rule governing these verbs is that they describe movement from one place to another specific place. The action has a beginning and a specific end point. Some obvious verbs in the category, like andare (to go) and venire (to come), are listed in the following table.

Restare and rimanere have been included in this list under the theory that one has come from one place and arrived at another place where he or she will “remain” for a bit.

 

Infinitive                                                                  Past Participle

andare to go andato            (a)(i,e) went
arrivare to arrive arrivato           (a)(i,e) arrived
cadere to fall caduto            (a)(i,e) fell
entrare to enter entrato           (a)(i,e) entered
partire to leave partito            (a)(i,e) left
restare to remain restato            (a)(i,e) remained
rimanere to remain rimasto           (a)(i,e) remained
ritornare to return ritornato         (a)(i,e) returned
uscire to go out uscito             (a)(i,e) went out
tornare to return tornato           (a)(i,e) returned
venire to come venuto            (a)(i,e) came

 

Un altra sera io e Giulia siamo andate al ristorante a Scicli.”
“Another night, Julia and I went to a restaurant in Scicli.”

“Perché non sei tornata a casa?”
“Why haven’t you come home?”

“Siamo arrivate a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ho passato la notte a casa di Giulia.”
“We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

“Alcune sere siamo restati in barca fino alle nove di sera e abbiamo visti il tramonto sul mare.”
“Some nights we stayed in the boat until 9 p.m., and we watched the sunset from the sea.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Being/Living

ALWAYS Take Essere

 

If we think of the verbs that describe “living” as taking us from birth to death; that is, from our beginning to our end point as human beings, it makes sense that essere is needed as the helping verb. Other commonly used verbs that describe how we all change in life, ingrassare, dimagrire, and invecchiare, have also been included.

As part of this way of thinking, we have included the verbs cambiare and diventare in this list as well. Because something or someone will change from one thing into another, there is a beginning and end point implied in these verbs as well. For a similar reason, accadere and succedere are included—the endpoint of a change is that something has happened. Below is a list of these verbs.

 

Infinitive                                                          Past Participle

accadere to happen accaduto        (a)(i,e) happened
cambiare to change cambiato        (a)(i.e) changed
crescere to grow cresciuto         (a)(i,e) grown
dimagrire to lose weight/to become or make one look thin dimagrito        (a)(i,e) lost weight/became or made one look thin
diventare to become diventato        (a)(i,e) became
ingrassare to gain weight/to become or make one look fat ingrassato       (a)(i,e) gained weight/became or made one look fat
invecchiare to age/get old/to become or appear older

to mature

invecchiato     (a)(i,e) to have aged

to have gotten old

to have become or appear older

to mature

morire to die morto             (a)(i,e) dead
nascere to be born nato                (a)(i,e) born
stare to stay/(to be) stato               (a)(i,e) stayed/been
succedere to happen successo         (a)(i,e) happened

 

“Che succede?”/“Che sta succedendo?”
What is happening?”

“Che cosa è successo?”/“Che è successo?”/“Cosa è successo?”
“What happened?”

“Cosa stava succedendo quando siete arrivate alla spiaggia.”
“What was happening when we arrived at the beach?”

“Cosa altro è successo?”
“What else happened?”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Non-Directional Action Verbs

ALWAYS Take Avere

 

Camminare and ballare are two verbs of movement that take the helping verb avere, rather than essere.

I’ve always thought this a bit curious, although one could say that dancing is movement without any set direction; spinning and turning are common, of course, and there is no set beginning or end to a dance, except in a performance.

Why does camminare take avere, and not essere? Maybe because it is sometimes used with the meaning of “to stroll,” which implies a leisurely walk without any set direction? Or maybe that is just the way it is, and there is no real explanation!

 

Infinitive                                                                    Past Participle

camminare to walk/to proceed/to function camminato walked/proceeded/functioned
ballare to dance ballato danced
passeggiare to stroll/to walk passseggiato strolled/walked
nuotare to swim nuotato swam
sciare to ski sciato skiied
pattinare (sul ghiaccio) to ice skate pattinato (sul ghiaccio) ice skated
pattinare (a rotelle) to roller skate pattinato (a rotelle) roller skated
fare windsurf to windsurf fatto windsurf windsurfed

 

“Ho nuotato con Giulia e qualche amica che abbiamo incontrato là.”
I swam with Julia and some friends that we met there.

 

“Ho anche camminato molto sulla spiaggia…”
“I also walked a lot on the beach…”

 

“Vicino al porto c’è la spiaggia pubblica. Abbiamo fatto windsurf.”
“Near the port is the public beach. We went windsurfing.”

 

“Dopo siamo andati a ballare in una piccola discoteca vicino. Abbiamo ballato fino alle due di mattina.”
“Afterward, we went to dance in a small club nearby. We danced until 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun!”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verb Correre

Takes Either Essere or Avere

 

Correre will take essere if one is running toward a destination. If one is running without a destination, correre will take avere.

“Lui è corso a casa sua.” for “He ran to his house.” vs. “Lui ha corso.” for “He ran.”

Infinitive                                   Past Participle

correre to run corso              (a)(i,e) ran

 

…e qualche volta ho corso un po’ sul lungomare dietro l’appartamento. Una mattina sono corsa al porto di Ragusa per incontrare i miei amici.”

…and several times, I ran a bit along the boardwalk in back of the apartment. One morning, I ran to the port of Ragusa to meet my friends.”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Starting/Finishing
Take Either Essere or Avere

 

The following two verbs, cominciare and iniziare, which both mean “to begin,” and finire, which means “to finish,” can use either essere or avere as their helping verb with the passato prossimo past tense.

Which helping verb to use? This will depend on the situation. In linguistic terms, these verbs are considered transitive and intransitive.* But who can remember this?

Use this trick to help you to remember whether to use avere or essere. When the subject is a person or group of people that has started or finished something, and the “something” is mentioned after the verb (as a direct object), use avere. Otherwise, use essere.

 

So, “Io ho finito il libro,” “Tu hai finito il libro,” and “Lei/lui ha finito il libro,” means I, you, he/she has finished the book. 

 But “Il film è finito” means “The film is finished.”

Notice that in the last example, the verb itself completes the sentence and refers back to the subject.* ++

 

 

Infinitive                                                                          Past Participle

cominciare to start cominciato     (a)(i,e) began
finire+ to finish finito               (a)(i,e) finished
iniziare+ to begin iniziato           (a)(i,e) began

 

“Ma ora ho appena finito un caffè e devo preparmi per uscire di casa.”
”But now I have just finished a cup of coffee, and I have to get ready to go out.”

 

“La storia dell’estate è finita ma un altra storia sta per comminciare!”
“The summertime story is over, but another story is about to begin!”

 

*Finire is categorized as transitive in all of the examples except the last, and it is considered intransitive in the last example, but don’t worry about these terms!

  ++Not to complicate things too much but... One can say, “Io sono finito,” or “Lei è finita,” but unfortunately, the meaning will be that this person’s life has finished or something important in his or her life has “finished them” “for good.”

 


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Passato Prossimo
Action Verbs of Going Up/Down
Take Either Essere or Avere

Some verbs of movement that involve going up or down, such as scendere, salire, or saltare, take avere when used with a direct object (a thing or place that follows the verb), as in the following examples:

“Io ho sceso le scale.”
“I went down the stairs.”/“I have gone down the stairs.”

“Io ho salito le scale.” 
“I went up the stairs.”/“I have gone up the stairs.”

“Oggi ho saltato il pranzo.”
“Today I skipped lunch.”/“Today I have skipped lunch.”

 

 Otherwise, if these verbs are followed by a preposition, they use essere:

Lui è sceso dall’autobus.
He has gotten off the bus.

Lui è salito sull’autobus.
He has gotten on the bus.

La ragazza è saltata in aria dalla gioa.
The girl jumped in the air for joy.

Notice that in the last examples, the verb itself completes the sentence and refers back to the subject.*

 

Infinitive                                                                  Past Participle    

salire* to go up salito  (a)(i,e) went up
saltare to jump
to hop, to skip, and to go out/off (electronics)
saltato  (a)(i,e) jumped, hopped, skipped, went out/off

(electronics)

scendere* to do down sceso  (a)(i,e) went down

 

*Scendere, salire, and saltare are categorized as transitive in the first list of examples, and they are categorized as intransitive in the second, but don’t worry about these terms!


 

Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

The Many Uses for the Verb Passare

The verb passare means “to pass,” as in “to pass through,” “pass by,” “to pass time,” or “to spend time.” This simple verb is used in many ways in English and Italian!

lasciar passare (time) let (something) pass
  allow (something) to pass
lasciar passare (ignore) let (something) go by
passare alla storia to go down in history
   
passare una telephonata pass the telephone call over to someone
passare una serata insieme to spend a night together
passare un ordine… to send instructions (to somebody) to do (something)
passare la palla to pass the responsibility over (to someone) (lit. to pass the ball)
passare per la testa (something) comes to mind/to one’s mind/in one’s mind
   
passare a prendere (qualcuno) (pass by and) pick (someone) up
passare a far visita pass by to see (somebody)
  drop in to see (somebody)
passare a trovare (qualcuno) pass by to visit (somebody)
  pop in to see (somebody)
passare in ufficio to drop by the office
passare un attimo da casa to drop by one’s house for a bit
passare col rosso go through a red light

 

  1. Passare is used in the important everyday expression “passare a prendere,” which means “to pick up.” Venire is used with prendere as well, with a slightly different meaning.

Sei ancora alla stazione? Passerò a prenderti prima del lavoro.”
“Are you still at the station? I will pick you up before work.”

 

“Può venire alla stazione a prendermi?”
“Can you (polite) come to the station and get me?”

 

  1. We can “pass” something to someone else, such as the telephone or cell phone (il telefono, il cellulare, il telefonino) or the telephone call (la telefonata). If speaking Italian in the past tense, we must use avere as our helping verb.

“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Maria ad Anna, dopo che Carlo le ha passato il cellulare.
“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone.

 

  1. If we are doing something “to pass the time,” we must use avere as our past tense helping verb.

“Siamo arrivate a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ho passato la notte a casa di Giulia.”
“We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

 

  1. Time can “pass by” all by itself, so we must use essere as our past tense helping verb.

“Quanto tempo è passato!” ha detto Maria ad Anna, dopo che Carlo le ha passato
il cellulare.
“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone. “I am so happy to hear from you!”

 

  1. If a person “passes by/passes through,” we must use essere as our past tense helping verb.

Ma Giovanni è passato davanti a me e l’ho riconosciuto.”
“But John passed by in front of me, and I recognized him.”

 

  1. Finally, the reflexive verb passarsi is used to mean “to exchange” something between people and is interchangeable with scambiarsi. Both verbs take essere in the past tense, of course, because they are reflexive!

“Allora, ci siamo passati i numeri di telefono e resteremo in contatto d’ora in poi.”
“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will remain in contact from now on.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Past Tense – Past Progressive Tense
Verbs That Take Stare

Occasionally, we may want to emphasize that a particular action is going on at the exact same time as the conversation that is taking place. In this case, we would use the present progressive tense, or “-ing” tense, as we do so often in English.

In Italian, this tense is expressed with the verb stare and the gerund of the action verb. This is easier than it may seem at first because the gerunds are almost all regular for all three conjugations. Also, the second and third conjugations are identical!

To form the gerund, just drop the –are, –ere, or –ire infinitive ending and add the following endings:

Forming the Gerund

Verbs that end in are stem + ando
Verbs that end in –ere or –ire stem + endo

 

Conjugate stare to reflect the speaker, add the gerund, and you have made the present progressive tense of the verb!

For the past tense progressive form, simply conjugate stare in the imperfetto past tense and follow with the gerund. Luckily, stare is regular in the imperfetto form!

Here are all the forms of the present progressive and past progressive tenses using the verb preparare. Notice that the accent falls on the second to last syllable of the gerund, which is underlined.

Stare preparare – to be preparing

 

io sto stavo preparando I am/was                                       preparing
tu stai stavi preparando you (familiar) are/were         preparing
Lei

lei/lui

sta stava preparando you (polite) are/were             preparing

she/he is/was                            preparing

         
noi stiamo stavamo preparando we are/were                              preparing
voi state stavate preparando you all are/were                      preparing
loro stanno stavano preparando they are/were                           preparing

 

“Una mattina, mentre Francescca stava preparando la prima colazione per se stessa e suo figlio che si chiama Carlo, i due hanno sentito lo squillo del cellulare.”

“One morning, while Frances was preparing breakfast for herself and her son Carl, they heard the cell phone ring.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

 Past Tense – Trapassato Prossimo

When talking about something in the past, we may at times refer to another event that has taken place even further in the past. In this case, the verb form used is the trapassato prossimo. So there is another Italian past tense to learn! But don’t despair! The use and verb structure is the same as for the passato prossimo!

Hint for use:  Whenever we say “had” in English, use the trapassato prossimo in Italian.

To form the compound verb for the trapassato prossimo, instead of using present tense avere or essere for the helping verb, simply substitute the imperfetto past tense form of these verbs. Then add the past participle. That’s all there is to it! Here are some examples from our dialogue:

 

“Era Anna, la figlia di Francesca, che era appena tornata dalla vacanza in Sicilia!”
“It was Ann, Frances’s daughter, who had just returned from vacation in Sicily!”

 

“Francesca aveva ricevuto qualche messaggio da Anna sul cellulare, ma non si erano parlate a telefono per tre settimane.”
“Frances had received some texts from Anna on the (her) cell phone, but they had not spoken to each other on the phone for three weeks.”

 


Speak Italian: You Will Need to Know…

Prepositions for Riding in/Getting in/Getting out of Vehicles

When one is riding in a train or another vehicle, the simple use of the preposition “in” will suffice for English and Italian. Travelers sometimes describe going or coming somewhere “by” train in English, but the preposition in Italian will not deviate from the usual “in.”

 

Anna ha continuato a parlare: “Verrò ad Avezzano in treno e sarò alla stazione alle quatordici.”

Anna continued (to talk): “I will come to Avezzano by train and will be at the station at 2 p.m.

 

However, Italian prepositions will change for cars versus other forms of transportation when one describes the act of getting in the vehicle. The same prepositions will be used for getting out of any vehicle, however.

 

To follow are some examples. Notice how the prepositions su (on) and da (from/out of) are combined with the different forms of the (il, l’, or la). 

 

Salgo* in macchina. I get into the car.
Salgo su I get on/I board/I go aboard…

 

“Salgo… sullautobus, sul treno, sulla barca, sulla motocicletta, sulla bicicletta, sullaereo.”

“I get onto… the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane.”

 

Scendo dal I go down/I get down/I get off or out of…
Scendo dalla macchina. I get out of the car.

 

“Scendo… dallautobus, dal treno, dalla barca, dalla motocicletta, dalla bicicletta, dallaereo.”

“I get off… the bus, the train, the motorcycle, the bicycle, the airplane.”

 

Some common familiar command forms used to address family or friends riding with you:

Sali in macchina! Get into the car! (fam. command)
Scendi dalla macchina! Get out of the car! (fam. command)

 

 


Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone 

How well do you know how to use the Italian passato prossimo and past tense? Do you remember when to use the imperfetto past tense? And the  verb esserci? Fill in the blanks for the verbs in the Italian sentences in the exercise below, then check your work with the dialogue in the first section. If you like, write a story about an Italian beach vacation of your own!

Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited
by Phone

 

Una mattina, mentre Francescca ________________________ la prima colazione per se stessa e suo figlio che si chiama Carlo, i due ___________________ lo squillo del cellulare.

One morning, while Frances was preparing breakfast for herself and her son Carl, they heard the cell phone ring.

 

 

Carlo ________, “Rispondo io, “e ____________” verso al soggiorno.  _________________________ il cellulare dal tavolino e ___________________________.

Carl said, “I’ll get it (I’ll answer it),” and headed over to the living room. He took the cell phone from the end table and answered (it).

 

 

“Pronto,” ___________. “Chi è? Chi parla?” E dopo: “Anna! Come stai? _____________.”

“Hello,” he said. “Who is it? Who’s calling (lit. speaking)?” And after, “Anna! How are you? I’ll get (pass the phone to) mom for you.”

 

 

____Anna, la figlia di Francesca, che __________________ dalla vacanza in Sicilia!

It was Anna, Frances’s daughter, who had just returned from vacation in Sicily!

 

 

Francesca ______________ qualche messaggio da Anna sul cellulare, ma non __________________ a telefono per tre settimane.

Frances had received some texts from Anna on the cell phone, but they had not spoken to each other on the phone for three weeks.

 

 

“Quanto tempo ________________________________!” ha detto Maria ad Anna, dopo che Carlo _____________________ il cellulare. “Sono molto contenta di sentirti!”

“How much time has gone by!” Frances said to Anna, after Carl gave (passed) her the cell phone. “I am so happy to hear from you!”

 

 

“Mamma! Sono solo tre settimane!” ___________________________ Anna a Francesca.

“Mom! (Up until now it) is only three weeks!”(English: has been only) said Anna to Frances.

 

 

“Lo so. Dimmi! Dove sei? Perché non ______________ a casa? Sei ancora alla stazione?  ______________________ prima del lavoro.”

“I know. Tell me! Where are you? Why haven’t you come home? Are you still at the station? I will pick you up before work.”

“Stai calma, mamma!” _____________________ Anna. “___________________ a Roma ieri sera ma era molto tardi, cosi ________________________ la notte a casa di Giulia.”

“Calm down, mom!” Anna said. “We arrived at Rome last night, but it was very late, so I stayed at Julia’s house for the night.”

 

Anna _________________________________: “Verrò ad Avezzano in treno e sarò alla stazione alle quattordici. Chi _________________________________________ alla stazione, tu or Carlo?”

Anna continued (to talk): “I will come to Avezzano by train and will be at the station at 2 p.m. Who can come to pick me up at the station, you or Carl?”

 

“Questo pomeriggio sarà in ufficio, ma Carlo ________________________________ a casa in macchina sua.”

“This afternoon I will be at the office, but Carl can take you home in his car.”

 

 

“________________,” ____________________ Carlo, che __________________ la conversazione. “Non preoccuparti!”

“I will be there,” said Carl, who had heard the conversation. “Don’t worry!”

 

“È papà?” _________________________ Anna. “Non _____________?”

“And dad?” asked Anna. “Is he (not) there?”

 

“No. Non ______________ a casa questa settimana. _________________________ a Milano.”

“No. He’s not at home this week. He had to go to Milan.”

 

 

“Dimmi un po’ della tua vacanza. _____________ bel tempo? _____________ bella la spiaggia in Sicilia? E come ______________ l’appartamento della famiglia di Giulia?”

“Tell me a little bit about your vacation. Was the weather nice? Was the beach nice in Sicily? And how was Julia’s family’s apartment?”

 

 

“______________ molto sole, naturalmente! _______________________ in Sicilia! La spiaggia _________________molto bella. Mi piace molto la zona di Ragusa, lo sai. _______________ molte foto via SMS. Non ____________________________?”

“It was very sunny, naturally! We were in Sicily! The beach was very beautiful. I love the area around Ragusa, you know. I texted a lot of photos to you. Didn’t you receive them?”

 

 

“Si, le ho ricivute. Ma che hai fatto per tutti quei giorni sulla spiaggia?”

“Yes, _____________________. But what ___________________ for all those days on the beach?”

 

 

“_________________________ il sole. _____________________________ molto. _________________ con Giulia e qualche amica che _________________________________ là.”

“I relaxed a lot. I swam with Julia and some friends that we met there.”

 

 

“Li conosco, questi amici?”

“Do I know these friends?”

 

 

“Ne conosci solamento uno. Ricordi Giovanni che ________________________ all’università di Roma?”

“You know only one of them. Do you remember John whom I met at college in Rome?”

 

 

“No. Non me lo recordo affatto.”

“No. I really don’t remember him.”

 

 

“È un tipo corto ma magro… con i capelli neri. In ogni caso, ___________________________ per caso sulla spiaggia.  ________________________________ tre ragazzi vicino a me. Ma Giovanni _________________________ davanti a me e  _________________________________.”

“He is the short type but thin… with black hair. In any case, I met him by chance on the beach. There were three guys near me. But John passed by in front of me, and I recognized him.”

 

 

“_____________________________ subito, perché lui ___________________________ quando ______________________________ a scuola insieme.”

“I recognized him right away, because I really liked him when we were at school together.”

 

“Veramente? Non _________________________ di lui prima.”

“Really? You never talked to me about him before.”

 

 

“Allora, _________________________ i numeri di telefono e resteremo in contatto
d’ora in poi.” 

“Anyway, we exchanged telephone numbers and will remain in contact from now on.”

 

 

“Va bene! Qual cos’altro è successo?”
“Very well! What else happened?”

 

 

“_________________________________ molto sulla spiaggia e qualche volta ___________________ un po’ sul lungomare dietro dell’appartamento. Una mattina ___________________ al porto di Ragusa per incontrari i miei amici.”

“I also walked a lot on the beach, and several times I ran a bit along the boardwalk in back of the apartment. One morning, I ran to the port of Ragusa to meet my friends.”

 

 

“Che hai fatto al porto?”

“What did you do at the port?”

 

 

“Vicino al porto _____________________ la spiaggia pubblica.  _________________________ windsurf.”

“Near the port is the public beach. We went windsurfing.”

 

 

“Meraviglioso! Lo so che ti piace molto fare windsurf.”

“Great! I know that you really like windsurfing.”

 

 

“E uno dei nostri amici ha una barca. Alcune sere _____________________________ in barca fino alle nove di sera e ______________________________ il tramonto sul mare.”

“And one of our friends has a boat. Some nights we stayed in the boat until 9 p.m. and watched the sunset from the sea.”

 

 

“Molto bello!”

“Very nice!”

 

“Un altra sera io e Giulia ________________________________ al ristorante a Scicli. Giovanni e un ragazzo che si chiama Paolo __________________________ lì. Il ristorante ________________ sottoterra, in una grotta, con le candele accesse sulle tavole. ______________ molto romantico.”

“Another night, Julia and I went to a restaurant in Scicli. John and a guy called Paul took us there. The restaurant was underground, in a grotto, with candles on the tables. It was very romantic.”

 

 

“Dopo __________________________ in un piccolo discoteca vicino. _______________________ fino alle due di mattina. ____________________ molto divertente!”

“Afterward, we went to dance in a small club nearby. We danced until 2 a.m. It was a lot of fun!”

 

“Mi sembra di si!”

“It seems like it was!”

 

 

“_______________________ altro della storia di Giovanni e me. Ma ora _____________________ un caffè e devo preparmi per uscire di casa. Ci parliamo più tardi.”

“There’s more to the story about John and me. But now I have just finished a cup of coffee, and I have to get ready to go out. We’ll talk more later.”

 

 

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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Speak Italian: Italian Beach Vacation Revisited by Phone