Tag Archives: Italian Subjunctive

Italian Hypothetical Phrases from Conversational Italian

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 5) – Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Family Reunion

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 5): Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Italian Family Reunion

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

 

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mode with Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Past

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 had happened in the past what the consequences might have been? How would you express this idea in Italian? Well, we can express hypothetical, or “if” ideas, called 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 fifth blog post in the “Speak Italian” series that focuses on how to use the Italian subjunctive mode, or “il congiuntivo,” and will include Italian hypothetical phrases.  

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 impossible “if” situations in the past in Italian. We will learn how to conjugate the Italian trapassato subjunctive mode and how to form the Italian past conditional tense.  With these two tenses, we will be able to construct sentences and refer to the past using Italian hypothetical phrases. We will also introduce the passato remoto past tense that is used to describe actions that began and were completed in the past when writing about historical events or narrating a story.

An example story will start our discussion.  This story is about an Italian mother and daughter, Francesca and Maria, who are preparing a welcoming party for an Italian-American relative who is visiting the family for the first time. You may remember the characters from our recent Italian Subjunctive Mode Practice blog posts.

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mode with Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Past

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 for events that have occurred in the past, as well as the different Italian verb forms needed for probable past and impossible past situations. Read our “real-life”story 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 that might have happened in the past, start a conversation and use Italian hypothetical phrases!

Enjoy the fith blog post in this series, “Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 5): Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Italian Family Reunion!
—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 – Past

When reading the story below, notice the use of the imperfetto past tense (for making general statements about the past) and the passato remoto past tense (for describing actions that began and were completed in the past).  The use of these tenses shifts from one to the other while Maria is narrating the story of her family, depending on the situation that is described. Finally, the hypothetical phrases that refer to events in the past have been underlined.

Italian Hypothetical Phrases in the Past:
A Family Reunion

It was a lovely spring day in April in the mountains of Abruzzo.  Frances and her daughter Mary met in Frances’ house in order to plan a party.

Era un bel giorno di aprile nelle montagne abruzzesi.  Francesca e sua figlia, che si chiama Maria, si sono incontrate a casa di Francesca per organizzare una festa.  

They wanted this party to be very special because Francesca’s cousin Rudy, who lives in America, was coming to Italy for the first time.
Loro volevano che questa festa fosse bellissima,  perché il cugino di Francesca, Rudy, che abita in America, veniva a visitare l’Italia per la prima volta.

 

“Tell me again how Great Uncle Mark, cousin Rudy’s grandfather, saved our family in Italy,” Mary asked her mother.

“Raccontami ancora come il prozio Marco, il nonno del cugino Rudolfo, ha salvato la nostra famiglia in Italia,” Maria ha chiesto a sua madre.

 

Frances replied (to her) with the following story:

Francesca le ha risposto con la storia qui di seguito:

 

Great grandmother Mary had a brother, whose name was Mark.

La bisnonna Maria aveva un fratello, che si chiamava Marco.

 

Great Uncle Mark left Italy and went to live in America with his family in 1920.

Il prozio Marco lasciò l’Italia e andò a vivere in America con la sua famiglia nel 1920.

 

He had to leave Italy to find work, because after World War I there was no work in Italy.

Dovette lasciare l’Italia per trovare lavoro, perchè dopo la Prima Guerra Mondiale, non c’era lavoro in Italia.

 

Right after Uncle Mark had left Italy, great grandmother’s husband died, and she was left all alone to raise their three children.

Subito dopo che lo zio Marco lasciò l’Italia, il marito della bisnonna morì, e lei era da sola a crescere i suoi tre figli.

 

In Italy in the early 1900’s, if a woman didn’t have a husband, usually she was not able to support her family.

In Italia negli anni del primo novecento, se una donna non aveva un marito, normalmente non poteva mantenere la famiglia.

 

At that time, if a woman wanted to work, she could be a teacher or a seamstress.

A quel tempo, se una donna voleva lavorare, poteva fare l’insegnante o la sarta.

 

Grandmother Mary had been a teacher before she was married.

La bisnonna Maria era un’insegnante prima di sposarsi.

 

But with three children it was not possible for her to leave the house to work.

Ma con tre figli, non era possibile per lei uscire di casa per lavorare.

 

So Uncle Mark worked in America and sent money to Italy.

E cosi’ lo zio Marco lavorava in America e mandava i soldi in Italia.

 

If Uncle Mark had not sent money to Grandmother Mary, she and the children could have starved to death.

Se lo zio Marco non avesse mandato i soldi alla bisnonna Maria, lei e i figli sarebbero potuti morire di fame.

 

At the end of this story, Mary said,   “And if Uncle Mark had not helped Grandmother Mary, you and I would not be here today!”

Alla fine della storia, Maria ha detto, “E se lo zio Marco non avesse aiutato la bisnonna Maria, tu e io non saremmo qui oggi!”

 

“Probably not,” replied Frances.

“Probabilmente no,” ha risposto Francesca.


Speak Italian: Grammar You Will Need to Know to Narrate a Story

The “Passato Remoto”

The passato remoto form of the Italian past tense is used in textbooks to describe historical events that took place centuries ago, and also in textbooks that describe art history.

Outside of scholarly works written in Italian, the passato remoto is still commonly found as a narrative tool in novels and other forms of fiction written today.

In fiction today, the author of a novel will often use the passato remoto form for the voice of the narrator.  The passato remoto is useful for the “detached” feeling it gives to the narration in descriptive passages that relate completed  events in the “remote past” of a character’s life. The passato prossimo  is the past tense form usually  used by the characters during their conversations, which gives a “realistic” feeling to the dialogue.

Although used differently for artistic purposes in novels, the passato remoto can be considered interchangeable with the passato prossimo, since  both describe completed events that took place during a given period of time in the past.

The English translation for the passato prossimo is in the simple present tense, as English does not have an equivalent tense to the passato prossimo.  In effect, the Italian past tenses can express certain shades of meaning which cannot be expressed by the verb alone in English.

Note that the imperfetto remains important for works of fiction as well, as the passato remote cannot be used to replace the imperfetto!  We remember that the imperfetto is used to describe an ongoing action or event, while we have just reviewed that the passato prossimo describes completed actions or events.  For a review of the specific uses of the imperfetto, please refer to our blog Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

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Since our focus to this point has been on conversational, rather than written Italian, a common convention regarding stories told in conversation should be noted here.  In both English and Italian, the present tense is very often used to tell a story that the speakers understand to have happened in the past.  For instance:

            Kathy:  (Past tense to introduce setting.) “Yesterday, I met Janice.
Kathy continues:  (Switch to present tense to tell the story):
“And she says to me…  And then I say to her…”

This simplifies matters – no complex, little used past tense is needed to tell a story! But, if one wants to expand their conversational Italian to include the ability to narrate a story about the past formally, the passato remoto is an important tense to learn.

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We should also note here that  in certain southern regions, and particularly in Sicily, it is the normal convention to use the passato remoto instead of the passato prossimo.  In these  regions, the idea that the passato remoto  should be reserved for remote events or narration is not adhered to, and the passato remoto is instead chosen to speak about any past event that took place within a given period of time.

 


Speak Italian:  “Passato Remoto”  Past Tense
You Will Need to Know…

“Passato Remoto” – “Avere” and “Essere”

The most commonly used form of the passato remoto  is the third person singular of essere, which is fu.  The first and third person singular of  avere, which is ebbi, is also commonly used.  Even if you don’t plan to continue to learn the passato remoto tense, remember these two verbs, as you will surely encounter them when reading Italian! The full conjugations of these irregular verbs are given for completeness.

Avere—to have—Passato Remoto

 io ebbi I had
 tu avesti you (familiar) had
 Lei

lei/lui

ebbi you (polite) had

she/he had

     
(se) noi avemmo we had
(se) voi aveste you all had
(se) loro ebbero they had

 

Essere—to be—Passato Remoto

 io fui I was
 tu fosti you (familiar) were
Lei

 lei/lui

fu you (polite) were

she/he was

     
 noi fummo we were
 voi foste you all were
 loro furono they were

 

 


Speak Italian:  “Passato Remoto”  Past Tense
You Will Need to Know…

The “Passato Remoto” Regular Conjugations

Unfortunately, before we even begin to conjugate verbs in the passato remoto, it should be noted that the passato remoto has many, many exceptions to the regular conjugation. But luckily, the use of the passato remoto in novels is usually limited by the narrative form chosen, which will normally be in the first person or third person singular.  This in turn limits the number of endings necessary to learn.

Also, certain verbs are used over and over in the passato remoto form –  those needed to keep the flow of dialogue going, such as: said, asked, answered, went, came. So, even a limited knowledge of this verb form is very useful for understanding a work of Italian fiction.

For this blog, we will describe how to conjugate the passato remoto, but then focus only on the most commonly used verbs in the singular first and third persons.

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To conjugate the passsato remoto past tense…

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 passato remoto is easy – just drop the –are, -ere, or  -ire from the infinitive verb!

Then, as usual, we add the endings to the stems.  You will notice that, for all persons except the third person singular, each ending begins with the first vowel we have just removed from the stem! So if it makes it easier for you, think of the endings as being the same, other than this one change, except for the third person.

For the third person: For the –are verbs, the third person ending will be -ò, for the -ere verbs the ending will be -é,  and for the -ire verbs, the ending will be -ì.

Using this method, though, it soon becomes apparent that the first and third persons for the -ere form of the passato remoto  form will not be unique ( the first person -ei ending will be the same as the conditional tense and the third person é  is almost identical to the present tense; the third person plural -erono is identical to the future). The -ere conjugation used most often will instead be -tti for the first person, -tte for the third person singular, and -ttero for the third person plural in order to get around this difficulty.

 

Passato Remoto Endings for –are, -ere, -ire Verbs

Infinitive
Verb
  -are -ere -ire
io (i) ai ei (etti) oi
tu (sti) asti esti isti
Lei/lei/lui   ò é (ette) ì
         
noi (mmo) ammo emmo immo
voi (ste) aste este iste
loro (rono) arono erono irono

 

When pronouncing the passato remoto verbs, the stress will always be on the first vowel of the ending. Except, of course, for the third person singular, where the ending has only one vowel with an accent that will be stressed.

*Notice that andare has a regular conjugation in the passato remoto!  Also, because the -etti , -ette and -ettero forms for the -ere first and third persons are used most frequently, these are listed first.

Passato Remoto – Regular Conjugations

  Andare

(to go)

(went)

Credere

(to believe)

(believed)

Finire

(to finish)

(finished)

io andai credetti (credei) finii
tu andasti credesti finisti
Lei/lei/lui andò credette (credé) finì
       
noi andammo credemmo finimmo
voi andaste credeste finiste
loro andarono credettero (crederono) finirono

 


Speak Italian:  “Passato Remoto”  Past Tense
You Will Need to Know…

“Passato Remoto” Common Irregular Verbs

Since there are so many irregular verbs in the passato remoto tense, we present in the table to follow only the most commonly used verbs – and only in the first person io and third person Lei/lei/lui forms.  Notice that some of these irregular forms fall into groups, which are listed together.

Since the passato remoto is often used for historical purposes, it should be mentioned here that although nascere (to be born) is irregular in the passato remoto, morire (to die) is regular!

Passato Remoto – Common Irregular -are Verbs

  Dare
(gave)
Fare
(did/made)
Stare
(stayed/was)
io diedi feci stetti
Lei/lei/lui dette fece stette

 

Passato Remoto – Irregular -ere Helping Verbs

  Dovere
(had to)
Potere
(could have had to)
Volere
(wanted to)
io dovetti potei volli
Lei/lei/lui dovette poté volle

 

 

Passato Remoto – Common Irregular -ere Verbs

  Correre
(ran)
Perdere
(lost)
Mettere
(put)
Rimanere
(remained)
Rompere
(broke)
Spengere
(put out)
Vedere
(saw)
io corsi persi misi rimasi ruppi spensi vidi
Lei/lei/lui corse perse mise rimase ruppe spense vide

 

Passato Remoto – Common Irregular Verbs that Double the Stem Consonant

  Bere
(drank)
Cadere
(fell)
Conoscere
(knew)
Crescere
(grew)
Sapere
(knew)
Venire
(came)
io bevvi caddi conobbi crebbi sappi venni
Lei/lei/lui bevve cadde conobbe crebbe sappe venne

 

Passato Remoto – Common Irregular Verbs with a Double ‘S’ in the Stem

  Dire
(said)
Leggere
(read)
Muovere
(moved)
Scrivere
(wrote)
Vivere
(lived)
io dissi lessi mossi scrissi vissi
Lei/lei/lui disse lesse mosse scrisse visse

 

Passato Remoto – Common Irregular Verbs that End in –dere and –endere

  Chiedere
(asked)
Dicedere
(decided)
Prendere
(took)
Ridere
(laughted)
Rispondere
(answered)
Sorridere
(smiled)
io chiesi decisi presi risi risposi sorrisi
Lei/lei/lui chiese decise prese rise rispose sorrise

 

Passato Remoto – Common Irregular Verbs that End in –gliere

  Scegliere
(chose)
Togliere
(took off)
io scelsi tolsi
Lei/lei/lui scelse tolse

 

Passato Remoto – Irregular Verbs that End in –ngere and –ncere

  Piangere
(cried)
Stringere
(tightened/grasped)
Vincere
(won)
io piansi strinsi vinsi
Lei/lei/lui pianse strinse vinse

 

Passato Remoto – Verbs with  –cqui in the stem

  Nascere
(was born)
Piacere
(liked/was pleasing to)
Tacere
(touch)
io nacqui piacqui tacqui
Lei/lei/lui naque piacque tacque


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

 How to Make a Hypothetical “If” Phrase in Italian—and Refer to the Past
“Periodo Ipotetico con ‘Se’ in Passato”

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…”?

Hypothetical phrases are composed using several different verb forms in English and Italian. For our first blog post on this topic, we talked about which Italian verb forms to use for the probable and improbable situations that are useful for every day conversation in the present.

To read our discussion on Italian hypothetical phrases that refer to the present, read our last blog, Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love.  We will now continue our discussion of Italian hypothetical phrases in this blog by describing how these phrases can be used to refer to the past.

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When we want to express the idea that something may have happened in the past 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 have caused something else to happen. This dependent clause is then linked to a main clause that will describe the impending result or consequence that may have happened in the past or could have happened in the present.

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

We will now continue our discussion of the different types of hypothetical phrases that we can use that describe conditions in the past and their consequences in the past or present. This will 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 – Past
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations – Past

Probable hypothetical phrases that refer to the past describe situations that were likely to have happened in the past.

We can talk about these past situations as if they had in fact happened by using the knowledge we have learned directly, from a particular individual or source in the present, or indirectly, by making assumptions gained from history.

In probable situations that took place in the past, the stated condition given in the “if” clause is a condition that the subject likely experienced in the past and the consequence that will follow is a situation that is thought to have almost certainly happened.

Examples usually given for a probable hypothetical phrase in the past often relate to historical situations that we know in general to be true,  such as, “If you were one of  the first settlers in America, your life was hard.” We all know that given the condition just described, the resulting situation must have happened 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: “Your life was hard if you were one of the first settlers in America.”

 

To Summarize: Hypothetical Phrases for Probable Situations – Past

 

Italian Hypothetical  Phrases—Probable Situations – Past
The condition described in the “if” clause and the consequence that followed in the past were  probable;  both almost certainly did happen.

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations – Past

If + Past Tense Verb > Past Tense 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 that occurred in the past. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:
Probable Situations – Past
  English   Italian
Condition (If) If  Simple Past Tense  Se +  Passato Prossimo -or-

Imperfetto Past Tense

Consequence (Probable Result)   Simple Past Tense   Passato Prossimo -or-

Imperfetto Past Tense

 

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

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 past tense.  For Italian, the passato prossimo or imperfetto past tense may be used, as usual.

For the consequence in the main clause, the past tense will be again used for both English and Italian.

You may remember from our first blog on hypothetical phrases that no special tense is necessary for probable situations that occur in the present.  We used only our usual indicative present and future tenses given the certainty that these probable situations will occur.  And it is the same with probable situations that have likely occurred in the past! No special tense is needed!

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

In Italy in the early 1900’s, if a woman didn’t have a husband, usually she was not able to support her family.
In Italia negli anni del primo novecento, se una donna non aveva un marito, normalmente non poteva mantenere la famiglia.

At that time, if a woman wanted to work, she could be a teacher or a seamstress.
A quel tempo, se una donna voleva lavorare, poteva fare l’insegnante o la sarta.

 

 


Speak Italian: Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Past
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 Impossible Situations -Past

Impossible hypothetical phrases in the past describe situations that did not actually take place in the past.

These situations are called “impossible” because the condition given refers to a past event that could not have been acted upon in the past and is also not something one can act on in the present.  Instead, these types of phrases are used in order to “wonder” out loud or “suppose” what  could have happened in a particular situation if things had been different in the past from what we know to be true.

Stated another way: in impossible hypothetical situations of the past, since the stated condition given in the “if” clause in the past and did not happen, it cannot be used to change the situation.  But, we can still speculate on the outcome. The consequence that might have followed can refer either to the past or to the present.

The often used phrase, “If I had known…” is a good example of an impossible hypothetical condition.  Here, the condition as stated did not happen – the person did not know something at the time, which was in the past and is now over. This in turn makes the outcome, either in the past or the present, pure speculation.

With an impossible hypothetical situation, there may be a note of regret in the statement, as the individual describes how he/she would like things to have been different now that the past event has ended. Perhaps this individual might say, “If I had known she needed me, I would have been at home.”  Or, “If I had known he was sick, I would have brought him some medicine.”

Or, another example that describes how he/she sees that things could be different now:
If Ann and her ex-boyfriend Paul had gotten back togethershe would be happy now. *

The “if” phrase does not need to start the sentence, although it remains the dependent clause. Here is our first example sentence again: “I would have been at home if I had known she needed me.”

 

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

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*(Do you recognize this sentence from our last blog on hypothetical phrases? Here the speaker is making a supposition about the past – that in fact it was possible for Anna and her ex-boyfriend to get together, and then speculating about how Anna would feel about this today.  Neither the condition nor the consequence have taken place, however.  In the dialogue, we learn that Anna is actually very happy with her new boyfriend. )

 

To Summarize: Impossible Situations – Past

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases— Impossible Situations – Past
The condition described in the “if” clause is impossible as it did not happen and is a supposition about the past; therefore the condition cannot lead to the result in the consequence speculated about, either in the past or the present.

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Impossible Situations – Past

 If + Trapassato Subjunctive >
Past Conditional or 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 impossible situation when we want to speculate about something that might have happened in the past. This table compares how English and Italian approach this type of speech.

The examples given use the first person “I” or “io” subject pronoun, as this is the most common form to use in conversation, but of course all subject pronouns and their respective verb conjugations are possible.

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:
Impossible Situations – Past
Consequence – Past
  English   Italian
Condition
(If:Supposition)
If + Past Pluperfect
(I had
+ past participle)
Se + Trapassato Subjunctive
(io avessi/fossi
+ past participle)
Consequence
(Speculation)
  Conditional +
Present Perfect
(I could, would, should +have
+ past participle)
   Past Conditional
(io avrei/sarei
+ past participle)

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:
Impossible Situations – Past
Consequence – Present
  English   Italian
Condition
(If: Supposition)
If + Past Pluperfect
(I had
+ past participle)
Se + Trapasatto Subjunctive
(io avessi/fossi
+ past participle)
Consequence
(Speculation)
  Present Conditional   Present Conditional

 

The table above shows that English and Italian speakers think alike, although this may not be so evident to the English speaker at first.

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 past tense form that indicates an event that was both started and competed in the past.  These are thought of as “remote” events.

  • In English, a remote event that was started and completed in the past uses the helping verb “had,” (rather than have) prior to adding on the past participle.  Who remembers this from English class?  Chances are we English speakers do this naturally, but now that we are learning Italian, our English grammar surfaces again!

2. For both English and Italian, the main clause that describes the speculative consequence with reference to the past will use the past conditional; to refer to the present simply use the present conditional.

  • To form the past conditional In English, we use one of our  helping verbs  – could, should, would, and add the present perfect tense (actually a past tense: “have + past participle”).
  • To form the past conditional in Italian, we use the imperfetto conjunctive forms of “to have” and “to be” (examples: io avessi or io fossi) + past participle.

 

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

 

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.

If Uncle Mark had not sent money to Grandmother Mary, she and the children could have starved to death.
Se lo zio Marco non avesse mandato i soldi alla bisnonna Maria, lei e i figli sarebbero potuti morire di fame.

 

At the end of this story, Mary said,   “And if Uncle Mark had not helped Grandmother Mary, you and I would not be here today!”
Alla fine della storia, Maria ha detto, “E se lo zio Marco non avesse aiutato la bisnonna Maria, tu e io non saremmo qui oggi!”

 

 


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

Improbable Italian Hypothetical Phrases- Past

The Trapassato Subjunctive Mode

 “Essere” or  “Avere” + Past Participle

We have already learned in our last blog on this topic that 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.

To form the trapassato subjunctive mode for impossible hypothetical phrases in the past tense, we need only to add the past participle to the initial phrases above!

Remember that action verbs of direction, reflexive verbs, and piacere all take essere as a helping verb when making these compound verbs.  All other verbs take avere.  If you need a review of the use of helping verbs for the Italian past tense, please refer to our blog Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

In English, however, any event that started and was completed in the past simply needs “had” inserted in front of the past participle! This is a bit easier than Italian, but with a little practice, you will get used to the Italian in no time!

Below are the trapassato subjunctive mode conjugations for the auxiliary verbs avere and essere,  using the past participles for two Italian verbs that are commonly used in this tense – fare and andare.

You will notice that avere has a regular conjugation in the imperfetto subjunctive mode, whereas essere  has an irregular conjugation. The past participle for fare (fatto) is irregular, but that of andare (andato) is regular. If you need a refresher on how to form past participles, please refer to our blog Speak Italian: A Story About… Love!

In hypothetical clauses, because the trapassato 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) + Fare (to do/make) — Trapassato Subjunctive Mode

(se) io avessi   +      fatto I had  +                                   made/done
(se) tu avessi  +       fatto you (familiar) had  +       made/done
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

avesse  +       fatto you (polite) had  +           made/done

she/he had  +                     made/done

     
(se) noi avessimo  +  fatto we had  +                          made/done
(se) voi aveste  +        fatto you all had  +                  made/done
(se) loro avessero  +   fatto they had  +                       made/done

 

Essere (to be) + Andare (to go) — Trapassato Subjunctive Mode

(se) io fossi  +     andato(a) I had  +                               gone
(se) tu fossi  +     andato(a) you (familiar) had  +    gone
(se) Lei

(se) lei/lui

fosse  +    andato(a) you (polite) had  +        gone

she/he had  +                  gone

     
(se) noi fossimo  +  andati(e) we had  +                         gone
(se) voi foste  +        andati(e) you all had  +                 gone
(se) loro fossero  +   andati(e) they had  +                      gone

 


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.


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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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 5) : Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Italian Family Reunion

Book Display for Conversational Italian

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 3): Speak Italian!

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

 

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 subjunctive mode is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and it’s something that I am always working on! This is the third blog post in the “Speak Italian” series that focuses on how to conjugate and use the Italian subjunctive mode, or “il congiuntivo.” 

To take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian, in this segment, we will discuss how to express one’s needs in Italian and learn about other important introductory phrases and individual words that take the subjunctive mode. We will repeat the conjugation of the subjunctive mode for the regular -are, -ere, and -ire verbs and then present the conjugation of the modal, or helping, verbs dovere, potere, and volere. A review of the subjunctive tense conjugations for the auxiliary verbs and for commonly used irregular verbs will complete this blog. Example sentences will follow!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode

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

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

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


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

Once Again… Phrases That Take the Italian Subjunctive Mode

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

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

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

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

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

These groups are again listed for review.

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

 

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

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

Points to remember about the subjunctive mode:

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

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

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

**solo se also means only if but does NOT take the subjunctive mode.

*** anche se also means even though/if but does NOT take the subjunctive mode.

 


 

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

Phrases Used to Express Feelings with “Di” in Italian

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

 

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

 


How to Use the Phrase “Avere bisogno di…” in Italian

Before we go on to discuss more complex uses of the phrases in the table above, here are a few words about the very popular phrase, “ho bisogno di…” which means, “I need….”   Any student of Italian no doubt has come across this phrase many times in general conversation and has needed to use this phrase themselves to express what they want.

While I was learning how to use the subjunctive mode properly, I took the opportunity to learn how to properly use “ho bisogno di” properly as well.  After many question and answer sessions with native Italian speakers, here is what I’ve found out about the different uses of this phrase in English and Italian.

First, use of the phrase “ho bisogno di” is limited to describing a need one has for a person, a thing, something or a physical need.  Remember to conjugate the verb avere used in this phrase (“ho” is the io form of avere) if someone else besides you needs something, of course! Leave out the word “di,” which means “of” in this phrase if it is used at the end of the sentence.

The phrases “Mi serve…” and “Mi servono…” can also mean, “I need…” often in the negative sense.  The conjugation is like that of piacere.  (See below)

If a person needs to do something, but it is also necessary he does it – she/he has to do it – then the verb dovere is used.   See some examples in the table below:

avere bisogno di to have need of…  
   
…a person Ho bisogno di… te.
   
…a thing/ something Ho bisogno di… una macchina nuova.
  Ho bisogno di… prendere una vacanza.
   
…a physical need Ho bisogno di… riposare.
   
Mi serve… I need… (one thing) Mi serve 1 millione di euro.
 Mi servono…  I need… (many things)  Mi servono tante cose.
   
dovere for what you have to do

and need to do)

Devo cucinare il pranzo ogni sera.

When we come to more complex sentences, and now must express what the subject would like another person to do, the phrase “ho bisogno di” is not used.  In other words, if I want someone to do something, I must use the verb voglio, with the subjunctive, as in, “Voglio che tu…”  This was an important point for me to learn, as in English I am constantly asking my children or family to do things by saying, “I need you to…”

For instance, take the sentence, “I need you to take care of the cats when I am on vacation.”  I am not sure if this phrase “I need you to…” is used commonly in other parts of the America, but it has become a habitual use in the Northeast and Midwest.  The Italian translation would be, “Voglio che tu ti prenda cura dei gatti quando io sono in vacanza.”  So, to use the phrase “ho bisogno di” we must really learn how to think in Italian!

Enjoy some more examples for how to use our phrases to express a need or want in Italian, and then create your own!

Ho bisogno di un grande abbraccio! I need a big hug!
Abbracci e baci sono due cose che ho bisogno! Hugs and kisses are two things that I need!
Non mi serve niente. I don’t need anything.
Non mi serve nient’altro. I don’t need anything else.
Mi serve di più caffè. I need more coffee.
Devo andare al mercato. I need to/have to go to the (outdoor) market.

Non abbiamo  bisogno di giorni migliori,

ma di persone che rendono migliori i nostri giorni!

We don’t need to have better days,

instead, we need people who make our days better!


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Avevo bisogno… che tu I needed… that you*

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

I am tired…*

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

Ero stanco(a)… che tu I was tired…*

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

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

 

 


Idiomatic Use of the Italian Subjunctive Mode

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

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

 

Phrases Used to Introduce the Subjunctive Mode—Idiomatic

 

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

 

Finally, our usual reminder:

DO NOT USE THE SUBJUNCTIVE WITH THE FOLLOWING THREE PHRASES!

Forse = Perhaps       

Secondo me = According to me

Per me = For me

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

And, two more  phrases we can now add that do NOT take the subjunctive mode:

Solo se = Only if

Anche se = Even though/if

 


Speak Italian: The Present Tense Subjunctive Mode (Part 3)

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

A review from the second blog in this series:

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!

 


How to Conjugate the Italian Subjunctive Mode Present Tense for the Modal Verbs

Here are the Italian subjunctive forms for the modal verbs; modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that are also called “helping verbs.” These verbs are often used in the subjunctive mode in written and spoken Italian. As you no doubt recall, these three helping verbs give additional information about the main verb in the phrase. In the subjunctive mode, volere can also be translated as “to need.”

 Dovere – to have to/must – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io debba I have to/must
(che) tu debba you (familiar) have to/must
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

debba you (polite) have to/must
she/he has to/must
     
(che) noi dobbiamo we have to/must
(che) voi dobbiate you all have to/must
(che) loro debbano they have to/must

 

  

Potere – to be able (to)/can – subjunctive mode

che) io possa I am able to/can
(che) tu possa you (familiar) are able to/can
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

possa you (polite) are able to/can

she/he is able to/can

     
(che) noi possiamo we are able to/can
(che) voi possiate you all are able to/can
(che) loro possano they are able to/can

 

 

 Volere – to want/ to need – subjunctive mode

(che) io voglia I want/need
(che) tu voglia you (familiar) want/need
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

voglia you (polite) want/need

she/he wants/needs

     
(che) noi vogliamo we want/need
(che) voi vogliate you all want/need
(che) loro vogliano they want/need

The Subjunctive Mode – Irregular Present Tense
Commonly Used Verbs

A review from the second blog in this series:

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

How to Conjugate Italian Verbs “Essere,” “Avere,” and “Stare” in the Present Tense Subjunctive Mode

A review from the first blog in this series:

Here are the subjunctive forms for the Italian auxiliary verbs avere, stare, and essere, which are often used in the subjunctive mode in written and spoken Italian.  Che is included in parentheses in the subject pronoun column as a reminder that these verb forms are typically used with  the conjunction che.  Also, use the subject pronoun in your sentence after che for clarity, since the singular forms are identical.

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

Avere – to have – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io abbia I have
(che) tu abbia you (familiar) have
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

abbia you (polite) have

she/he has

     
(che) noi abbiamo we have
(che) voi abbiate you all have
(che) loro abbiano they have

Essere – to be – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io sia I am
(che) tu sia you (familiar) are
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

sia you (polite) are

he/he is

     
(che) noi siamo we are
(che) voi siate you all are
(che) loro siano they are

Stare – to stay (to be) – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io stia I stay (am)
(che) tu stia you (familiar) stay (are)
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

stia you (polite) stay (are)

she/he stays (is)

     
(che) noi stiamo we stay (are)
(che) voi stiate you all stay (are)
(che) loro stiano they stay (are)


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

Example Phrases Using the Present Tense
Italian 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  from earlier in this section. How many more combinations can you think of?

Voglio che tu cucini una cena speciale per la festa stasera. I want that you cook a special dinner for the party tonight. =

I want you to cook a special dinner for the party tonight.

 
Ho paura che lui  guidi  troppo veloce. I am afraid that he drives too fast. =

I am afraid he (just) drives too fast.

   
Sono certo che Lei ricordi questo giorno. I am certain that you remember this day. =

I am certain that you (will) remember this day.

 

Sono sicuro che noi ricordiamo questo posto. I am sure that we remember this place. =
I am sure that we (will) remember this place.
   
Sono felice che voi incontriate  mio cugino oggi. I am happy that you all meet my cousin today. =
I am happy (that) you all (are going) to meet my cousin today.
Sono fortunato che voi mangiate con me questa sera. I am lucky that you all are eating with me tonight.
I am lucky that you all are eating with me tonight.

 

Temo che loro non siano persone perbene. I am afraid that they are not good people. =

I am afraid that they are not good people.

 
Mi auguro che loro facciano una buona vacanza. I hope that they have a good vacation. =

I hope they have a good vacation.



 

The Italian Subjunctive Mode: Examples for Modal Verbs

Here are some examples for the introductory phrases “before that” and “after that,” which, as we have discussed in the earlier section, should take the subjunctive. These phrases seem to be most useful in situations in which we talk about plans people are making for themselves or others.

Prima che tu debba andare al lavoro, devi prepare molto bene i tuoi documenti. Before (that) you have to go to work, you must prepare your papers very well.
 
Prima che mio figlio possa andare dove vuole, lui deve portarmi a casa. Before (that) my son can go where he wants, he has to bring me home.
 
Prima che noi dobbiamo partire per Roma, dobbiamo riposare un po’ in campagna. Before (that) we must leave for Rome, we must rest a little bit in the country.
 
Prima che voi possiate andare a trovare* i vostri parenti in America, dovete guardagnare un sacco di soldi.** Before (that) you all can visit your relatives in America, you all must make a lot of money.
 
Prima che loro possano mangiare la cena,  devono prepararsi molto bene oggi per la riunione domani. Before (that) they can eat dinner, they must prepare very well today for the meeting tomorrow.

* andare a trovare is an idiomatic expression that means “to go to visit (someone).” Visitare is used when going to visit a place.

** un sacco di soldi is an idiomatic expression that means “a lot of money.”

 


The  Italian Subjunctive Mode: Examples for Idiomatic Phrases

The final group of words that take the subjunctive mode on an idiomatic basis imply that a second phrase is necessary to complete the sentence. These are essential phrases to remember if we want to express complex thoughts in Italian. Here are some examples. How many more can you think of?

Benché io voglia andare in Italia, non è possibile ora. Although I want to go to Italy, it is not possible now.
 
Sebbene lui voglia andare all’università,  non ha ricevuto voti abastanza buoni al liceo. Although he wants to go to college, he did not get good enough grades in high school.
 
Sebbene noi vogliamo vivere bene, dobbiamo lavorare per molti anni o essere molto fortunati. Though we want to live well, we must work for many years or be very lucky.
 
Perché la crostata sia fatta bene, si deve avere le fragle fresche. So that the pie is made well, one must have fresh strawberries.

(English = One/you must have fresh strawberries to make the pie properly.)

 
Vengo alla festa, purche’ lui non ci sia. I will come to the party, provided that he will not be there.

-Some of this material is adapted from Conversational Italian for Travelers, Chapter 7, “Idiomatic Expressions – Avere and Essere + di + Infinitive” © 2012 by Stella Lucente, LLC.

 

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!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on these Stella Lucente Italian sites:
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

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 3) : Speak Italian!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

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!”

Join my Conversational Italian! Facebook group and follow me on Twitter at StellaLucente@travelitalian1 and start to learn Italian today for FREE!
Conversational Italian! Facebook Group
Tweet Stella Lucente Italian

YouTube videos to learn Italian are available from © Stella Lucente, LLC.
YouTube Stella Lucente Italian, LLC

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on these Stella Lucente Italian sites:
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian
Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

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 2): Speak Italian!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 1): Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 1): 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 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! The next three blogs in the “Speak Italian” blog series will focus 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 phrases that take the subjunctive mode and the how to conjugate the subjunctive mode for avere, essere and stare. Example sentences to follow!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode

In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the  Italian 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 first blog in this series, “Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode!”
—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 1)

Introducing… 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.

These groups are listed below:

  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…”

 

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.

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

Phrases That Take the Subjunctive Mode

 

Present Tense
Subjunctive 
Phrase
Groups 1 and 2
    Past Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 1 and 2
 
Credo che I believe that Credevo che I believed that
Penso che I think that Pensavo che  I thought that
Spero che I hope that Speravo che I hoped that
         
È possibile che It is possible that Era possibile che It was possible that
È probablile che It is probable that Era probabile che It was probable that
       
È bene che It is fine/good that Era bene che It was fine/good that
Sarebbe bene che It would be good that Sarebbe stato bene che It would have been good that
È giusto che It is right that Era giusto che It was right that
È meglio  che It is better that Era meglio che It was better that
       
È incredible che It is incredible that Era incredibile che It was incredible that
È un peccato che It is a shame that Era un peccato che It was a shame that
È una vergogna che It is a disgrace that Era una vergogna che It was a disgrace that
È normale che It is normal that Era normale che It was normal that
       

 

Present Tense
Subjunctive 
Phrase
Groups 3, 4, and 5
    Past Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 3, 4, and 5
 
Non so che I don’t know that Non sapevo che I didn’t know that
Non so dove I don’t know where Non sapevo dove I didn’t know where
Non sono sicuro che I am not sure that Non ero sicuro che I wasn’t sure that
Non ho idea che I have no idea that Non avevo idea che I had no idea that
Non mi aspetto che I couldn’t wait that Non mi aspettavo che I couldn’t wait that
Non c’è nulla che There is nothing that Non c’era nulla che There was nothing that
       
Mi pare che It seems to me Mi pareva che It seemed to me
Mi sembra che It seems to me Mi sembrava che It seemed to me
Può darsi che Perhaps    
Ho l’impressione che I have the impression that Avevo l’impresione che I had the impression that
Suppongo che I suppose that Supponevo che I supposed that
Immagino che I imagine that Immaginavo che I imagined that
Dubito che I doubt that Dubitavo che I doubted that
Sono convinto che I am convinced that Ero convinto che I was convinced that
 
A meno che Unless    
Conviene che It is best that Conveniva che It was best that
Basta che It is enough that Bastava che It was enough that
Malgrado che In spite of that    
Si dice che It is said that Si diceva che It was said that
Dicono che They say that Dicevano che They said that
 Bisogno che  It’s necessary that  Bisognavo che  It was necessary that

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

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

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 1)

How to Conjugate Italian Verbs “Essere,” “Avere,” and “Stare” in the Present Tense Subjunctive Mode

Here are the subjunctive forms for the Italian auxiliary verbs avere, stare, and essere, which are often used in the subjunctive mode in written and spoken Italian.  Che is included in parentheses in the subject pronoun column as a reminder that these verb forms are typically used with  the conjunction che.  Also, use the subject pronoun in your sentence after che for clarity, since the singular forms are identical.

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

Avere – to have – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io abbia I have
(che) tu abbia you (familiar) have
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

abbia you (polite) have

she/he has

     
(che) noi abbiamo we have
(che) voi abbiate you all have
(che) loro abbiano they have

 

Essere – to be – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io sia I am
(che) tu sia you (familiar) are
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

sia you (polite) are

he/he is

     
(che) noi siamo we are
(che) voi siate you all are
(che) loro siano they are

 

Stare – to stay (to be) – Subjunctive Mode

(che) io stia I stay (am)
(che) tu stia you (familiar) stay (are)
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

stia you (polite) stay (are)

she/he stays (is)

     
(che) noi stiamo we stay (are)
(che) voi stiate you all stay (are)
(che) loro stiano they stay (are)

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 1)

Example Phrases Using “Stare” in the Present Tense Subjunctive Mode

To follow are some examples of when the Italian subjunctive mode in the present tense might be used in conversation during daily life. Remember, even in Italian, the subjunctive is not an absolute requirement. But, in the phrases below, the subjunctive mode is often used. Notice that the English translation is the same for the present tense and the Italian subjunctive forms used in the sentences below.

We will start with sentences using stare (to stay/to be) in the subjunctive mode because this verb comes up very commonly in this modern life, when not a day seems to go by without an email being sent and received! The old formalities of opening and closing a letter have returned! After the greeting in an email, if there has not been recent communication, it is customary to mention a hope that all is well with the family. Here is a case for the subjunctive!

Present Tense
Phrase
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Tu stai bene. You (familiar) are well. Spero che tu stia bene. I hope that you (familiar) are well.
Lei sta bene. You (polite) are well.

She is well.

Spero che lei stia bene. I hope that you (polite) are well.

I hope that she is well.

Lui sta bene. He is well. Spero che lui stia bene. I hope that he is well.
La famiglia sta bene. The family is well. Spero che la tua famiglia* stia bene. I hope that the family* is well.
Tutti stanno bene. Everyone/body
is well.
Spero che tutti stiano bene.  I hope that everyone/everybody is well.

*Famiglia = family and is a collective noun and takes the third person singular.


Example Phrases Using “Avere” in the Present Tense Subjunctive Mode

We often close an email with a hope as well—for a nice weekend, for instance, or that we will see the person we have contacted sometime soon. In this case, the phrases we most commonly use will need to use avere (to have) in the subjunctive mode.

Present Tense
Phrase
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Buona settimana! Have a good week! Spero che tu abbia una buona settimana.

 

I hope that you have a good week!
Buon fine settimana! Have a good weekend! Spero che tu abbia un buon fine settimana.

 

I hope that you have a good weekend!
Buona giornata.

Buona serata.

Have a good day.

Have a good evening.

Spero che tu abbia una buona giornata/buona serata. I hope that you have a good day/evening.

 


Example Phrases Using “Essere” in the Present Tense Subjunctive Mode

The verb essere (to be) is commonly used when describing someone’s characteristics to someone else.  But what if we are not sure that someone possesses a certain characteristic, or we would like someone to possess a characteristic we fear they may not have? Then we must use the subjunctive in our sentence! Here are a few examples. How many more can you think of?

Present Tense
Phrase
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Lei è bella. She is beautiful. Mi sembra che lei sia bella. She seems beautiful to me.

(It seems to me that she is beautiful.)

L’insegnante è simpatico. The teacher is nice. Spero che l’insegnante sia simpatico.

 

I hope that the teacher is nice.
Dio è in cielo. God is in heaven. Credo che Dio sia in cielo.

 

I believe that God is in heaven.
L’attrice è brava in quel film. The actress is great in that film. Penso che l’attrice sia brava in quel film.

 

I think that the actress is great in that film.
Lui è fortunato. He is fortunate. Spero che lui sia fortunato.

 

I hope that he is fortunate.
Lei è contenta. She is happy. Mi pare che lei sia contenta.

 

She seems happy to me.

(It seems to me that she is happy.)

Loro sono bravi cantanti. They are wonderful singers. Può darsi che loro siano bravi cantanti. Perhaps they are wonderful singers.
Lui è un bravo studente. He is a good student. Dubito che lui sia un bravo studente.

 

I doubt that he is a good student.
Lei è sposata. She is marrried. È probabile che lei sia sposata. She is probably married.

(It is probable that she is married.)

Loro sono ricchi. They are rich. È possibile che loro siano ricchi. It is possible that they are rich.

 

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Italian Subjunctive Mode (Part 1): Speak Italian!