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Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 1): Speak Italian!

Imperfetto Subjunctive  for Past Tense (Part 1): Speak Italian!

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               The imperfetto subjunctive mood is easy to conjugate for use with the Italian past tense, but tricky to use!

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you use the imperfetto subjunctive mood when you are speaking in the past tense? To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and this is something that I am always working on! The next three blogs in the “Speak Italian” series will focus on how to conjugate and use the imperfetto Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo” for speaking in the past tense.

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian by using the imperfetto subjunctive mood while speaking in the past tense. In this segment, we will discuss the phrases that take the subjunctive mood when in the past tense and how to conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mood for avere, essere and stareExample sentences will follow!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the  imperfetto subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”),  we will first present phrases in the past tense that take the imperfetto subjunctive mood.

Then,  we will review how to conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mood.

Finally, we will present common phrases from daily life that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian and try out the imperfetto subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!

Enjoy the first blog in this series, “Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 1): Speak Italian!”
—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: How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood (Part 1)

Introducing… Italian Phrases That Take the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mood that is used to express beliefs, thoughts, or hopes with the verbs credere, pensare, and sperare.

The subjunctive mood is also said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic by expressing doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mood, 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 mood in the phrase to follow.

We have already learned to use the imperfetto subjunctive mode with the conditional tense in our blogs about Italian hypothetical phrases!  Now, as stated before, we will focus on the use of the imperfetto subjunctive mood after introductory phrases that are in the past tense.

Phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood 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 subjunctive 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…

*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 :  di + infinitive verb. Example: Penso di andare a Roma domani.  =  I think I will go to Rome tomorrow.  (Use  pensare a when thinking ABOUT something or someone.)

 

Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases are usually followed by a “linking word,” which in turn introduces the phrase that follows.  This “linking word” is also known as a conjunction, and is the word 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 mood, 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 mood is otherwise commonly used.

 


 

Italian Phrases That Take the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

To follow is a (long) list of phrases that can be used to introduce the subjunctive mood, with examples from the passato prossimo past tense in the first two columns and the imperfetto past tense in the last two columns.

Basic translations are given in our tables, but remember that the imperfetto past tense can also be translated as “was… ing.”  Therefore, “Speravo che” means, “I hoped,” and “I was hoping.” In the last section, we will then present examples for the past tense.

 Passato Prossimo Past
Subjunctive 
Phrase
Groups 1 and 2
    Imperfetto Past
Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 1 and 2
 
Ho creduto che I believed that Credevo che I believed that
Ho pensato che I thought that Pensavo che  I thought that
Ho sperato che I hoped that Speravo che I hoped that
         
È stato possibile che It was possible that Era possibile che It was possible that
È stato probablile che It was probable that Era probabile che It was probable that
       
È stato bene che It was fine/good that Era bene che It was fine/good that
Sarebbe stato bene che It would  have been good that
È stato giusto che It was right that Era giusto che It was right that
È stato meglio  che It was better that Era meglio che It was better that
       
È stato incredible che It was incredible that Era incredibile che It was incredible that
È stato un peccato che It was a shame that Era un peccato che It was a shame that
È stata una vergogna che It was a disgrace that Era una vergogna che It was a disgrace that
È stato normale che It was normal that Era normale che It was normal that
       

 

Passato Prossimo Past
Subjunctive 
Phrase
Groups 3, 4, and 5
    Imperfetto Past
Subjunctive Phrase
Groups 3, 4, and 5
 
Non ho saputo che I didn’t know that Non sapevo che I didn’t know that
Non ho saputo dove I did’t know where Non sapevo dove I didn’t know where
Non sono stato sicuro che I wasn’t sure that Non ero sicuro che I wasn’t sure that
Non ho avuto idea che I had no idea that Non avevo idea che I had no idea that
Non vedevo l’ora che… I couldn’t wait that
Non c’è stato nulla che There was nothing that Non c’era nulla che There was nothing that
       
Mi è parso* che It seems to me Mi pareva che It seemed to me
Mi è sembrato* che It seems to me Mi sembrava che It seemed to me
(Può darsi che  only used in present tense) (Perhaps)    
Ho avuto l’impressione che I had the impression that Avevo l’impresione che I had the impression that
Ho supposto che I supposed that Supponevo che I supposed that
Ho immaginato che I imagined that Immaginavo che I imagined that
Ho dubitato che I doubted that Dubitavo che I doubted that
Sono stato(a) convinto che I was convinced that Ero convinto che I was convinced that
 
(A meno che only used in present tense) (Unless)    
Ho convenuto che It was best that Conveniva che It was best that
È bastato(a) che It was enough that Bastava che It was enough that
(Malgrado che only used in present tense) (In spite of that)    
Si è detto che It was said that =
One says/said that
Si diceva che It was said that
Hanno detto che They said that Dicevano che They said that
 C’è stato bisognato che  It was necessary that =
There was a need for that
 Bisognava che  It was necessary that

* Use the phrases “Mi era parso che” and “Mi era sembrato che” when the phrase that follows will refer to another speaker’s actions. Do NOT change the ending of  parso or sembrato.  In this case, parso and sembrato refer to “it”  in the phrase, “It seems to me that…” and so are invariable.

However, when saying, “It seems to me…” followed by an adjective that describes how the speaker himself feels about something, the last letter of parso and sembrato must match in gender and number what is being described. 

So, to describe how a beautiful girl seemed to me, I would say:
Mi era parsa bella.   – or – Mi era sembrata bella.  She seemed beautiful to me.

 

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

Finally, a word of caution:

DO NOT USE THE SUBJUNCTIVE WITH THE FOLLOWING THREE PHRASES!

Forse = Perhaps

 Per me = For me

Secondo me = According to 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 Imperfetto  Subjunctive Mood (Part 1)

How to Conjugate Italian Verbs “Essere,” “Avere,” and “Stare” in the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Listed in the table below are the imperfetto subjunctive forms for the Italian auxiliary verbs avere, stare, and essere, which are often used with the conditional and past tenses in written and spoken Italian.

In our last two blogs, we showed how to use the imperfetto subjunctive tense with conditional verbs when we need to make hypothetical phrases in Italian.  We saw that in these cases, the conjunction “se” for “if” introduces the dependent clause with the imperfetto subjunctive verb.

In this blog, we will focus on the use of the imperfetto subjunctive with the Italian past tense.  In these cases, the conjunction che will introduce the dependent clause with the imperfetto subjunctive verb.

In our conjugation tables, che is included in parentheses in the subject pronoun column as a reminder that these verb forms are often introduced with  the conjunction che.  Also,  make sure to include the subject pronoun in your sentence after che for clarity, since the singular forms are identical.

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

Avere—to have—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(che) lei/lui

avesse you (polite) had

she/he had

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

 

Essere—to be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(che) lei/lui

fosse you (polite) were

she/he were

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

 

Stare—to stay/be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(che) lei/lui

stesse you (polite) stayed/were

she/he stayed/were

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

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

Example Phrases Using “Stare” in the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood with the Past Tense

To follow are some examples of when the Italian subjunctive mood in the past tense might be used in conversation during daily life.

Notice that English uses the simple past tense to express the same idea, but we use our verbs a bit differently to make the subjunctive.  In stead of saying “I was,” we use “I were.”  Or, alternatively, were + infinitive form or gerund. ”

English examples:  “If I were to go…” or “If I were going…” Also, “had + past participle,” such as, “If I had seen…”

In our first blog about the subjunctive mood, we presented example sentences using stare (to stay/to be).  We mentioned in our first blog that stare in the present subjunctive comes up very commonly in email greetings;  especially if there has not been recent communication, it is customary to mention a hope that all is well with friends and family. We will present the same examples using a reference to the past to include in conversation.

With these particular phrases in which we talk about “hoping,” in most cases, the imperfetto form of the past tense will be used.  However, if we “hope” for just one instant in time, with that time frame mentioned in the sentence, we can use the passato prossimo, which is  given in the same column in blue text.

 

 Past Tense
Phrase
Past Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Tu sei stato bene. You were well. Speravo che tu stessi bene.
Ieri, ho sperato che tu stessi bene.
I hoped (was hoping) that you (familiar) were well.
Yesterday, I had hoped that you (familiar) were well.
Lei è stata bene. She was well. Speravo che lei stesse bene.
Ieri, ho sperato che lei stesse bene.
I hoped  (was hoping) that she was well .
Yesterday, I had hoped that she was well.
Lui è stato bene. He was well. Speravo che lui stesse bene.
Ieri, ho sperato che lui stesse bene ieri.
 I hoped (was hoping) that he was well (yesterday).
Yesterday, I had hoped that he was well.
La famiglia è stata bene. The family was well.  

Speravo che la tua famiglia* stesse bene.
L’anno scorso, ho sperato che la tua famiglia stesse bene.

I hoped (was hoping) that the family* was well.
Last year, I had hoped that the family was well.
Tutti sono stati bene. Everybody
was fine.
Speravo che tutti stessero bene.
L’anno scorso, ho sperato che tutti stessero bene. 
I hoped (was hoping) that everybody was well.
Last year, I had hoped that everybody was fine.

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


Example Phrases Using “Avere” in the Past Tense Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

As we noted in our first blog about the Italian subjunctive, 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 a similar way,  if we have been separated from someone for some amount of time, when we email or meet that person again, we may include a hope that time spent has gone well.  In this case, the phrases we most commonly use will need to use avere (to have) in the imperfetto subjunctive mood.

Again, the examples presented below are from our first blog on this topic. An example of how one might use the same phrase in the past tense is given in the imperfetto form – the most likely form to be used in these examples.

Present Tense
Phrase
Past Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
Buona settimana! Have a good week! Speravo che tu avessi una buona settimana.
I hoped (was hoping) that you had a good week!
Buon fine settimana! Have a good weekend! Speravo che tu avessi un buon fine settimana.
I hoped  (was hoping) that you had a good weekend!
Buona giornata.

Buona serata.

Have a good day.

Have a good evening.

Speravo che tu avessi una buona giornata/buona serata. I hoped (was hoping) that you had a good day/evening.

 


Example Phrases Using “Essere” in the Past Tense Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

As we discussed in our first blog on the subjunctive, 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?

These thoughts, of course, can take place in the past as easily as in the present.  Either way, we must use the subjunctive mood in our sentence! Here are a few examples. How many more can you think of?

Present or Past Tense
Phrase
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
 

 

Lei era bella.

 

She was beautiful. Mi sembrava che lei fosse bella.
Dieci anni fa, mi sono sembrato che lei fosse bella.
It seemed to me that she was beautiful = 
She seemed beautiful to me.
Ten years ago, it seemed to me that she was beautiful.
L’insegnante era simpatico.
The teacher was nice.  

Speravo che l’insegnante fosse simpatico.

I hoped (was hoping) that the teacher was nice.
Dio è in cielo.

 

God is in heaven.

 

 


Credevo che Dio fosse
 in cielo.
Quando aveva dieci anni, ho creduto che Dio fosse in cielo.

 

 

I believed that God was in heaven.
When I was ten years old, I believed that God was in heaven.
L’attrice era brava in quel film. The actress was great in that film.  


Pensavo che l’attrice fosse 
brava in quel film.

 

I thought that the actress was great in that film.
Lui era fortunato. He was fortunate.  

Credevo che lui fosse fortunato.
L’anno scorso, ho creduto che lui fosse fortunato.

 


I believed that he was fortunate.

Last year, I believed that he was fortunate.
Lei era contenta. She was happy.  

Mi pareva che lei fosse contenta.
Il mese scorsa, mi parevo che lei fosse contenta.

 

It seemed to me that she was happy = 
She seemed happy to me.

Last month, it seemed to me that she was happy.
Loro erano bravi cantanti. They were wonderful singers.  

Può darsi che loro fossero bravi cantanti quando erano giovani.

 

Perhaps they were wonderful singers when they were young.
Lui era un bravo studente. He was a good student.  

Dubitavo che lui fosse un bravo studente.

 

I doubted that he was a good student.
Lei era sposata. She was married. Era probabile che lei fosse sposata. She was probably married.

(It was probable that she was married.)

Loro erano contenti. They were happy. Era possibile che loro fossero contenti. It was possible that they were happy.

 


Speak Italian: Common Italian Phrases to Introduce the Past Tense

Now that we are speaking in Italian in the past tense, we may want to use some of these expressions to refer to recent or more remote past events.

Notice from the list below that ieri (yesterday/last) is used to refer to specific times during the day.  Ieri is invariable (the ending does not change).  The ending for scorso (last) is gender specific (the ending changes to reflect the gender of the noun it describes).

 

stamattina this morning
ieri yesterday
l’altro ieri the day before yesterday
ieri mattina yesterday morning
ieri pomeriggio yesterday afternoon
ieri sera yesterday evening
ieri notte last night

 

 

scorso(a) last
l’anno scorso last year
il mese scorso last month
la settimana scorsa last week

 

lunedì scorso last Monday
martedì scorso last Tuesday
mercoledì scorso last Wednesday
giovedì scorso last Thursday
venerdì scorso last Friday
sabato scorso  last Saturday
domenica scorsa last Sunday

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
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Italian Subjunctive Past Tense (Part 1): Speak Italian!

Italian Hypothetical Phrases from Conversational Italian

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

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

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

 

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood 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 mood 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 mood, 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 mood and how to form the Italian past conditional tense.  With these two tenses, we will be able to construct sentences that 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 narrating a story. See the next blog in this series for more on the passato remoto.

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 Mood Practice blog posts.

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

In the first three blog posts in the “Speak Italian” series about the subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”), we have presented Italian phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood 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 Mood (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 Mood 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 passato remoto past tense will be in italic, and more details will follow about this tense in the next blog.

For this blog, focus on the construction of Italian hypothetical phrases that refer to events that have occurred in the past, which have been underlined for easy identification.

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 at 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 was 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 così, 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.  “But fortunately, Uncle Mark was a good person.  And so is our cousin Rudy.  Let’s organize a wonderful party!”

“Probabilmente no,” ha risposto Francesca.  “Ma fortunatamente, lo zio Marco era una persona perbene.  E anche nostro cugino Rudy è così.  Organizziamo una festa meravigliosa!”

 


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

A Note about 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. It has been used in our dialogue for this blog in order to tell our story.  So, we will say a few words about the passato remoto here.

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 verb form for the voice of the narrator.  The passato remoto is said to be useful for the “detached” feeling it gives to  Italian narration of descriptive passages that take place in the “remote past” of a character’s life. There is no equivalent form in English to express this “detached” feeling of the “remote” past.

The passato prossimo and imperfetto verb forms are the past tense forms usually  used by the author of an Italian novel for his characters, which is said to give a “realistic” feeling to the dialogue.

In another blog, we will focus on the passato remoto past tense and delve more deeply into its uses and conjugations.  So, stay tuned for more on the passato remoto past tense!



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 could have happened in the past.

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 by focusing on 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  we really knew they had 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,  then the passato prossimo or imperfetto past tense may be used.

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 we have 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 could not have been used to change the situation.  But, we can still speculate on what the outcome might have been. 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 have been different now: If Ann and her ex-boyfriend Paul had gotten back togethershe would not 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 present or past conditional tense, the subjunctive mood 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 does not regret that she is no longer seeing her ex-boyfriend.  She has a new boyfriend and  is actually very happy.)

 

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 that 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!
  • When we see the “had”+ verb in English, this should alert us that in Italian we must use the traspassato subjunctive! (io avessi/io fossi + past participle)!

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 subjunctive forms of “to have” and “to be” (examples: io avrei or io sarei) + 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 Hypothetical Phrases – Past
You Will Need to Know…

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases in the Past Tense with
 “Come se” and “Magari” 

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In our previous blog on Italian hypothetical phrases, Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love, we discussed the expressions, “Come se…” (as if) and  “Magari (If only, I wish).  We mentioned that the phrases “come se”  and “magari” fall into the realm of improbable hypothetical phrases in the present tense, and therefore always take the imperfetto subjunctive verb form.

We also mentioned that, In the past tense, the phrases “come se” and“magari”will be followed by the  trapassato subjunctive verb form.  If we think a little about what these phrases mean in the past tense – a wishful thinking about something in the past that therefore cannot be changed – we can see now that we are in the category of impossible hypothetical phrases.

In English, as in Italian, the above phrase and words will also take the subjunctive form in the past tense. Either the more recent or remote past tense form can be used in English, depending on the situation.

Let’s take the examples from our previous blog on Italian hypothetical phrases, Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love,  and now use them in the past tense with the trapassato subjunctive to show how this works.

Il mio amico inglese non aveva practicamente accento quando lui parlava in italiano, come se fosse stato un vero italiano!
My British friend had virtually no accent when he spoke Italian,  as if he (were/had been) a real Italian!

Mi ha mostrato le scarpe più costose che aveva, come se io fossi stata ricca!
She showed me the most expensive shoes she had, as if I were rich!”

Magari, questo fosse stato possibile!
I wish/If only this had been possible!


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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases in the Past Tense with
 “Chiedersi” 

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In our previous blog on Italian hypothetical phrases, Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love, we discussed the verb chiedersi, which is the verb Italians use to describe the idea of “wondering if…” something might happen.

Let’s see how this works in the past tense, in a situation when one might have “wondered if…” something might have happened.

“Mi chiedevo…” literally means, “I asked myself,” which translates into “I wondered.”  At first glance, it may seem like chiedersi should fall into the category of improbable hypothetical phrases – especially when this verb is followed by se,  such as in the phrase “I wondered if…”  But, as we’ve learned in our last blog, instead, chiedersi follows the same rules as our verbs of hoping, thinking, and believing, sperarepensare, and credere. 

We will learn in the next blog that these verbs, in the past tense, take the imperfetto subjunctive and the passato subjunctive forms. 

For now, here are some examples for when one is wondering in the past tense about something in the present and the past.  And “stay tuned” to this blog to learn how to use these tenses for all phrases that take the subjunctive mood in the past tense!

Mi chiedevo se lui fosse un attore bravo in quel film.
I wondered if he is a great actor in that film.

Mi chiedevo se lui fosse stato un attore bravo in quel film.
I wondered  if he was a great actor in that film.

 

 


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

Improbable Italian Hypothetical Phrases- Past

The “Trapassato” Subjunctive Mood

 “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 mood for impossible hypothetical phrases in the past tense, we need only to add the past participle to the initial phrases above!

So in Italian, the two most important phrases of this type to remember are, “Se io fossi stato…” and “Se io avessi avuto…” using the traspassato subjunctive conjugations for essere and avere.

 

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!

For examples using these verbs in Italian, please see the previous and following sections.

 

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Below are the trapassato subjunctive mood 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.

Remember that action verbs of direction, reflexive verbs, other verbs of growing and changing, 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!

You will notice that avere has a regular conjugation in the imperfetto subjunctive mood, 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 mood 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 Mood

(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 Mood

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

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Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!

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

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood

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

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you use the Italian subjunctive mood in the correct situations? To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and this is something that I am always working on! The blogs in the “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on how to conjugate and use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo.”

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian by using the subjunctive mood. 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 Italian subjunctive mood

We will repeat the Italian conjugation of the subjunctive mood 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 Italian subjunctive mood 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 Mood

In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the  Italian subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”),  we will first present phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Then,  we will review how to conjugate the Italian subjunctive mood.

Finally, we will present common phrases used in daily life that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!

Enjoy the third blog in this series, “Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!”
—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 Mood (Part 3)

Once Again… Phrases That Take the Italian Subjunctive Mood

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mood that is used to express beliefs, thoughts, or hopes with the verbs credere, pensare, and sperare.

The subjunctive mood is also said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic by expressing doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mood, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). The subjunctive mood is also used with the conditional tense, but this will be the topic of later blogs. These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood in the phrase to follow.

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

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

These groups are again listed  below for review.

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

  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 , desiderare, chiedere, esigere 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) in certain situations. Phrases that begin with come se (as if), magari (if only) and chiedersi se (to wonder if).

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 mood 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 for brevity, but the passato prossimo form of the past tense can also be used, depending on the situation.  Use of the past tense forms will be the topic of later blogs.

Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases are usually followed by a “linking word,” which in turn introduces the phrase that follows.  This “linking word” is also known as a conjunction, and is the word che.  In this situation, che means that.  We now see from Group 9 that some words or phrases already have -ché or che integrated into the word itself. In these cases, che is not repeated.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

*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 :  di + infinitive verb. Example: Penso di andare a Roma domani.  =  I think I will go to Rome tomorrow. (Use  pensare a when thinking ABOUT something or someone.)

**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 Mood

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… lavorare.
 
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 is a brief description of how to use the very popular phrase, “ho bisogno di…” which means, “I need…”   Any beginning student of Italian no doubt has come across this phrase many times in general conversation and has already used it to express what he/she wants.

While I was learning how to use the subjunctive mood properly, I took the opportunity to learn how to 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.  Also, leave out the word “di,” which means “of” in this phrase when it is at the end of the sentence.

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

If a person needs to do something, but it is also necessary that he does it – 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… riposarsi.
   
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 the subject  wants to express what he/she wants 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  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, people who make our days better!


 

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

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 that 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 mood 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 Mood

The final group of words in the table below take the subjunctive mood 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 the list in the first section of this blog.

 

Phrases Used to Introduce the Subjunctive Mood—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 mood when it means “so that.” Other meanings of perché include “why” and “because,” and in these cases, the subjunctive mood 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       

Per me = For me

Secondo me = According to 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 mood:

Solo se = Only if

Anche se = Even though/if

 


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

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

A review from the second blog in this series:

To change any regular Italian infinitive verb into the present subjunctive mood, 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 introduced 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 Mood – 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 Mood Present Tense for the Modal Verbs

Here are the  Italian present subjunctive forms for the modal verbs. If you remember, modal verbs are auxiliary verbs that are also called “helping verbs.” These verbs are often used in the subjunctive mood 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 mood, volere can also be translated as “to need.”

 

 Dovere – to have to/must – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 – Present Subjunctive Mood

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 – Present 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 Mood – Irregular Present Tense
Commonly Used Verbs

A review from the second blog in this series:

Here are the irregular  Italian present 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 mood in written and spoken Italian. Notice that the translation is the simple present tense in English.

Andare – to go – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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– Present Subjunctive Mood

(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) – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 –  Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 Mood

A review from the first blog in this series:

In the tables below are the subjunctive forms for the Italian auxiliary verbs avere, stare, and essere, which are often used in the subjunctive mood in written and spoken Italian. These are important verbs to commit to memory!

 

Avere – to have – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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) – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 Mood (Part 3)

Example Phrases Using the Present Tense
Italian Subjunctive Mood

To follow are some examples of how the Italian subjunctive mood 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.)

Notice that English sentence structure differs from Italian in most of these sentences.  We can make a similar sentence in English as in Italian, but it would be considered an “awkward” sentence.

The biggest difference is that we English speakers continue to use an infinitive verb, rather than any subjunctive form, whether or not the subject in the two phrases is the same or different.  Also, 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 Italian 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 Mood: 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 mood. These phrases seem to be most useful in situations in which we talk about plans people would like to or have to make for themselves or others, and therefore helping verbs many times also come into play.

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 Mood: Examples for Idiomatic Phrases

The final group of words that take the subjunctive mood 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!”

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Italian Subjunctive (Part 3) : Speak Italian!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!

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

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood

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

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you use the Italian subjunctive mood in the correct situations? To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and this is something that I am always working on! The blogs in the “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on how to conjugate and use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo.”

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian by using the subjunctive mood. In this segment, we will discuss when volere, desiderare, piacere, and dispiacere take the subjunctive mood. We will also learn the conjugation of the present tense subjunctive mood 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 Mood

In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the  Italian subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”),  we will first present phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Then,  we will review how to conjugate the Italian subjunctive mood.

Finally, we will present common phrases used in daily life that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!

Enjoy the second blog in this series, “Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!”
—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 Mood (Part 2)

Once Again… Phrases That Take the Italian Subjunctive Mood

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mood that is used to express beliefs, thoughts, or hopes with the verbs credere, pensare, and sperare.

The subjunctive mood is also said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic by expressing doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mood, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). The subjunctive mood is also used with the conditional tense, but this will be the topic of later blogs. These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood in the phrase to follow.

In our first blog about the Italian subjunctive mood, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Groups 1  through Group 5, which are given below for review.

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

  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, desiderare, chiedere, esigere  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.

 

As usual, there is a summary table at the end of the next section that shows how to use these phrases. The present tense and present conditional 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 for brevity, but the passato prossimo form of the past tense can also be used, depending on the situation.  Use of the past tense forms will be the topic of later blogs.

Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases are usually followed by a “linking word,” which in turn introduces the phrase that follows.  This “linking word” is also known as a conjunction, and is the word che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

*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 :  di + infinitive verb. Example: Penso di andare a Roma domani.  =  I think I will go to Rome tomorrow.  (Use  pensare a when thinking ABOUT something or someone.)

 


How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood 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 to 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 mood should be used for the verb in the next phrase.

In the same way, I can ask that someone do something using the verb chiedere  or insist that they do it with the verb esigere.  But just asking someone else or even insisting does not mean that it will be done (as those of us who have children know).  So, in these cases as well, the verbs chiedo and esigo (I want and I insist) will be followed by the conjunction che and the next phrase will use a verb in the subjunctive form.

In this blog, we will only discuss the present tense subjunctive mood used with voglio and desidero.

 


How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood 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 mood in the second clause.

In this blog, we will only discuss the present tense subjunctive mood used with mi piace and mi dispiace.

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 Mood  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
Chiedo … che tu
Esigo… che tu
 

I want… that you
I ask… that you
i insist… that  you

 

Desideravo… che tu
Chiedevo… che tu
Esigevo… che tu
I wanted… that you
I asked… that you
I insisted… 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      

Per me = For me

Secondo me = According to 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 Mood (Part 2)

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

 

To change any regular infinitive verb into the present subjunctive mood, 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 Mood – 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 Mood – Present Tense
Commonly Used Irregular Verbs

Here are the irregular present 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 mood in written and spoken Italian. Notice that the translation is the simple present tense in English.

Andare – to go –  Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 Mood

(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– Present Subjunctive Mood

(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) –  Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 – Present Subjunctive Mood

(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 Mood (Part 2)

Example Phrases Using the Present Tense Subjunctive Mood

To follow are some examples of how the Italian subjunctive mood 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 the past tense.)

Notice that English sentence structure differs from Italian in most of these sentences.  We can make a similar sentence in English as in Italian, but it would be considered an “awkward” sentence.

The biggest difference is that we English speakers continue to use an infinitive verb, rather than any subjunctive form, whether or not the subject in the two phrases is the same or different.  Also, 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 Italian 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. You can see from our first example that use of the subjunctive in the opening phrase really does allow one to make complex sentences.  The first example has been completed to express a complex situation.  Have fun expanding the sentences we have given. How many more combinations can you think of?How many more combinations can you think of?

 

Voglio che tu torni presto perché ho una bella sorpresa per te. I want that you return soon because I have a wonderful surprise for you. =
I want you to return soon because I have a wonderful surprise for you.
   
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 torta per la festa. I want that you make a nice cake for the party. =
I want you to make a nice cake for the party.
   
Mi piace che tu vada a Roma ogni giorno. I like that you go to Rome every day. =
I like (that fact that) 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 torta per la festa. I want that you all make a nice cake for the party. =
I want you all to make a nice cake for the party.
   
Mi piace che voi  andiate a Roma ogni giorno. I like that you all go to Rome every day. =
I like (the fact that) 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 torta per la festa. I want that they make a nice cake for the party. =
I want them to make a nice cake for the party.
   
Mi piace che loro vadano a Roma ogni giorno. I like that they go to Rome every day. =
I like them to go to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiace che loro non sappiano questa informazione. I am sorry that they don’t know this information. =
I am sorry they don’t know this information.

 

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

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Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive (Part 1): Speak Italian!

Italian Subjunctive (Part 1): Speak Italian!

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

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood

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

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you use the Italian subjunctive mood in the correct situations? To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and this is something that I am always working on! The blogs in the “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on how to conjugate and use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo.”

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian by using the subjunctive mood. In this segment, we will discuss the phrases that take the subjunctive mood and the how to conjugate the subjunctive mood for avere, essere and stare in the present tenseExample sentences will follow!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood

In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the  Italian subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”),  we will first present phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Then,  we will review how to conjugate the Italian subjunctive mood.

Finally, we will present common phrases used in daily life that take the Italian subjunctive mood.

Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!

Enjoy the first blog in this series, “Italian Subjunctive (Part 1): Speak Italian!”
—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 Mood (Part 1)

Introducing… Phrases That Take the Italian Subjunctive Mood

Verbs in Italian can have a subjunctive mood that is used to express beliefs, thoughts, or hopes with the verbs credere, pensare, and sperare.

The subjunctive mood is also said to “open up” a conversation to discussion about a particular topic by expressing doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling.

Certain phrases are commonly used to start a sentence in order to introduce the subjunctive mood, and these initial phrases will be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense). The subjunctive mood is also used with the conditional tense, but this will be the topic of later blogs. These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood 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 subjunctive 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 are usually followed by a “linking word,” which in turn introduces the phrase that follows.  This “linking word” is also known as a conjunction, and is the word 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 mood, 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 mood is otherwise commonly used.

To follow is a (long) list of phrases that can be used to introduce the subjunctive mood, with example from 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 for brevity, but the passato prossimo form of the past tense can also be used, depending on the situation.  Use of the past tense forms will be the topic of later blogs.

Phrases That Take the Subjunctive Mood

 

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
 Bisogna 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 :  di + infinitive verb. Example: Penso di andare a Roma domani.  =  I think I will go to Rome tomorrow.  (Use  pensare a when thinking ABOUT something or someone.)

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

Finally, a word of caution:

DO NOT USE THE SUBJUNCTIVE WITH THE FOLLOWING THREE PHRASES!

Forse = Perhaps

 Per me = For me

Secondo me = According to 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 Mood (Part 1)

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

Here are the present tense subjunctive forms for the Italian auxiliary verbs avere, stare, and essere, which are often used in the subjunctive mood in written and spoken Italian.  Che is included in parentheses in the subject pronoun column as a reminder that these verb forms are typically introduced with  the conjunction che.  Also,  make sure to include 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 Mood

(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 Mood

(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 Mood

(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 Mood (Part 1)

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

To follow are some examples of when the Italian subjunctive mood in the present tense might be used in conversation during daily life.  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 mood 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, especially if there has not been recent communication, it is customary to mention a hope that all is well with friends and 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 Mood

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 mood.

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 Mood

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 mood 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.

 

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

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Italian Subjunctive (Part 1): Speak Italian!