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Italian Subjunctive (Part 7): Italian Subjunctive Commands

Italian Subjunctive (Part 7): Italian Subjunctive  Commands 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               Italian subjunctive commands:  Learn when to use the  Italian subjunctive mood to give familiar commands and  how to make polite commands! 

 

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive  Commands — Familiar and Polite Commands 

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? Do you know which situations use the Italian subjunctive mood? 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!

This is the final blog in the “Speak Italian” blog series that has focused on how to 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 Italian imperative verb tense, or “command form” of a verb. Then we will describe how to make and use Italian subjunctive commands. A dependent clause in the subjunctive mood can be used with the familiar command form of a verb. We will also discuss how to use the Italian present tense subjunctive as an independent clause to give a polite command. 

 

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 have been presenting situations take the Italian subjunctive mood.

In this blog, we will present when to use the Italian subjunctive mood in the present tense with familiar commands, as well as how to use the present tense subjunctive as an independent clause to give polite commands.

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 our blog: “Italian Subjunctive (Part 7): Italian Subjunctive Commands 
—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 (Part 7): A brief note about and review of the Italian subjunctive mood 

As noted in the last section, in this blog we will present
how to make Italian subjunctive commands.  

This will be the last blog in our Italian subjunctive mood series!

Before starting this blog, please review the comments in the next section about how the Italian subjunctive mood is used in the Italian language. All the material we have covered so far about the Italian subjunctive mood is also listed for review at the end of this section, with links to our previous blogs.

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In previous blogs, we have noted that Italian uses a subjunctive mood that 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 can be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense) or in the conditional tense. These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood in the phrase to follow.

These groups are listed below.

Groups 1-9: “Noun Clauses”

Group 10: “Adverbial Clauses”

Groups 11 and 12: “Adjective/Pronoun Clauses”

      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 suspicion, such as, ” I suspect that…” or “Sospetto che…”
      5. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…” and ” To wonder if…” or “Chiedersi se… “
      6. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…
      7. 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.
      8. 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.
      9. Phrases that express feelings (any emotion, fear, surprise) 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].
      10. 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, senza 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).***
      11. 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).
      12. 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).
      13. Phrases that correspond to the English “both… and…” use the conjunction sia and the structure “sia… che…”
      14. Hypothetical Phrases:  Phrases that begin with se (if) in certain situations. Phrases that begin with come se (as if), magari (if only), ammesso che (assuming that)

For a review of how to use the groups of phrases that need the Italian subjunctive mood  listed above, please see our previous blogs on this topic by clicking on the links below:

How to Use the Present Tense Italian Subjunctive Mood (Parts 1-3). 

How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive for Italian Past Tense (Parts 1-3)

How to Use The Italian Subjunctive Mood (Parts 4 and 5) — Hypothetical Phrases

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Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases that take the subjunctive mood (those that trigger doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling)  usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

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.

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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

Solo se = Only if

Anche se = Even though, If

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: Italian Subjunctive  Familiar Commands 

What is the Familiar Command Form of a Verb?

The imperative tense, or “command form” of a verb is used when one wants to relay an urgent request, give advice, or give an order.

In Italian, familiar commands — commands given by one person to another person or to a group of people that know each other —  are realized by conjugating the commanding verb in the same way as for the present tense and adding an exclamation point after the sentence in writing.  

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How to Conjugate Verbs for the
Familiar Command Form

The table below shows the familiar imperative endings for the –are, -ere, and –ire verb groups. These endings are removed to create the stem, to which the endings in the table are added. In written Italian, an exclamation point is used to convey the idea that the verb is in the imperative form.

Note that with the imperative verb form, by definition, the speaker is always giving a command to someone else.  This means that there is no first person, or io conjugation to learn.

The tu command form is used when one person is giving a command to a single individual.  You will note from the red highlighted –a that only the –are verbs have an imperative ending that differs from the present tense. The -ere and -ire verb endings for the tu imperative from are identical to the present tense.

When speaking to a group of people we know, with the familiar you all, or voi form, the endings for the imperative present tense are also identical to the simple present tense!

There is an imperative noi form, which also has endings that are identical to the present tense.  For the noi imperative form, the meaning of the verb changes to: “Let’s… something.” Now, doesn’t it make sense that “Andiamo!” means, “Let’s go!”?  We are simply using the imperative form of the present tense!

 

Familiar Imperative Tense Endings

  -are -ere -ire
tu a(!) i(!) i(!)
noi iamo(!) iamo(!) iamo(!)
voi ate(!) ete(!) ite(!)

 

When creating a sentence with the familiar command form, the subject pronoun is usually left out, as is usual for Italian, although it can sometimes be added for emphasis. In most cases of spoken Italian, though, the sentence will consist of just the verb itself. See the examples below.

  Guardare

(to look)

Rispondere

(to answer)

Partire

(to leave)

tu Guarda!
Look!
Rispondi!
Answer!
Parti!
Leave!
noi Guardiamo!
Let’s look!
Rispondiamo!
Let’s answer!
Partiamo!
Let’s leave!
voi Guardate!
(You all) look!
Rispondete!
(You all) answer!
Partite!
(You all) leave!

 

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How to Conjugate  Irregular Verbs for the
Familiar Command Form

There are many verbs that are irregular in the familiar command form, including all of the auxiliary verbs, which are: avere, essere, and stare.  The familiar imperative conjugations for the auxiliary verbs and additional commonly used verbs are given in the tables below.

Imperative Irregular Auxiliary Verbs 

  Avere

(to have)

Essere

(to be)

Stare

(to be/stay)

tu abbi! sii! stà!
noi abbiamo! siamo! stiamo!
voi abbiate! siate! state!

 

Imperative Irregular Verbs

  Andare

(to go)

Dare

(to give)

Dire

(to say/to tell)

Fare

(to do/to make)

tu vai!, ! dai!, ! di! fai!, !
noi andiamo! diamo! diciamo! facciamo!
voi andate! date! dite! fate!

 

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How to Make Negative Familiar Commands

When commanding someone you know not to do something – using the familiar tu form – it is very easy.  Whether the verb is regular or reflexive, simply put the word non in front of the infinitive form of the verb.  In other words, do not conjugate!

To make a negative command with a reflexive verb in the tu form, the “si” ending is dropped and the reflexive pronoun ti then needs to be tacked on to the end of the  verb.

For all verbs, leave out the subject pronoun tu from the sentence.  In our examples this subject pronoun will be given in parentheses as a reminder.

So, using preoccuparsi (to be worried) and guardare (to look) and parlare (to talk/speak) as examples:

(tu)    Non preoccuparti!       Don’t (you fam.) worry yourself!

(tu)     Non guardare!             Don’t (you fam.) look!

(tu)     Non parlare!                 Don’t (you fam.) speak!

 

For the negative in the noi and voi forms, conjugate as usual and simply put non in front of the verb.  Remember to add the reflexive pronoun to the ending of the verb if it is reflexive.  Again, the subject pronouns are usually omitted, and so are given in parentheses.

(noi)   Non preoccupiamoci!        Let’s not worry (ourselves)!
(voi)    Non preoccupatevi!            (You all) Don’t worry yourselves!

(noi)    Non guardiamo!                  Let’s not look!
(voi)    Non guardate!                       (You all) Don’t look!

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Where are Reflexive, Direct and Indirect Pronouns Placed in Sentences
with the  Familiar Command Form?

For a review of how to use reflexive, direct, and indirect object pronouns, please consult Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” book.  A summary table taken from this book is provided below to aid in the discussion of pronouns that follows.

Reflexive, Direct, and Indirect Object Pronouns

Reflexive Pronouns Direct Object Pronouns Indirect Object Pronouns
mi myself mi me mi to me
ti yourself(fam.) ti you (fam.) ti to you (fam.)
si yourself (pol.) La (L’) you (pol.) Le to you (pol.)
si herself la (l’) her, it (fem.) le to her
si himself lo (l’) him, it (masc.) gli to him
ci ourselves ci us ci to us
vi yourselves vi you all vi to you all
si themselves le them (fem.) gli to them (fem.)
si themselves li them (masc.) gli to them (masc.)

Reflexive Pronouns:

When conjugating a reflexive verb into the familiar imperative form, it is not enough just to use the correct verb ending.  We must also place the reflexive pronoun in the proper position with respect to the verb, which in this case is after the verb, and attached to the end of the conjugated form!  This rule holds true for the tu, noi, and voi forms.  The conjugated verb and attached pronoun are spoken as one word (see below).

This rule may seem confusing at first, since we have spent so much time thinking in Italian and putting the reflexive pronouns before the verb.  Try to remember the correct way to conjugate the reflexive imperative verbs from everyday experiences.

For instance, when welcoming a friend into your home, you would say, “Accomodati!” for “Make yourself comfortable!” Common phrases a mother might say to a teenager on a school morning would be, “Alzati!”or, “Wake (yourself) up!” and “Sbrigati!” for “ Hurry (yourself) up!”.  And, in Italian households, each person in the family is encouraged to “Siediti!” for “Sit (yourself) down!” so everyone can eat together before the food gets cold!

Two example tables have been provided. Notice the spelling change for our example verb sbrigarsi for the noi form in the table below.  The spelling change is necessary to keep the sound of this form constant with the infinitive form and other conjugated forms.

 Imperative Accomodarsi – to get comfortable

tu Accomodati! Get (Make yourself) comfortable!
noi Accomodiamoci! Let’s get comfortable!
voi Accomodatevi! You all get comfortable!

 

 Imperative Sbrigarsi – to hurry (oneself) up

tu Sbrigati! Hurry (yourself/familiar) up!
noi Sbrighiamoci! Let’s hurry  (ourselves) up!
voi Sbrigatevi! Hurry (yourselves/familiar) up!

 

Direct and Indirect Pronouns:

After conjugating a regular verb into the familiar imperative form, if we want to include a direct or indirect object pronoun in the sentence, these pronouns will come after the verb, and will be attached to the end of the conjugated form. This should be easy to remember, as the sentence structure is the same as for English.

This rule also applies when the Italian direct and indirect object pronouns are themselves combined to make one word.

The conjugated Italian verb and attached pronoun are spoken as one word.

See the examples with the familiar command forms for dare (to give) and fare (to do/to make):  The “m” is doubled by convention in these constructions.

Dammi il pacco!      Give me the package!
Dammelo!                  Give it to me!

Fammi una torta per la festa stasera.     Make me a cake for the party tonight.
Fammela!                                                              Make it for me!

    

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How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood:
Familiar Commands

When one person is giving a command to another about what someone else should do  — in short, when the subject of the first phrase in the sentence is not the same as the subject in the second phrase — the second phrase verb will need to be in the subjunctive mood.

It should be noted here that the imperative form, or command form of a verb, is used not just to give a direct order, but also to make an urgent request or to give advice. So there are many instances when a command form may initiate a sentence. This command is then linked, as usual, with the conjunction che to the next phrase in the subjunctive mood.

Two examples,  with our command forms and subjunctive verbs in green.  Remember that the noi ending for the present tense (-iamo) serves as the present subjunctive ending as well.

(Tu) Di a Maria che  lei non faccia tardi.
(You) Tell Maria that she should not be late.

(Tu) Digli che ci vediamo domani!
(You) Tell him we’ll see him tomorrow!

 


Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive  Polite Commands 

What is the Polite Command Form of a Verb?

The imperative tense, or “command form” of a verb is used when one wants to relay an urgent request, give advice, or give an order.

In Italian, polite commands — commands given by one person to another person or to a group of people that the speaker does not know well —  are realized by conjugating the commanding verb in the present tense subjunctive mood. An exclamation point may be added after the command if desired.

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How to Conjugate Verbs in the
Polite Command Form = Present Subjunctive

The table below shows the present tense subjunctive endings for the –are, -ere, and –ire verb groups. These endings are removed to create the stem, to which the endings in the table are added. In written Italian, an exclamation point is used to convey the idea that the verb is in the imperative form.

Note that with the imperative verb form, by definition, the speaker is always giving a command to someone else that he or she does not know well.  This means that there is no first person, or io conjugation to learn.

The Lei, or polite you, present tense subjunctive form of the verb is used when one person is giving a command to a single individual that he or she does not know well.

The Loro, or polite you plural, present tense subjunctive form of the verb can be used when one person is giving a command to a group of people that he or she does not know well. This situation may occur in organizations, or in large gatherings, when a leader or speaker must address a group of people. We will not provide examples using the Loro, or polite you form, as it is no longer in common use.

The table below gives the conjugation for the first three persons of the subjunctive mood, for the -are, -ere, and -ire groups of verbs.  Notice that within each group, the endings are the same for all three persons.

 

Subjunctive Mood – Present Tense for Polite Commands

Subject Pronoun -are ending -ere ending -ire ending
io i a a
tu i a a
Lei/lei/lui i a a

 

When creating a sentence with the polite command form, the subject pronoun is left out. Below are the subjunctive present tense conjugations for the example verbs we encountered in the earlier section.  The tables to follow give the present tense subjunctive conjugations  for the auxiliary verbs and the common irregular verbs we discussed in the last section.

  Guardare

(to look)

Rispondere

(to answer)

Partire

(to leave)

Lei Guardi!
Look!
Risponda!
Answer!
Parta!
Leave!

 

Subjunctive Mood – Irregular Auxiliary Verbs for Polite Commands

  Avere

(to have)

Essere

(to be)

Stare

(to be/stay)

Lei abbia! sia! stia!

 

Subjunctive Mood – Irregular Verbs for Polite Commands

  Andare

(to go)

Dare

(to give)

Dire

(to say/to tell)

Fare

(to do/to make)

Lei Vada! Dia! Dica! Faccia!

 

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Where are Reflexive, Direct and Indirect Pronouns Placed in Sentences
with the Polite Command Form?

For a review of how to use reflexive, direct, and indirect object pronouns, please consult Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” book.  A summary table taken from this book was provided in the last section to aid in the discussion of pronouns that follows.

Reflexive Pronouns:

When conjugating a reflexive verb into the polite imperative form, it is not enough just to use the correct subjunctive verb ending.  We must also place the reflexive pronoun in the proper position with respect to the verb, which in this case is before the verb.

Below is a summary table that shows the differences between the familiar and polite command forms of the reflexive verb accomodarsi  that we used as our example in the first section.  This is one verb that is heard quite often in both its familiar and polite forms and well-worth committing to memory.

 Imperative Accomodarsi – to get comfortable

tu Accomodati! Get (Make yourself) comfortable! 
Lei Si Accomodi! Get (Make yourself) comfortable!  

 

Direct and Indirect Pronouns:

After conjugating a regular verb into the polite imperative form with the correct subjunctive ending, if we want to include a direct or indirect object pronoun in the sentence, these pronouns will come before the verb.

This rule also applies when the Italian direct and indirect object pronouns are themselves combined to make one word, which will be pronounced separately.

Below are the examples provided in the section on familiar command forms for dare (to give) and fare (to do/to make).  The polite command form has been added to each.

Familiar:   Dammi il pacco!      Give me the package!
Polite:        Mi dia il pacco! 

Familiar:  Dammelo!                  Give it to me!
Polite:       Me lo dia

 

Familiar: Fammi una torta.     Make me a cake.
Polite:      Mi faccia una torta.

Familiar: Fammela!                       Make it for me!
Polite:      Me la faccia!

 

Familiar: Digli  che ci vediamo domani!    Tell him that we’ll see him tomorrow!
Polite:     Gli dica che ci vediamo domani!

 


Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

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

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

 Italian Subjunctive (Part 7): Italian Subjunctive Commands 

Photo of the Greek ruins at Agrigento Sicily, with tall columns reaching to a bright blue sky with puffy clouds.

How to Talk About: Weather in Italian

How to Talk About: Weather in Italian

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog    How to talk about weather in Italian: Important Italian phrases and vocabulary you need to know when talking about the weather with Italian friends and colleagues!

This blog series, “How to Talk About… in Italian” will focus on the topics that have come up most frequently in my everyday conversations with Italian family, friends and colleagues. We will focus on the important Italian phrases and Italian vocabulary we all need to know to become more fluent when we speak about everyday events in Italian!

The topic for this month — the weather — comes up frequently during daily conversation, both when making small talk with acquaintances and also when planning activities with family, friends, and co-workers. In the “How to Talk About Weather in Italian” blog for this month, we will focus on common Italian phrases needed to ask and answer questions about the weather.  We will also give examples of common Italian expressions that can be used to describe all four seasons.

Italians have a different approach than English-speakers when making references to the weather.  For instance, Italians talk about what the weather is making, rather than what the weather is at a given point in time. So first, we will learn how to use the Italian verb fare (to do/to make) to describe “what the weather is making” when we speak. We must first “think in Italian” if we want to talk about the weather in Italian!

Enjoy the second topic in this “How to Talk About…” series, “How to Talk About Weather in Italian.” —Kathryn Occhipinti

Some of this material was originally presented on the  Conversational Italian! blog “Italian Phrases We Use EVERY Day! “ Special thanks to Italian instructor Maria Vanessa Colapinto.


How to Talk About: Weather in Italian

 

For a general assessment of the weather, Italians use the ever popular verb fare in the third person singular, which you will remember is fa. (If you need a refresher on how to conjugate the verb fare, you will find this in our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs”  reference book.)

In English, the verb to be is used to directly refer to “it,” meaning “the weather,” and how “it” actually “is” outside. Instead, Italians speak of the weather “it” is making with the verb fa. So, it is very important to think in Italian if we want to talk about the weather in Italian!

Remember that the reference to “it” in the Italian sentence will be left out, as usual.

Below are some examples of how this works, with the correct English translation in black and the literal Italian translation in gray, so we can understand the Italian approach to this topic.

If you don’t know what the weather is like and want to ask someone a question about the weather,  you can use many of the same phrases that we have listed below to describe the weather. Just raise your voice at the end of the sentence to signal that you are asking a question. There is no need to invert the subject and the verb to make a question, as we do in English.

Notice that in Italian the same word means both time and weatheril tempo.

Che tempo fa?
What is the weather?  (lit. What weather does it make?)

Fa caldo.
Fa molto caldo!
Fa caldo?
It is warm/hot.
It is very hot!
Is it warm/hot?
(lit. It makes heat.)
Fa fresco.
Fa fresco?
It is cool.
Is it cool?
(lit. It makes cool.)
Fa freddo.
Fa freddissimo!
Fa freddo?
It is cold.
It is very cold!
Is it cold?
(lit. It makes cold.)
Fa bel tempo.
Fa bel tempo?
It is nice weather.
Is it nice weather?
(lit. It makes nice weather.)
Fa bello.

Fa bellissimo.

It is nice/very nice out. (lit. It makes nice/very nice weather.)
Fa brutto tempo.
Fa brutto tempo?
It is bad weather.
Is it bad weather?
(lit. It makes bad weather.)
Fa brutto. It is bad outside. (lit. It makes bad weather.)

Of course, we may want to know how the weather was during a certain event or at a certain time.  Chatting about the weather is a common pastime in any country. Why not chat in Italian about recent weather conditions yesterday, last week, or last year?

To talk about the weather in the immediate past tense, we must return to the imperfetto and the passato prossimo.  For an in-depth explanation of how to use the imperfetto and passato prossimo forms of the Italian past tense, click on the link for the verb tense listed in this sentence that you want to learn about in this sentence.  Or, take a look at our reference book, Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Verbs.”

The imperfetto third person singular form of fare, which is  faceva, is the most commonly used form with our general expressions.

Of course, if we want to refer to a specific time frame, the passato prossimo third person singular form of fare, which is  ha fatto, should be used.

Below are the general questions about the weather from the last example table, this time in the past tense: 

Che tempo faceva? What was the weather? (lit. What weather did it make?)
Come era il tempo? How was the weather?  

 And our answers, depending on the situation…

Faceva caldo. It was hot. (lit. It made heat.)
Ha fatto caldo tutto il giorno.  It was hot all day.  
     
Faceva fresco. It was cool. (lit. It made cool.)
Ha fatto fresco ieri. It was cool yesterday.  
     
Faceva freddo. It was cold. (lit. It made cold.)
Ha fatto freddo quest’inverno. It was cold all winter.  
Faceva bel tempo. It was nice weather. (lit. It made nice weather.)
Faceva bello. It was nice outside. (lit. It made nice weather.)
     
Faceva brutto tempo. It was bad weather. (lit. It made bad weather.)
Faceva brutto tempo. It was bad outside. (lit. It made bad weather.)

Now, let’s try to be more specific and descriptive when we talk about the weather, and talk about common weather conditions, such as the rain, snow and wind, and how the weather changes throughout the seasons. Below are a few conversational sentences. Living in Chicago, I couldn’t resist a few lines about the show we’ve had to shovel this past winter.  How many more can you think of?

È primavera.* It is springtime.
Ci sono nuvole scure. There are dark clouds.
Viene a piovere. (It) is going to rain.
(lit. Here comes the rain.)
C’e la pioggia? Is it raining?
Piove. It’s raining.
Tira vento. It’s windy.
I fiori sono in fiore. The flowers are blooming.
Ho un mazzo di rose rosse che ho colto dal giardino. I have a bunch of red roses that I picked from the garden.
È estate.* It is summer.
C’è sole. It’s sunny. (lit. There is sun.)
È umido. Andiamo alla spiaggia! It’s humid. Let’s go to the beach!
È autunno.* It is autumn.
Fa fresco. It is cool. (lit. It makes coolness).
Le foglie cadano dagli alberi. The leaves fall from the trees.
È inverno.* It is winter.
È gelido. It’s freezing.
La gelata è dappertutto. The frost is everywhere.
C’è la neve? Is it snowing?
Nevica. It’s snowing.
C’è la bufera di neve. It’s a snowstorm.
I fiocchi di neve sono tanti. There are so many snowflakes.
I bambini fanno un pupazzo di neve. The children are making a snowman.
Mi piace sciare. Ho gli sci belli. I like skiing. I have wonderful skis.
Devo spalare la neve ora! I have to shovel the snow now!
Voglio una pala per la neve. I want a snow shovel.
Uso sempre uno spazzaneve. I always use a snowblower.

*In a simple statement about what season it is, the definite article (il, la, l’ = the) is not used.  However, in a longer sentence such as, “È l’inverno che porta neve,” the article is used. (Translations: It is the winter that brings the snow/Winter brings the snow.)


Finally, there are a few rules to follow if we want to talk about specific weather conditions in the past tense.

Let’s say we want to tell a story to our friend about the day that has just ended and we’d like to include a description of the weather. In this case, if we want to talk about a single, specific  instance in time when we experienced a certain weather condition, we must use the passato prossimo form of the past tense.

When using the passato prossimo, the verbs piovere, nevicare, and tirare can be conjugated using either avere or essere, as the helping verb, as in:

Ieri ha piovuto per due ore.         Yesterday, it rained for two hours.

            or

Ieri è piovuto per due ore.          Yesterday, it rained for two hours.

General phrases in the past tense about the sun, clouds, fog or humidity are spoken about using the imperfetto past tense.  Or, if we want to mention the weather as the “setting” or underlying condition that edited at the same time as a certain activity that happened in the past, we would again use the imperfetto past tense.

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The expressions we have already encountered earlier in this blog are given below again, this time in the imperfetto in the first column and in the passato prossimo in the second column.

Notice the different meanings for each type of past tense. And how the word “it” is, as usual, left out of the Italian phrase, but necessary for the English translation.

The words gia (already) and appena (just) are commonly used with the passato prossimo to give additional information.

Pioveva.
It was raining.
Ha già piovuto.
It already rained.
Nevicava.
It was snowing.
Ha appena nevicato.
It has just snowed.
Tirava vento.
It was windy.
Ha tirato vento tutto il giorno.
It was windy all day.
C’era sole. It was sunny.
C’era nebbia. It was foggy.
Era nuvoloso. It was cloudy.         
Era sereno. It was clear.
Era umido. It was humid.
L’umidità è stata molto alta oggi. The humidity was very high today.
L’umidità è stata bassa oggi. The humidity was very low today.

Remember how to talk about weather in Italian and I guarantee
you will use these  Italian phrases every day!

And remember to study our Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Important Phrases” pocket travel book if you want a handy way to remember all the important Italian phrases you will need to know!

Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases
Conversational Italian for Travelers Just the Important Phrases (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions) is YOUR traveling companion in Italy! All the Italian phrases you need to know to enjoy your trip to Italy are right here and fit right into your pocket or purse.

   Available on amazon.com and Learn Travel Italian.com

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
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 series of books and 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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Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

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Italian Subjunctive (Part 6): Situations for Italian Adjective Clauses and Comparisons

Italian Subjunctive (Part 6): Situations for Italian Adjective Clauses and Comparisons

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               Read here about Italian adjective clauses and Italian comparison phrases and learn about important situations that use the Italian Subjunctive Mood!

 

Speak Italian: Situations Use Italian Adjective Clauses with 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? Do you know which situations use the Italian subjunctive mood? 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 two blogs in the “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on how to 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 Italian adjective clauses that take the subjunctive mood, and also include a brief discussion of comparison phrases and when Italian comparison phrases require the subjunctive mood. Finally, we will learn how to use the conjunction “sia” as a conjunction in order to connect phrases when trying to say, “Both…and…” Example sentences will follow using Italian adjective clauses for each situation.

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 situations take the Italian subjunctive mood.

In this blog, we will then present common Italian adjective clauses 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 our blog: “Italian Subjunctive (Part 6): Situations for Italian Adjective Clauses and Comparisons”
—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: Situations that Use the  Italian Subjunctive Mood (Part 6)

A Brief Review of Phrases that take
the Italian Subjunctive Mood 

In previous blogs, we have noted that Italian uses a subjunctive mood that 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 can be in the indicative tense (the “usual” present or past tense) or in the conditional tense. These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood in the phrase to follow.

These groups are listed below.

Groups 1-9: “Noun Clauses”

Group 10: “Adverbial Clauses”

Groups 11 and 12: “Adjective/Pronoun Clauses”

      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 suspicion, such as, ” I suspect that…” or “Sospetto che…”
      5. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…” and ” To wonder if…” or “Chiedersi se… “
      6. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…
      7. 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.
      8. 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.
      9. Phrases that express feelings (any emotion, fear, surprise) 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].
      10. 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, senza 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).***
      11. 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).
      12. 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).
      13. Phrases that correspond to the English “both… and…” use the conjunction sia and the structure “sia… che…”
      14. Hypothetical Phrases:  Phrases that begin with se (if) in certain situations. Phrases that begin with come se (as if), magari (if only), ammesso che (assuming that)

For a review of how to use the groups of phrases that need the Italian subjunctive mood  listed above, please see our previous blogs on this topic by clicking on the links below:

How to Use the Present Tense Italian Subjunctive Mood (Parts 1-3). 

How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive for Italian Past Tense (Parts 1-3)

How to Use The Italian Subjunctive Mood (Parts 4 and 5) — Hypothetical Phrases

You will notice that numbers 11 and 12 above discuss specific phrases called adjective clauses that take the subjunctive mood. In this blog, we will discuss various situations, along with specific words and phrases, that will trigger the subjunctive mood in the adjective clause to follow.

We will also discuss number 13 as the last section in this bog in order to learn how to express “both… and…” and  “whether… or…” in Italian, including when it is necessary to use the subjunctive mood with these phrases.

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Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases that take the subjunctive mood (those that trigger doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling)  usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

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.

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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

Solo se = Only if

Anche se = Even though, If

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: How to Use the Subjunctive Mood in Situations with Italian Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause is a phrase that modifies a  noun or a pronoun. Simply stated, an adjective clause is a group of words that together add additional information or further describe the person, place, or thing a sentence is about. These phrases are “dependent clauses” as they cannot “stand alone” as a complete sentence, but are dependent on the phrase that comes before them to make sense.

Now that we know what an adjective clause is, we have to discuss just what triggers use of the Italian subjunctive for an Italian adjective clause.  Italian adjective clauses are commonly used in speech and writing, and of course, not all will need the subjunctive mood!

We have already listed some specific Italian phrases that are classified as adjective clauses in the last section of this blog. These phrases will often start a sentence and then will trigger use of the Italian subjunctive mood in the phrase that comes after.

There are also certain situations that will trigger use of the Italian subjunctive mood.  In these cases, it is the uncertainty in the situation described in the first phrase of the sentence that will trigger use of the Italian subjunctive mood in the adjective clause that follows.

As one can imagine, there are innumerable “uncertain” situations that can be modified with adjective clauses, and therefore will take the Italian subjunctive mood.  Some examples will be listed below.

Similar to other situations when it is necessary to use the Italian subjunctive mood, when modifying an Italian phrase by adding an adjective clause after it, the two phrases must be linked by a conjunction, which will be che. In this situation, che means who or that.

Read on below to find out which “uncertain” or “comparative” situations will need to take the Italian subjunctive mood if you would like to add additional information to make a more complex and varied sentence when speaking Italian.

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Italian Adjective Clauses that Modify
Indefinite Antecedents:
“Cercare”  

Many situations arise when an individual will mention a specific person or thing they are looking for,  but at the time of the conversation the speaker knows that this specific desire may only exist in his or her imagination. This type of situation is  called an “indefinite antecedent.”

We often talk about our desires in conversation, and love to elaborate on exactly what we want , even though we know that what we want may not actually exist. We already know that wanting and wishing for something in Italian involves uncertainty, and therefore many times we will need to use che with the subjunctive mood in the phrase that follows! In this case, one does not outright state they are making a wish;  instead, what they desire, and the uncertainty that they will find it, is inherent in the first statement.

The most common situations of this type is when someone is looking for a type of person or a particular thing. In Italian, the verb “to look for” is cercare. When a sentence starts with a particular wish of this type, just exactly what one is looking for can be elaborated upon, even if its actual existence has yet to be proven. Here is a case for using the subjunctive mood!

You will notice from the examples below that in English we use the simple present tense in these situations.

Sto cercando una fidanzata che sia intelligente e simpatica.
I am looking for a girlfriend who is intelligent and nice.

Il mio amico cerca un appartamento che abbia due camere da letto.
My friend is looking for an apartment that has two bedrooms.

 

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Italian Adjective Clauses that Modify
Indefinite Antecedents:
“Any”

The Italian subjunctive mode must be used with adjectives or pronouns that include the idea of any in a description of a person, place or thing, such as  qualsiasi, qualunque (any), chiunque (whoever), dovunque (anywhere). These words are listed under #11 above. Here, again, there is some uncertainty as to the person, place, or thing, as the speaker is making a generalization, rather than pointing out someone or something specific.  The subjunctive mood is used directly after these words.

There are many, many situations in which one might use the above words to express the idea of “any.”*  Some examples are listed below.  How many more can you think of?

Mi va bene qualsiasi posto che sia vicino al finestrino per favore.
Any place that is near the window is good for me, please.

Chiunque possa imparare un’altra lingua deve essere molto intelligente.
Anyone who can learn another language must be very intelligent.

Dovunque io vada in Italia è tutto bellissimo!
Anywhere I go in Italy is all very beautiful!

*You may have noticed that qualcuno,  which can mean:“anyone, anybody, someone, somebody” is not included in this list!

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Italian Adjective Clauses that Modify
Negative Antecedents:

If the speaker in a conversation is wishing for someone or something specific, but already knows he or she will not be able to find it, the sentence will begin with “non” to create an antecedent in the negative form.  Interrogative antecedents (when questioning something) can also fall into the negative antecedent category.  We have already mentioned different negative antecedents briefly in #12 of the list in our first section.

The Italian verb that is used in the adjective clause to follow the negative antecedent describe this “nobody” (nessuno) or “nothing” (niente/nulla) that we wish exists, but know does not. Since we are talking about a wish or desire that does not exist, our adjective clause will need be in the  subjunctive form.

Notice in the examples below that English uses the simple present tense for the dependent adjective clause.

Non c’è nessuno a questa festa che io conosca bene.
There is no one at this party that I know well.

Non c’è niente che io voglia comprare in questo negozio.
There is nothing that I want in this store.

Non c’è nulla che tu voglia comprare in questo negozio? 
Is there nothing in this store that you want to buy?

 


Speak Italian: How to Make Sentences with Comparisons in Italian 

A Brief Review of
How to Make Comparisons in Italian

Before we can learn when to use the Italian subjunctive mood in comparative sentences, we must first learn how comparative sentences are structured in Italian.  The material for this section has  been provided by the Conversational Italian for Travelers textbook and the Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” books,  found on the website www.Learntravelitaliancom and Amazon.com.

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Grammar Note – Comparatives of Equality
in Italian

Comparison of Two Italian Nouns
with Equivalent
  Descriptors

When comparing two different nouns – people , places, or things – using the same adjective or adverb, to state that their description is equivalent, use the following phrases below.

 

Così and tanto are in parentheses in the examples that follow, as these words can be omitted in conversation.

 

Comparison of Two  Italian Nouns with Equivalent  Descriptors

(così)… come as… as
(tanto)… quanto as much/as well… as

 

Milano è (così) bella come Roma.                   Milan is as beautiful as Rome.

La mia macchina va (tanto) bene,                  My car runs as well as your Ferrari.
quanto la tua Ferrari.                                    

 

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Comparison of Two Equivalent  Italian Nouns

 

When comparing what two different people have, using the same noun, to state that one person has something that is equivalent to what the other person has, use the following phrases below.

 

This pattern will usually appear with the verb avere, to describe what both people have.  Note that tanto must always be used and must agree in gender and number with the noun that it modifies.

 

  Comparison of Two Equivalent Italian Nouns

Tanto(a,i,e)….quanto as much as
as many as

 

Caterina ha tante amiche quante ne ha Anna.             Kathy has as many friends as Anna.

Pietro ha tanti parenti quanti ne ha Caterina.            Peter has as many relatives as Kathy.

 

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Grammar Note – Comparatives of Superiority and Inferiority in Italian

Comparison of Different Characteristics
of the Subject in Italian

When comparing different characteristics of the subject in a sentence, where one characteristic is better or worse than the other, use the following phrases below.  This pattern works for comparisons with adjectives, adverbs, and infinitive verbs.

 

Comparison of Different Characteristics of the Subject in Italian

più… che more… than
meno… che less… than

 

La casa è più grande che bella.                              The house is more large than beautiful.

Caterina ha meno amici che parenti.                 Kathy has fewer friends than relatives.

Mi piace di più studiare che lavorare.                    I like studying more than working.

 

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 Comparison of Different Nouns in Italian

In order to compare two different nouns, i.e. people, places or things, where one has a superior or inferior characteristic, use the following phrases below.  Note that di will combine with the definite article (il, la, lo, or l’) as usual if the definite article is needed in the sentence.

 

 

Comparison of Two Different Nouns in Italian

più…. di more… than
meno… di less… than

 

La casa di Pietro è più grande             Peter’s house is larger than Kathy’s
della casa di Caterina.                             house.

Pietro ha più soldi di Caterina.               Peter has more money than Kathy.

Caterina ha meno soldi di Pietro.            Kathy has less money than Peter.

 Questo vestito è più elegante del tuo vestito.
This dress is more elegant than your dress.

 

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Grammar Note – Relative Superlatives

 

Relative superlatives are descriptions that refer to the most or the least, and are often rendered in English with the ending -est.  In Italian, the equivalent to the most is il più or la più, for masculine and feminine nouns respectively.  The equivalent to the least is il meno or la meno.  The relative superlatives always precede the adjective they modify.

 

When the adjective to be modified comes before the noun, the relative superlative phrases are used with the definite article, as given above.  If the adjective to be modified comes after the noun, the definite article (il, la) is omitted from the relative superlative phrase.  In the second case, the definite article will already be in front of the noun for proper grammar!  See the examples below for how this works.

 

Also, notice that instead of the word in, Italians use di with comparisons, which is often combined with the definite article (il, la, lo, etc.).  Refer to Conversational Italian for Travelers “Just the Grammar” if you need to learn more about how to combine definite articles with prepositions.

 

Milano è la più bella città d’Italia.           Milan is the most beautiful city in Italy.

                                                   – or –

Milano è la città più bella d’Italia.           Milan is the city (which is) the most
beautiful in Italy.

 

Caterina è la meno alta della famiglia.     Kathy is the least tall in the family.

Pietro è il più alto della famiglia                  Peter is the tallest in the family.

 

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Grammar Note – Absolute Superlatives

 

The absolute superlative ending translates into very or really/extremely, and is used to say that something is simply the best, even beyond comparison.  The ending used to make an adjective into the absolute superlative is -issimo.  Remember from Chapter 6 how molto bene and benissimo both translated into very well/really well?

 

The absolute superlative ending will change to reflect the gender and number of the adjective modified, from –issimo to: -issima, -issimi,or -issime.  The last vowel of the adjective is dropped before adding these endings; buono will become buonissimo, grande will become grandissimo, and bella will become bellissima.

 

Il caffè in Italia è buonissimo.                             The coffee in Italy is really good.

I palazzi a Milano sono grandissimi.                The buildings in Milan are extremely big.

Milano è una bellissima città.                              Milan is a very beautiful city.

Le fontane sono bellissime.                                  The fountains are really beautiful.

 


Speak Italian: The Subjunctive Mood with Comparison Italian Adjective Clauses 

Italian Adjective Clauses that Modify
Absolute Superlatives

Now that we have reviewed how to make comparisons in Italian, we are ready to discuss how to use absolute superlative phrases with the Italian subjunctive mood.  In short, if you describe a person, place, or thing, and then want to say that this is “the best” you have ever seen, heard, met,  etc. you must use the  subjunctive!

For the speaker, at the point in time of the conversation, this is the best he or she has experienced; although one might say there is always the possibility that this opinion could change in the future.  Someone or something else may come along that is even better! And, where there is uncertainty, we need to use the subjunctive mood!

Some examples follow. Notice the use of the word “mai” to mean “ever,” which reinforces the idea of “the most.”

Since the speaker is talking about what they have experienced, the subjunctive verb conjugation must also be in the past.  In this examples below the form used is the passato congiuntivo.

The last example has been structured as a question, since we often ask others about their best experiences to date!

La Sicilia è l’isola più bella che io abbia mai visto.
Sicily is the most beautiful island that I have ever seen.

Mia madre è la donna più brava che io abbia mai incontrato.
My mother is the most wonderful woman that I have ever met.

Questa è la più bella sinfonia che io abbia mai sentito.
This is the most beautiful symphony that I have ever heard.

È questa la più bella sinfonia che tu abbia mai sentito?
Is this the most beautiful symphony that you have ever heard?

 

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Italian Adjective Clauses that Modify
Equivalents to Absolute Superlatives:
“Unico, Solo, Primo, Ultimo”

 

There are single Italian adjectives that can be considered to be “equivalent” to the absolute superlatives.  We have listed some above in the first section under Number 12 as the words which mean “only”:  unico, solo, a che uno. To these words we add primo, which means “first” and “ultimo,” which means “last.”  

When using the above Italian adjectives as absolute superlatives, their endings must agree in gender and number to the noun they modify (the same as for all Italian adjectives). The placement of the adjective will be between the definite article (il, la, lo, l’, etc.) and the noun it modifies.  Notice that these adjectives can be plural, since sometimes a group of things may be involved in the statement.

Check out the singular and plural forms of these absolute superlative adjectives below. You will remember from beginning Italian that  the  ending of the adjective primo changes since it is a cardinal number, and primo has regular endings. The adjectives solo and ultimo also have regular endings.

The adjective ultimo has an irregular in pronunciation in the plural masculine form (gli unici) and an irregular in spelling to preserve the pronunciation in the plural feminine form (le uniche).

l’unico l’unica gli unici le uniche
il solo la sola i soli le sole
il primo la prima i primi le prime
l’ultimo l’ultima gli ultimi le ultime

 

Some example sentences using unico, solo, primo, and ultimo are given below.  These words can be used in many different situations to make complex, descriptive sentences.  How many more can you think of?

Lui è l’unico ragazzo che mi piaccia nel mio paese.
He is the only boy that I like in my town.

Questa casa è l’unica casa che io abbia visto dipinta tutto in giallo.
This house is the only house that I have seen painted all in yellow.

Quella soluzione è solamente la prima soluzione che dobbiamo considerare.
This solution is only the first solution that we must consider.

L’Ultima Cena è l’ultimo quadro che Leonardo da Vinci abbia dipinto con la tempera.
The Last Supper is the last painting that Leonardo da Vinci painted with tempera (egg-based paint).


Speak Italian: How to Say “Both… and…”  with the Conjunction “Sia” 

How to Use
the Italian Conjunction
“Sia…  che…” to say “Both.. and…”

To finish our blog on adjective phrases, we now mention a way to link two nouns or verbs within a single descriptive phrase — use the Italian word sia as a conjunction!

By now, we have become used to using the word “sia”  as the present tense singular subjunctive  form of essere, as we’ve learned way back in the first blog on this topic. But we now mention that the Italian word sia can also be used as a conjunction , which is a  simple linking word.

In effect, Italian word sia does double duty as both a verb and a conjunction!

In sentences where one wants to express both… and…, in effect linking two equal alternatives  to one another in one phrase,  the first alternative is introduced with the conjunction sia  and the second alternative follows after the word  che.   In this case the word “che” is translated into English with the word  “and.” 

In some instances, this idea may also be communicated by using the conjunction sia twice, with the phrase sia… sia….  It is more common in spoken italian to hear sia…che…, although in a very few sentences  you might hear sia…sia…, which is perfectly correct too.  One sentence where the sia… sia… combination is used frequently refers to films that are adapted to two specific groups of people,  young and old:  “Il film è adatto sia a un pubblico adulto sia a un pubblico giovane.” 

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How to Make Phrases with
“Sia…  che…” to say “Both.. and…”

To form a phrase with the Italian conjunction sia is easy.  When we would say, “both… and..” in English, just substitute “sia… che…” in Italian.  A noun can be linked with a noun or a verb can be linked with a verb to show that there are two separate but equal possibilities for a single situation. Just use the sia… che combination!

Remember to use the Italian definite article with each noun that follows the conjugation sia, as is usual for Italian nouns.  The exception will be when using the Italian preposition “in” to go into a country, region or state, or large island like Sicily, as is usual for situations of this type.

Remember to use the infinitive form of the Italian verb that follows the conjugation sia, and conjugate only the main verb in the sentence.

The dependent phrase with sia…che… can be used as the subject of the sentence itself, especially when two people are the subject. In this case, the verb is conjugated in the third person plural form.  If this is confusing, just substitute “they” for the subject!

But, above all…

Don’t fall into the trap of translating the English
words “both” and “and” directly into Italian.
Instead, use “sia… che…”!

For instance:

Mi piace parlare sia l’italiano che l’inglese.
I like to speak  both  (the) Italian and (the) English (languages).

Mi piace viaggiare sia in Italia che in America.
I like traveling, both in Italy and in America.

Io devo sia comprare che incartare il regalo prima di andare al lavoro stasera.
I have to both buy and wrap the gift before going to work tonight.

Sia Marco che Maria (Loro) mi hanno invitato alla festa di compleanno di Julia.
Both Mark and Mary (They) have invited me to Julia’s birthday party.

 


 

 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

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

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

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

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From Stella Lucente, LLC

Italian Subjunctive (Part 6): Situations for Italian Adjective Clauses and Comparisons

Textbook Conversational Italian for Travelers

Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story!

Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story! 

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog                          Everything you need to know
to tell your family’s story… in Italian!

 

Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story!  

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 language. Meraviglioso!

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you tell the story of your family history in Italian, using the passato remoto past tense?   

Can you speak Italian the way you would speak in your native language, with complex and varied sentences? This is more difficult than it may seem at first, and it is something that I am always working on!

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

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian by learning how to use the different Italian past tenses more easily. In this segment, we will focus on the  Italian passato remoto past tense and describe the similarities and differences between the passato remoto and the passato prossimo and imperfetto past tenses.

Included in the dialogue for this blog post are examples of Italian hypothetical phrases in the past tense, reprinted from a previous blog post on this topic.

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

 

Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story! 

In the “Speak Italian” blog series, first, a short essay or dialogue in Italian will be presented about a commonly used topic of conversation.

Then, we will review the Italian grammar that is necessary to talk about the particular topic in detail.

And finally, if you want, ask a relative about the story of your own family history, then write it in Italian using the Italian passato remoto.

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

Enjoy the fourth topic in this series, “Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story!”
—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 language instructor Maria Vanessa Colapinto.

 


Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story!  

In the dialogue to follow, we listen in on a conversation between an Italian mother and her 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.

When reading the example dialogue below, notice the use of the imperfetto past tense (for making general statements about the past) and the passato remoto past tense (for describing actions that began and were completed in the past).  The use of these tenses shifts from one to the other while Frances is narrating the story of her family, depending on the situation that is described. The passato remoto past tense verbs will be underlined.

You will notice Italian hypothetical phrases in the past tense in this dialogue as well,  which will use the imperfetto subjunctive mode and the trapassato past tense, because this dialogue is a reprint from a former blog post on Italian hypothetical phrases. If you would like to review how to make Italian hypothetical phrases in the past tense, please see our blog post Italian Subjunctive (Part 5).

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Speak Italian: Passato Remoto
The Story of 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 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, perché 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 1900s, 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

The “Passato Remoto”

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

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

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

The English translation for the passato remoto is the simple past tense, because English does not have an equivalent tense to the passato remoto. In effect, the different Italian past tenses can express certain shades of meaning that cannot be expressed by the past tense verb forms in English.

Although the passato remoto and the passato prossimo are used to evoke different feelings in the reader of an Italian novel, grammatically speaking, the passato remoto can be considered interchangeable with the passato prossimo. This is because both past tense verb types describe completed events that took place during a given period of time in the past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

“Passato Remoto”—”Avere” and “Essere”

The most commonly used forms of the passato remoto are the first and third person singular of essere, which is are fui and fu.

The first and third person singular of avere, which are ebbi and ebbe are also commonly used.

Even if you don’t plan to continue to learn the passato remoto tense, remember these  verbs because you will surely encounter them when reading Italian! The full conjugations of these irregular verbs are given for completeness. The stressed syllables have been underlined.

Avere—to have—Passato Remoto

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

lei/lui

ebbe you (polite) had

she/he had

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

 

Essere—to be—Passato Remoto

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

 lei/lui

fu you (polite) were

she/he was

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

 

 


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

The “Passato Remoto” Regular Conjugations

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

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

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

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To conjugate the passsato remoto past tense…

As usual, we must first make our stem from the infinitive –are, –ere, and –ire verbs. The method used to form the stems for the passato remoto is easy—just drop the –are, –ere, or ire from the infinitive verb!

Then we add the endings for our passato remoto conjugations to the stems.

However, a quick look at the table below, and you will notice that, for all persons except the third person singular, each ending for the passato remoto begins with the first vowel that we have just removed from the stem!

So if it makes it easier for you, think of the endings for the are, –ere, and ire verbs
as being the same,

except for the third person singular.

Using the above method for the third person,
for the are verbs, the third person ending will be ò,
for the ere verbs, the ending will be é, and
for the –ire verbs, the ending will be–ì.

After another glance at the table below, it soon becomes apparent that the first and third persons for the ere form of the passato remoto will not be unique (the first person –ei ending will be the same as the  first person singular (io)ending for the conditional tense;  the third person é is almost identical to the third person singular (Lei, lei, lui) of the -ere and -ire present tense verbs; the third person plural erono is identical to the third person plural of the -ere future tense verbs).

Therefore, there are alternate ere endings for the passato remoto.
The ere endings used most often will instead be
–tti for the first person singular,
–tte for the third person singular, and
–ttero for the third person plural.

 

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

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

 

When pronouncing the passato remoto verbs, the stress will always be on the first vowel of the ending—except, of course, for the third person singular, where the ending has only one vowel and the accent reminds us that this vowel must be stressed.

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

Passato Remoto: Regular Conjugations

  Andare

(to go)

(went)

Credere

(to believe)

(believed)

Finire

(to finish)

(finished)

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

 


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

“Passato Remoto” Common Irregular Verbs

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

Because the passato remoto is often used for historical purposes when describing famous individuals from the past, it should be mentioned here that although nascere (to be born) is irregular in the passato remoto, the verb morire (to die) is regular!

Passato Remoto: Common Irregular are Verbs

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

 

Passato Remoto: Irregular ere Helping Verbs

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

 

 

Passato Remoto: Common Irregular ere Verbs

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

 

Passato Remoto: Common Irregular Verbs That Double the Stem Consonant

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

 

Passato Remoto: Common Irregular Verbs with a Double “S” in the Stem

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

 

Passato Remoto: Common Irregular Verbs That End in –dere and –endere

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

 

Passato Remoto: Common Irregular Verbs That End in –gliere

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

 

Passato Remoto: Irregular Verbs That End in –ngere and –ncere

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

 

Passato Remoto: Verbs with –cqui in the stem

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

 


Speak Italian: Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell YOUR Story! 

Now that you have an example story of one family’s history, try to write a narration of your own family history using the passato remoto and imperfetto past tenses. Check the conjugations in the last section if you need to when you use the passato remoto for narration!

Here are some questions you might ask a relative to get started:

  1.  What relatives came to America?
  2. What year did they come to America?
  3. What was the family situation in Italy when they left?
  4. How did the family members who were left behind manage in Italy?
  5. How did the family members who went to America manage?
  6. Did any of the family return to Italy? Why?
  7. Did the family stay in touch despite being separated? How?
  8. Was the separation difficult? For whom and why?
  9. Did the relatives who were separated ever meet again?
  10. Did the children in the separated families ever meet?

 


Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog

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

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

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

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Speak Italian : Passato Remoto—Let’s Tell a Story!

Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blog               The Italian 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 Italian 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! This is the third blog in the “Speak Italian” series that will focus on how to conjugate and use the imperfetto 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 when the helping verbs dovere, potere and volere take the subjunctive mood. 

We will also repeat the Italian conjugation of the imperfetto subjunctive form for the regular and irregular -are, -ere, and -ire verbs and then present the conjugation of the modal, or helping, verbs dovere, potere, and volere. Finally, we will revisit the trapassato subjunctive mood from our previous blog on Italian hypothetical phrases.  Example sentences will follow!

Speak Italian: How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the imperfetto  Italian subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”),  we will first present phrases that take the Italian 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 imperfetto 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 third blog in this series, “Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (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 Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood (Part 3)

Once Again… Italian Phrases That Take the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Italian has 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 mood 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.

In our first blog about the imperfetto subjunctive mood, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Groups 1  through Group 6, which are given below for review.

In our second blog about the imperfetto subjunctive mood, we discussed Groups 7 and 8.

These groups are again listed  below for review.

In this blog, we will discuss phrases that express feelings (any emotion, fear, or surprise) in Group 9 and describe the situations in the past in which they are used to  introduce the imperfetto subjunctive mood.

We will also now discuss Group 10, in which we list individual words that refer to the purpose or timing of an action that, when in the past, must be followed by the imperfetto subjunctive mood. These words are part of “adverbial clauses” that modify verbs. As such, they are often used in the phrase that completes a sentence, but can also be found at the beginning of a sentence. Many of these words are easy to recognize since they end in -che.

Finally, Groups 11 and 12 are individual adjectives or pronouns that can introduce another clause and when describing the past must be followed by the imperfetto  subjective mood.

At the end of the list, we will also include the topic of a series of blogs on Italian hypothetical phrases,  to complete our discussion of specific words or phrases that can be used to introduce the subjunctive mood.

Groups 1-9: “Noun Clauses”

Group 10: “Adverbial Clauses”

Groups 11 and 12: “Adjective/Pronoun Clauses”

      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 suspicion, such as, ” I suspect that…” or “Sospetto che…”
      5. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…” and  ” To wonder if…” or  “Chiedersi se… “
      6. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…
      7. 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.
      8. 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.
      9. Phrases that express feelings (any emotion, fear, surprise) 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].
      10. 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, senza 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).***
      11. 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).
      12. 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).

Hypothetical Phrases:  Phrases that begin with se (if) in certain situations. Phrases that begin with come se (as if), magari (if only) and ammesso che (assuming that).

As usual, there are summary tables in the next section that shows how to use these  phrases.  The present tense is in the left  columns.  The imperfetto past tense has been chosen for the right columns, although in some situations, the passatto prossimo past tense can be used as well. We will then present examples for the past tense.

Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases that take the subjunctive mood (those that trigger doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling)  usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

We now see from Group 9 that some introductory words or phrases already have -ché or che integrated into the word itself. In these cases, che is not repeated.  

*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.

 


 

How to Express One’s Feelings with “Di” and “Che” and the Italian Subjunctive Mood – Present Tense

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 Express One’s Feelings with “Di” and “Che” and the Italian Subjunctive Mood – Past Tense

Phrases Used to Express Feelings with “Che” and the Imperfetto 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.

The above rule for using che + subjunctive applies whether the introductory phrase is in the present tense or the past tense.
However, if the introductory verb is in the past tense, the imperfetto subjunctive form is the form to follow!

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 Imperfetto 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)

 

       
Non sono certo(a)…
che tu
I am not certain…
that you
Non ero certo… che tu I was not certain… that you
       
Non sono sicuro(a)…
che tu
I am not certain…
that you
Non ero sicuro… che tu I was not 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)… * 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.

The above rule for using che + subjunctive applies whether the introductory phrase is in the present tense or the past tense.
However, if  the introductory verb is the past tense, the imperfetto subjunctive form is the form to follow!

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  ( Prima che is used to mean “before that” and followed by the subjunctive when the subject in the first phrase is different from the subject in the second phrase; use Prima di + infinitive verb when the subject of both phrases is the same.)
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: Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood (Part 3)

How to Conjugate the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood for -are, -ere, and -ire Verbs

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

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

To change any regular infinitive verb into the imperfetto subjunctive mood, first drop the final -re, from our infinitive -are, -ere, and -ire verbs to create the stem.

This will create stems that end in the letters –a for the –are verbs, -e for the –ere verbs, and–i for the –ire verbs.  Then add the 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 – Imperfetto Endings

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

 

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

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

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood – Example Verb Conjugations

  Abitare(to live)

(lived/were living)

Vedere(to see)

(saw/had seen)

Finire(to finish)

(finished/were finishing)

(che) io abitassi vedessi finissi
(che) tu abitassi vedessi finissi
(che) Lei/lei/lui abitasse vedesse finisse
       
(che) noi abitassimo vedessimo finissimo
(che) voi abitaste vedeste finiste
(che) loro abitassero vedessero finissero

 


How to Conjugate the Italian Subjunctive Mood Imperfetto Tense for the Modal Verbs

Here are the  Italian imperfetto 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 – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

(che) io dovessi I had to
(che) tu dovessi you (familiar) had to
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

dovesse you (polite) had to
she/he had to
     
(che) noi dovessimo we had to
(che) voi doveste you all had to
(che) loro dovessero they had to

 

  

Potere – to be able (to)/can – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

che) io potessi I was able to/could 
(che) tu potessi you (familiar) were able to/could 
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

potesse you (polite) were able to/could 

she/he was able to/could

     
(che) noi potessimo we were able to/could
(che) voi poteste you all were able to/could
(che) loro potessero they were able to/could

 

 Volere – to want/ to need – Imperfetto Subjunctive mode 
(che) io volessi I wanted/needed
(che) tu volessi you (familiar) wanted/needed
(che) Lei

(che) lei/lui

volesse you (polite) wanted/needed

she/he wanted/needed

     
(che) noi volessimo we wanted/needed
(che) voi voleste you all wanted/needed
(che) loro volessero they wanted/needed

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Regular and Irregular Verbs

A review from the second blog in this series:

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

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood Conjugations – Commonly Used Regular Verbs
Andare(to go)

(went/were going)

Sapere
(to know)(knew/had known)
Venire(to come)

(came/had come)

Vivere(to live)

(lived/were living)

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

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Irregular Verbs

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

Fare – to do/make  Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io facessi I did/ made
tu facessi you (familiar) did/made
Leilei/lui facesse you (polite) did/madeshe/he did/made
     
noi facessimo we did/made
voi faceste you all did/made
loro facessero they did/made

 

 

Dare – to give – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io dessi I gave
tu dessi you (familiar) gave
Leilei/lui desse you (polite) gaveshe/he gave
     
noi dessimo we gave
voi deste you all gave
loro dessero they gave

 

 

Dire – to say/tell – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io dicessi I said/told
tu dicessi you (familiar) said/told
Leilei/lui dicesse you (polite) said/toldshe/he said/told
     
noi dicessimo we said/told
voi diceste you all said/told
loro dicessero they said/told

 


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

A review from the first blog in this series:

In the tables below are the imperfetto 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!

You will notice that avere has a regular conjugation in the imperfetto subjunctive mood, whereas essere and stare have an irregular conjugation.

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

The “Trapassato” Subjunctive Mood

 “Essere” or  “Avere” + Past Participle

To form the trapassato subjunctive mood to describe an event that started and was completed in the past, simply use either essere or avere in the imperfetto conjugation, and add the past participle of the verb.

In English, 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!

Visit our blog about  Italian hypothetical phrases in the past tense (Italian Subjunctive Part 5) for practice using this verb form with impossible hypothetical sentences.

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

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


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

Example Phrases Using the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood in the Past Tense

 

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

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 do not use the 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, the Italian word for “that,” “che,”  is not an option when linking two Italian phrases – except if the introductory word itself ends in -che.

For the translations, the Italian sentence structure is given first for some examples 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?

 

 Ho voluto che tu cucinassi una cena speciale per la festa ieri sera. I wanted that you cook a special dinner for the party tonight. =

I wanted you to cook a special dinner for the party last night.

 
Ieri sera, ho avuto paura che lui  guidassi  troppo veloce. Last night, I was afraid that he drove too fast. =

Last night, I was afraid, since he drove too fast.

   
Non ero certo che Lei ricordasse quello giorno. I was not certain that you remembered that day.

 

Non ero sicuro che noi ricordassimo il posto corretto. I was not sure that we remembered the right place.
   
Sono stato felice che voi abbiate incontrato  mio cugino oggi. I was happy that  you all  have met my cousin today.=

I was happy  you all  met my cousin today.

Sono stata fortunata che voi abbiate mangiato con me ieri sera per il mio compleanno. I was lucky that you all ate with me last night for my birthday.=

I was lucky you all ate with me last night for my birthday.

 

Temavo che loro non fossero persone perbene. I was afraid that they were not good people.
 
Mi auguravo che loro facessero una buona vacanza. I was hoping that they had a good vacation. =

I was hoping they had a good vacation.

 


 

The Italian Subjunctive Mood: Examples for Idiomatic Phrases and 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 imperfetto subjunctive mood when the reference is to the past.

These phrases seem to be most useful in situations in which we talk about plans people would have liked to or had made for themselves or others, and therefore helping verbs many times also come into play.

 Lei ha dovuto prepare molto bene i tuoi  documenti prima che tu dovessi andare al lavoro. She had to prepare your documents very well before (that) you had to come to work. =

She had to prepare your documents very well before you had to go to work.

 
Prima che mio figlio potesse andare dove ha voluto, io sono dovuto venire a casa. Before (that) my son could go where he wanted to, I had to go home. =

Before my son could go where he wanted to, I had to come home.

 
Prima che noi dovessimo partire per Roma, è stato buono che avete  riposato un po’ in campagna. Before (that) we had to leave for Rome, it was good that you all rested a little bit in the country. =

Before we had to leave for Rome, it was good that you all rested a little bit in the country.

 
Prima che voi poteste andare a trovare* i vostri parenti in America, tuo padre ha dovuto guadagnare un sacco di soldi.** Before (that) you all  could visit your relatives in America, your father had to make a lot of money. =

Before you all could visit your relatives in America, your father had to make a lot of money.

 
Il mio assistente ha dovuto portarli al riunione prima che loro possano mangiare la cena. My assistant had to bring them to the meeting before (that) they could eat dinner. =

My assistant had to bring them to the meeting before they could eat dinner.

* 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 volessi andare in Italia, non è stato possibile l’anno scorso. Although I wanted to go to Italy, it was not possible last year.
 
Sebbene lui volesse andare all’università,  non ha ricevuto voti abastanza buoni al liceo. Although he wanted to go to college, he did not get good enough grades in high school.
 
Sebbene noi volessimo viaggiare,  abbiamo dovuto lavorare nel’ristorante di famiglia per molti anni. Though we wanted to travel, we had to work in the family restaurant for many years.
 
Perché la crostata fosse fatto buona,  hai dovuto usare le fragole fresche. So that the pie was made well, she had to use fresh strawberries. =

She had to use fresh strawberries so that the pie was made well.

 
Sono venuto alla festa, purché( lui non ci fosse. I agreed to come to the party, provided that he was not (going to be) there. =

I agreed to come to the party, provided that he was not going to 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 blog

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

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

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

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood Past Tense (Part 3): Speak Italian!

 

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 2): Speak Italian!

Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 2): 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! This is the second blog in the “Speak Italian” series that will focus on how to conjugate and use the imperfetto 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 when volere, desiderare, piacere, and dispiacere take the subjunctive mood.

We will also learn the conjugation of the imperfetto 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 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 impefetto 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 imperfetto 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 2nd blog in this series, “Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (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 instructor  Maria Vanessa Colapinto.

 


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

Once Again… Italian Phrases That Take the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Italian has 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 mood 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.

In our first blog about the imperfetto subjunctive mood, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Groups 1  through Group 6, 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 imperfetto subjunctive mood, which we have added into our original list as Group 7 and Group 8.

Groups 1-8: “Noun Clauses”

    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 suspicion, such as, ” I suspect that…” or “Sospetto che…”
    5. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…” and  ” To wonder if…” or  “Chiedersi se… “
    6. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…
    7. 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.
    8. 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 in the next section that shows how to use these phrases. The present and present conditional tense is in the left columns, with the passatto prossimo and the imperfetto past tenses in the right columns. We will then present examples for the past tense.

 

Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases that take the subjunctive mood (those that trigger doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling)  usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

*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 Imperfetto 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 chiedere and esigere  will be followed by the conjunction che and the next phrase will use a verb in the subjunctive form.

The above rule for using che + subjunctive applies whether the introductory phrase is in the present tense or the past tense.*
However, if the introductory verb is in the past tense, the imperfetto subjunctive form is the form to follow!

*Be careful with chiedere and esigere, though, when using the passato prossimo past tense, since their past participles are irregular.  For chiedere, the past participle is chiesto and for esigere, the past participle is esatto.

Esatto is, of course, also used as an adjective, meaning “exact” or “precise” as well as an interjection with the meaning of “Exactly!”


How to Use the Imperfetto 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.

The above rule for using che + subjunctive applies whether the introductory phrase is in the present tense or the past tense.
However, if  if the introductory verb is in the past tense, the imperfetto subjunctive form is the form to follow!

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
Ho voluto… che tu
I wanted… that you
Vorrei… che tu I would like…
that you
Volevo… che tu
Ho voluto… 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
Ho desiderato… che tu
Ho chiesto… che tu
Ho esatto… 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
Mi sono piaciuto(a)…
che tu
I liked… that you
Mi dispiace… che tu I am sorry… that you Mi dispiaceva… che tu
Mi sono dispiaciuto(a)… che tu
I was sorry… that you
Mi piacerebbe…
che tu
I would like…
that you
Mi sarebbe piaciuto(a)… che tu I would have liked…
that you
Mi dispiacerebbe…
che tu
I don’t mind…
that you
Mi sarebbe dispiaciuto(a)…
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: Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood (Part 2)

How to Conjugate the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood for -are, -ere, and -ire Verbs

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

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

To change any regular infinitive verb into the imperfetto subjunctive mood, first drop the final -re, from our infinitive -are, -ere, and -ire verbs to create the stem.

This will create stems that end in the letters –a for the –are verbs, -e for the –ere verbs, and–i for the –ire verbs.  Then add the 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 – Imperfetto Endings

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

 

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

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

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood – Example Verb Conjugations

  Abitare(to live)

(lived/were living)

Vedere(to see)

(saw/had seen)

Finire(to finish)

(finished/were finishing)

(che) io abitassi vedessi finissi
(che) tu abitassi vedessi finissi
(che) Lei/lei/lui abitasse vedesse finisse
       
(che) noi abitassimo vedessimo finissimo
(che) voi abitaste vedeste finiste
(che) loro abitassero vedessero finissero

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Regular Verbs

Luckily, most verbs are regular in the imperfetto subjunctive mood.  So, there are many, many more regular than irregular verbs!

Below are some commonly used regular verbs, some of which are irregular in the present tense and most other tenses! Practice saying them out loud and listen to how each conjugated verb sounds.

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood Conjugations – Commonly Used Regular Verbs
Andare(to go)

(went/were going)

Sapere
(to know)(knew/had known)
Venire(to come)

(came/had come)

Vivere(to live)

(lived/were living)

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

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Irregular Verbs

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

 

Fare – to do/make  Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io facessi I did/ made
tu facessi you (familiar) did/made
Leilei/lui facesse you (polite) did/madeshe/he did/made
     
noi facessimo we did/made
voi faceste you all did/made
loro facessero they did/made

 

 

Dare – to give – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io dessi I gave
tu dessi you (familiar) gave
Leilei/lui desse you (polite) gaveshe/he gave
     
noi dessimo we gave
voi deste you all gave
loro dessero they gave

 

 

Dire – to say/tell – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

io dicessi I said/told
tu dicessi you (familiar) said/told
Leilei/lui dicesse you (polite) said/toldshe/he said/told
     
noi dicessimo we said/told
voi diceste you all said/told
loro dicessero they said/told



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

Example Phrases Using the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood with the Past Tense

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

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 do not use the 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. Some sentences will work with both the imperfetto and passato prossimo introductory phrases if we add a time frame. In these cases, the passatto prossimo is given in blue.

You can see from our first example that use of the past 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?

 

Volevo che tu tornassi presto.
Ho voluto che tu tornassi presto ieri sera perché dovevo parlarti di una cosa importante.
I wanted that you returned early. =
I wanted you to have returned early.
I wanted you to have returned early last night because I had to talk to you about something important.
   
Volevo che lui  vendessi la macchina vecchia.
Ho voluto che lui vendesse la macchina vecchia l’anno scorso.
I wanted that he sold the old car (last year). =
I wanted him to have sold the old car (last year).
   
Desideravo che lei andasse via.
Ho desiderato che lei andasse via ieri sera.
I wanted that she went away (last night). =
I wanted her to have gone away (last night).
   
Desideravo che Lei facesse una bella torta per la festa.
Ho desiderato che Lei facesse una bella torta per la festa ieri.
I wanted that you made a nice cake for the party (yesterday). =
I wanted you to have made a nice cake for the party (yesterday).
   
Mi piaceva che tu venissi a Roma ogni giorno. I liked (It was pleasing to me) that you came to Rome every day. =
I liked (that fact that) you came to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiaceva che lui non sapesse questa informazione. I am sorry (It made me sorry) that he doesn’t know this information. =
I am sorry he doesn’t know this information.

 

 

Volevo che noi tornassimo presto.
Ho voluto che noi tornassimo presto ieri sera.
I wanted that we returned early (last night). =
I wanted us to have returned early (last night).
   
Volevo che noi vendessimo la macchina vecchia.
Ho voluto che noi vendessimo la macchina vecchia l’anno scorso.
I wanted that we sold the old car (last year). =
I wanted us to have sold the old car (last year).
   
Desideravo che voi  andaste via.
Ho desiderato che voi andaste via ieri sera.
I wanted that you all went away (last night). =
I wanted you all to have gone away (last night).
   
Desidero che voi faceste una bella torta per la festa.
Ho dovuto che voi faceste una bella torta per la festa ieri.
I wanted that you all made a nice cake for the party (yesterday). =
I wanted you all to have made a nice cake for the party (yesterday).
   
Mi piaceva che voi  veniste a Roma ogni giorno. I liked (It was pleasing to me)that  you all came to Rome every day. =
I liked (that fact that) you all came to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiace che voi  non sapeste questa informazione. I am sorry (It made me sorry) that you all don’t know this information. =
I am sorry you all don’t know this information.

 

 

Volevo che loro tornassero presto.
Ho voluto che noi tornassero presto ieri sera.
I wanted that they returned early (last night). =
I wanted them to have returned early (last night).
   
Volevo che loro vendessero la macchina vecchia.
Ho voluto che loro vendessero la macchina vecchia l’anno scorso.
I wanted that they sold the old car (last year). =
I wanted them to have sold the old car (last year).
   
Desideravo che loro  andassero via.
Ho desiderato che loro andassero via ieri sera.
I wanted that they went away (last night). =
I wanted them to have gone away (last night).
   
Desidero che loro facessero e una bella torta per la festa.
Ho dovuto che loro facessero una bella torta per la festa ieri.
I wanted that they  made a nice cake for the party (yesterday). =
I wanted them to have made a nice cake for the party (yesterday).
   
Mi piaceva che loro venissero a Roma ogni giorno. I liked (It was pleasing to me) that  they came to Rome every day. =
I liked (that fact that) they came to Rome every day.
   
Mi dispiace che loro non sapessero questa informazione. I am sorry (It made me 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, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
“Everything you need to know to enjoy your visit to Italy!”

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

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

More information on and photographs of Italy can be found on Facebook Stella Lucente Italian and Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian.
Facebook Stella Lucente Italian

Pinterest Stella Lucente Italian

Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

Imperfetto Subjunctive for Past Tense (Part 2): Speak Italian!

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

Italian has 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 mood 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.

These groups are listed below:

Groups 1-6: “Noun Clauses”

  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 suspicion, such as, ” I suspect that…” or “Sospetto che…”
  5. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…” and  ” To wonder if…” or  “Chiedersi se… “
  6. 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 that take the subjunctive mood (those that trigger doubt, uncertainty, desire, or a feeling)  usually end with a linking word, also known as a conjunction, which will be che.  In this situation, che means that.  The clause that follows our introductory phrase will then describe what the uncertainty is about.

Note that the simple present or past tenses can also be used after the introductory phrases listed below, rather than the subjunctive 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 sospettato che I suspected that Sospettavo che I suspected 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 the past.  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.  When speaking about the past tense, we must use the imperfetto 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: The Imperfetto  Subjunctive Mood (Part 1)

How to Conjugate and Use

 “Chiedersi”  –  To Wonder

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

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 previous blogs, instead, chiedersi follows the same rules as our verbs of uncertainty in Rule 4.

Therefore, when chiedersi is used in the past tense,  the phrase that follows will take the imperfetto subjunctive and the trapassato subjunctive forms. 

Here are  our previous examples for when one is wondering in the past tense about something that may have happened in either the present or the past.

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: 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, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers
 series of books and 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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Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

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

Italian Hypothetical Phrases from Conversational Italian

Italian Subjunctive (Part 5): Italian Hypothetical Phrases – Italian 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 very first blog about the Italian subjunctive mood, chiedersi follows the same pattern as the verbs in Rule 4.

We will learn in the next blog that these verbs, in the past tense, take the imperfetto subjunctive and the trapassato 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 our later blog posts 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 blog

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
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Visit learntravelitalian.com/download.html to purchase/download Conversational Italian for Travelers and find more interesting facts and helpful hints about getting around Italy! Learn how to buy train tickets online, how to make international and local telephone calls, and how to decipher Italian coffee names and restaurant menus, all while gaining the basic understanding of Italian that you will need to know to communicate easily and effectively while in Italy. —From the staff at Stella Lucente, LLC

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

Textbook Conversational Italian for Travelers

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

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

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

 

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

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 language. Meraviglioso!

But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Have you ever wondered about if something were to happen and just how you would express this idea in Italian? 

Well, we can express hypothetical, or “if” ideas, called Italian hypothetical phrases, in several ways in Italian and often with the Italian subjunctive mood that we have been focusing on in this series! 

This is the fourth blog post in the “Speak Italian” series that focuses on how to use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo.” This blog and the one to follow (in November 2017) will complete our list of uses for the Italian subjunctive mood. For a complete list, see our last blog, Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!

Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian! in this segment, we will discuss how to form Italian hypothetical phrases for probable and improbable “if” situations in Italian in the present. We will cover the phrases  that start with “come se,” “magari,” and “ammesso che.” We will also learn how to use the verb chiedersi, which means “to wonder.”

We will learn how to conjugate the Italian imperfetto subjunctive and how to use the Italian conditional tense to construct our improbable Italian hypothetical phrases.  

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

Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

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.  For a review, see our last blog, Italian Subjunctive (Part 3): Speak Italian!

In this blog post, we will focus on how to construct Italian hypothetical phrases, as well as the different Italian verb forms needed for probable and improbable situations.

Read our “real-life” dialogue for examples that can be used as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian. Then next time you are wondering about something, start a conversation and use Italian hypothetical phrases!

Enjoy the fourth blog post in this series, “Italian Subjunctive (Part 4): Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love”! —Kathryn Occhipinti

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


Speak Italian: Italian Subjunctive Mood with Italian Hypothetical Phrases

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

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

Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

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

Cara Susanna,
Dear Susan,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Lui si chiama Giovanni.
His name is John.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Tanti baci.
Lots of kisses.

Caterina.

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

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

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

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

**** A romantic relationship between two people is usually described as “una storia,” the shortened form of una storia d’amore,” or “a love story.”

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

Cara Caterina,
Dear Kathy,

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

A presto!
See you soon!

Susanna

*See the next section for comments about frequentarsi
**In this case, Italian uses the present tense for an ongoing action, whereas English uses the past tense.

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Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love

Talking about Relationships in Italian

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

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

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

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

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

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If one friend wants to ask the other about his/her new love, they may say,
“Che tipo è lei?” or “Che tipo è lui?” meaning, “What is he/she like?” or, more simply, “Che tipo è?”

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

To express a  relationship between two people in Italian, and especially a  close or romantic relationship, we can use the word “rapporto.”

Any relationship in general is considered a “relazione.” But be careful, as an “affair” outside of marriage is also a “relazione,” whereas “affari” refers to more general personal and business “affairs.”

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Finally, we know that many times romantic love comes to an end.  How do we describe a “break up” in Italian?  The verbs lasciare (to leave) and  lasciarsi (to leave each other) come into play.  From our dialogue:

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

Below is an example sentence two people might use talk about a couple that has “broken up” or two people who have”left each other”

Loro si sono lasciati.    They have broken up.

If you are one of the two people in the relationship and want to talk about “breaking up”:
Ci lasciamo stasera.                          We (will) break up/are breaking up tonight.
Non ci lasciamo, ma…                     We are not breaking up but…
Ci sono lasciati il mese scorso.    We broke up last month.                     

 


 

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

 

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

Periodo Ipotetico con “Se” in Presente

 

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

When we want to express the idea that something may happen in English, we most often start with a phrase that begins with the conjunction “if.”

The conjunction “if” starts a dependent clause in which we will describe a condition that could cause something else to happen. This dependent clause is then linked to a main clause that will describe the impending result or consequence that we are concerned about.

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

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

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

 


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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations

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

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

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

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

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for Probable Situations

 

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

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations

If + Present Verb > Present or Future Verb

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

 

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

 

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

  1. In both English and Italian, for the condition in the dependent clause, we start with the conjunction “if” (“se” in Italian) and then use the simple present tense.
  2. In both English and Italian, when the dependent if/se clause starts with the present tense, the main clause that follows can use either the present or the future tense.
  3. Italian may use the future tense for the condition, or se clause for situations that are in the more distant future but are really likely to happen (really probable).  (This does not occur in English.)
  4. *If the Italian dependent se clause is in the future tense, then the main clause that follows in Italian must also be in the future tense.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 


 

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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations with a Command

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Probable Situations with a Command

If + Present Verb > Imperative Verb

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

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:

Probable Situations
with a Command

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 


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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 Improbable Situations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nearly Impossible Situations

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

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

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

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

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

 

To Summarize: Italian Hypothetical Phrases for  Improbable Situations

 

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

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How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
Improbable Situations

 If + Imperfetto Subjunctive Verb >
Present Conditional Verb

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

 

Italian Hypothetical Phrases:

Improbable Situations

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

 

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

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

Let’s digress for a moment, and give some English examples of the subjunctive mood:

  • For instance, instead of “If I was…,” correct English would be “If I were…” to signal that the phrase to follow is hypothetical and the consequence unlikely.
  • Or, instead of “If I saw…,” correct use of the subjunctive would be “If I had seen…” (It is never grammatically correct to say “I seen…,” despite what one may actually hear in some towns in America today!)
  • To make matters more complicated, the English subjunctive form of many verbs is similar to the regular past tense form.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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


 

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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 “Come se” and “Magari” 

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“Come se…”

Hypothetical phrases can start with the phrase “Come se,”  which translates into the phrase “as if.” This phrase falls into the realm of hypothetical phrases since the comparison is with a characteristic or action that is improbable. It should be noted that, in Italian, the word “se” in this type of comparison phrase is sometimes omitted (see our last example).

Therefore, come se,  is an improbable hypothetical phrase, so it must always take the imperfetto subjunctive verb form in the present tense.  (In the past tense, the phrase come se  takes the trapssato subjunctive form, which will be the subject of the next blog.)

In English, as in Italian, the “as if” improbable hypothetical phrase will also use the subjunctive verb form.

Common phrases that use come se compare actions and characteristics of individuals in an attempt to make a point in a dramatic way.  These “as if” phrases may be flattering:

Il mio amico inglese non ha practicamente accento quando lui parla in italiano, come se fosse un vero italiano!
My British friend has virtually no accent when he speaks Italian,  as if he were a real Italian!

We often use this type of phrase to talk ironically about a situation, or to show our displeasure about something that has happened.  For instance,  I may be be shopping and a salesperson may try to sell me  a pair of shoes that are way too expensive for my budget. (Isn’t this always a problem, for both women and men?) I might say something like:

Mi mostra le scarpe più costose che ha, come se io fossi ricca!
She shows me the most expensive shoes they have, as if I were rich!”

A line from a novel by Gianrico Carofiglio, Testimone inconsapevole  illustrates how this “as if”  phrase can be used to emphasize an important point.  The line is spoken by the main character, who is the narrator of the book.  He relays the conversation he and his wife had when his wife tells him that she is filing for divorce. One of the reasons his wife gives for the divorce is that she feels humiliated because her husband thinks she has not noticed his many affairs – in effect treating her as if she were stupid. Clearly, she believes she is a smart woman, and notes with irony that he would chose to treat as if she were not. From page 16:

“Quello che l’aveva più umiliata non era la mia infedelità… ma il fatto che le avessi veramente mancato di rispetto trattandola come fosse una stupida.”

“That which had humiliated her the most was not my infidelity… but the fact that I had truly lost respect for her, treating her as if she were an idiot.”

 

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“Magari…”

“Magari” is a colorful and commonly used Italian word.  Make an Italian friend and you will no doubt hear this word!  Magari can be used as an adverb and in this case means, “even if.”  Magari is most often used as an interjection, with the rough meaning of “if only…” or “I wish…”  when the “I wish” is a statement of something that is unlikely to happen.

Magari is always followed by an imperfetto subjunctive verb in the present tense (and the trapassato subjunctive in the past tense) and takes the subjunctive in English as well.

For instance , let’s say I am talking to someone about my love of Italy.  They may mention that I should spend my summer there.  My response:

Magari, questo fosse possibile!
I wish/If only this were possible!

 


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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 “Ammesso che…” 

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A very common way to start an Italian conversation about a complex topic is with the phrase “Ammesso che…”  which translates into  “Assuming that…” This phrase falls into the realm of hypothetical phrases because, by definition, the speaker does not know if the facts to be discussed are true or not.  The phrase implies a starting point from which a discussion on a topic can begin, often in the hopes of uncovering the answer to a difficult question, or somehow finding a fact or the truth behind a certain situation.

Since the phrase “Ammesso che… is by definition uncertain, the phrase that follows must always be in the subjunctive mood.

 

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In some cases, the speaker knows already that it will be possible to uncover a fact or the truth behind a situation. He just needs to make the right assumption or ask the right questions to get his answer.  In these cases, “Ammesso che…” will be followed by a verb in the present subjunctive mood, just as the other verbs in Rule 4 that we learned about in our very first blog on the subjunctive mode.

After the assumption is posed, a third phrase will complete the sentence to describe what the speaker thinks will be the end result. Naturally, this final phrase will be in the future tense, since it is a prediction.

In English, the verb in the phrase to follow “Assuming that…” will be in the simple present tense and the third, final phrase will  be in the future tense.

Common phrases that start with “Ammesso che…”  could invoke a reflection about an individual’s character, or what that individual says or does.

Ammesso che lui sia…  bello/gentile/intelligente…  lui sarà un bravo fidanzato.
Assuming that he is…  handsome/kind/intelligent…  he will be a wonderful fiance.

Ammesso che lei dica…  che tutto va bene…   cominceremo il lavoro lunedì prossimo.
Assuming that she says... everything is good to go… we can start work next Monday.

Ammesso che tu possa…  prendere le vacanze in agosto…  andremo al Lago Maggiore.
Assuming that you can… take vacation in August… we will go to Lake Maggiore.

 

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In some cases, the speaker knows already that it will be nearly impossible to uncover a fact or the truth behind a situation.  Or possibly the speaker has a wish for the future that he knows is unlikely to come about. But he is trying to come to some conclusion anyway, or  figure out a way to make something happen. In these cases, “Ammesso che…” will be followed by a verb in the imperfetto subjunctive mood.

After the assumption is posed, a third phrase will complete the sentence to describe what the speaker thinks will be the end result. Naturally, since we are working with the imperfetto, this final phrase will be in the conditional tense, either present or past, depending on the situation.

In English, the verb in the phrase to follow “Assuming that…” will also be in the subjunctive mood to reflect the improbability of the situation and the third, final phrase will  be in the present or past conditional tense, just like in Italian.

Common phrases that start with “Ammesso che…”  could invoke a reflection about an individual’s character, or what that individual says or does. There may be a hint of irony in these phrases with the use of the imperfetto, as the speaker makes an assumption he already knows will be unlikely to happen. Let’s try our examples above, this time creating nearly impossible characteristics or situations.

Ammesso che lui fosse…  ricco/famoso/un presidente …  lui potrebbe essere un bravo fidanzato.
Assuming that he were…  rich/famous/a president…  he would be a wonderful fiance.

Ammesso che lei dicesse…  di aver vinto la lotteria…   avremmo cominciato/ avremmo potuto cominciare il lavoro lunedì prossimo.
Assuming that she had said… she has won the lottery… we could start/ could have started work next Monday.

Ammesso che tu potessi…  smettere di lavorare ogni Domenica…  potemmo andare al Lago Maggiore.
Assuming that you could… stop working every Sunday… we could go to Lake Maggiore.

 


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

How to Make Italian Hypothetical Phrases
 “Chiedersi” 

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Finally, no discussion on Italian hypothetical phrases  would be complete without mention of the verb chiedersi, which is the verb Italians use to describe the idea of “wondering if…” something might happen.

“Mi chiedo…” literally means, “I ask myself,” which translates into “I wonder.”  At first glance, it may seem like this verb should fall into the category of improbable hypothetical phrases – especially when this verb is followed by se,  such as in the phrase “I wonder if…”  But, cheidersi takes the present and past tense (passato) subjunctive forms,  just as the other verbs in Rule 4 that we learned about in our very first blog on the subjunctive mode.

So, you already know how to use this verb if you have read the first blog in this series!

Here are some examples for when one is wondering in the present tense about something that happened in either the present or the past.  Notice the use of either the present subjunctive mood or the passato subjunctive mood.

Mi chiedo se lui sia un attore bravo in quel film.
I wonder if he is a great actor in that film.

Mi chiedo se lui sia stato un attore bravo in quel film.
I wonder if he was a great actor in that film.

 


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

Improbable Italian Hypothetical Phrases

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Auxiliary Verbs – “Essere, Avere, Stare”

The most commonly used improbable hypothetical phrases begin with the words, “If I were…” or “If I had…”

So in Italian, the two most important phrases using the imperfetto subjunctive to remember are, “Se io fossi…” and “Se io avessi…” using the imperfetto subjunctive conjugations for essere and avere.

Below are the imperfetto subjunctive conjugations for the auxiliary verbs in Italian. You will notice that avere has a regular conjugation, whereas essere and stare have irregular conjugations. The stressed syllables are underlined.

In hypothetical clauses, because the imperfetto 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—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(se) lei/lui

avesse you (polite) had

she/he had

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

 

Essere—to be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(se) lei/lui

fosse you (polite) were

she/he were

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

 

Stare—to stay/be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(se) lei/lui

stesse you (polite) stayed/were

she/he stayed/were

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

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To conjugate the imperfetto subjunctive mood…

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

 

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

Subjunctive Mood – Imperfetto Endings

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

 

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

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

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

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood – Example Verb Conjugations

  Abitare

(to live)

(lived/were living)

Vedere

(to see)

(saw/had seen)

Finire

(to finish)

(finished/were finishing)

io abitassi vedessi finissi
tu abitassi vedessi finissi
Lei/lei/lui abitasse vedesse finisse
       
noi abitassimo vedessimo finissimo
voi abitaste vedeste finiste
loro abitassero vedessero finissero

 


The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Regular Verbs

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

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

 

Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood Conjugations – Commonly Used Regular Verbs

Andare

(to go)

(went/were going)

Sapere
(to know)(knew/had known)
Venire

(to come)

(came/had come)

Vivere

(to live)

(lived/were living)

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

The Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

Commonly Used Irregular Verbs

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

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

 

Fare – to do/make Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

lei/lui

facesse you (polite) did/made

she/he did/made

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

 

 

Dare – to give – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

lei/lui

desse you (polite) gave

she/he gave

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

 

 

Dire – to say/tell – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

lei/lui

dicesse you (polite) said/told

she/he said/told

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


Grammar Note: The Italian Conditional Tense

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

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.

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Grammar Note: Present versus Conditional Tense

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Mi può auitare?                 Could you(polite) help me?

Potrebbe aiutarmi?         Could you (polite) help me?

Ti posso aiutare?               May I help you (familiar)?      

Potrei aiutarla?                   May I help you (polite)?


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

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

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

 

Dovere – to have to – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

 

Potere – to can – Imperfetto Subjunctive  Mood

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

 

Volere – to want – Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

Best Kathy Twitter Pic edited for blogKathryn Occhipinti, MD, author of the
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Italian Subjunctive (Part 4) : Italian Hypothetical Phrases of Love