Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!
Can you speak Italian? By now, many of you have passed the beginning stages of learning to speak Italian and can read and comprehend quite a bit of the Italian language. Meraviglioso!
But have you tried to take the next step to speak Italian fluently? Can you use the Italian subjunctive mood in the correct situations? To express complex feelings in Italian correctly, it is important to use the Italian subjunctive mood. Using the subjunctive mood is difficult for English speakers, as we only rarely use this tense in English, and this is something that I am always working on! The blogs in the “Speak Italian” blog series will focus on how to conjugate and use the Italian subjunctive mood, or “il congiuntivo.”
Let’s take that giant step from simple beginning sentences to more complex and fluid sentences in Italian by using the subjunctive mood. In this segment, we will discuss when volere, desiderare, piacere, and dispiacere take the subjunctive mood. We will also learn the conjugation of the present tense subjunctive mood for the -are, -ere, and -ire verbs and the commonly used irregular verbs andare, dare, dire, fare, sapere, and venire. Example sentences will follow!
In each blog in the “Speak Italian” series about the Italian subjunctive mood (“il congiuntivo”), we will first present phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood.
Then, we will review how to conjugate the Italian subjunctive mood.
Finally, we will present common phrases used in daily life that take the Italian subjunctive mood.
Remember these examples as “anchors” in your knowledge for when you must speak Italian and try out the subjunctive mood in your next Italian conversation!
Enjoy the second blog in this series, “Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!”
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.
Once Again… Phrases That Take the Italian 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). The subjunctive mood is also used with the conditional tense, but this will be the topic of later blogs. These initial phrases imply uncertainty and trigger the subjunctive mood in the phrase to follow.
In our first blog about the Italian subjunctive mood, we learned that these initial phrases fall into several groups. We discussed Groups 1 through Group 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 Italian subjunctive mood, which we have added into our original list as Group 7 and Group 8.
Groups 1-8: “Noun Clauses”
- 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].*
- Impersonal constructions that begin with, “It is…” such as, “È possibile che…”
- Phrases that express a doubt, such as, “I don’t know…” or “Non so che…”
- Phrases that express suspicion, such as, ” I suspect that…” or “Sospetto che…”
- Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…” and “Chiedersi se… “ or ” To wonder if…”
- Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…
- 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.
- Phrases that use the verbs piacere and dispiacere when the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the clause that follows. In this situation, these verbs will be followed by che.
As usual, there is a summary table at the end of the next section that shows how to use these phrases. The present tense and present conditional phrases are in the first two columns and the past tense phrases in the last two columns. Notice that the imperfetto form of the past tense is given in our table for brevity, but the passato prossimo form of the past tense can also be used, depending on the situation. Use of the past tense forms will be the topic of later blogs.
Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:
In Italian, the introductory phrases 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 Italian Subjunctive Mood with
Volere and Desiderare
When expressing one’s desire in Italian in the first person (io conjugation), voglio/vorrei and desidero are used in similar situations to mean I want and I would like. In this case, these helping verbs are followed directly by another verb that is in the infinitive tense (if you remember, infinitive verbs end in -are, -ere, -ire and translate as “to…”). Of course, these verbs can also be followed by a noun, the “object of our desire”!
Volere and desiderare are covered in detail in Chapter 4 of our textbook, Conversational Italian for Travelers, if you would like a review. Below are some simple examples:
Voglio imparare l’italiano. I want to learn Italian.
Vorrei viaggiare in Italia. I would like to travel to Italy.
Desidero andare al cinema. I want to go to the movies.
But when these same verbs—voglio/vorrei and desidero—are used to express a desire for something that the speaker in the first person (io) wants another person to do, then these helping verbs must be followed by che, and then the subjunctive mood should be used for the verb in the next phrase.
In the same way, I can ask that someone do something using the verb chiedere or insist that they do it with the verb esigere. But just asking someone else or even insisting does not mean that it will be done (as those of us who have children know). So, in these cases as well, the verbs chiedo and esigo (I want and I insist) will be followed by the conjunction che and the next phrase will use a verb in the subjunctive form.
In this blog, we will only discuss the present tense subjunctive mood used with voglio and desidero.
How to Use the Italian Subjunctive Mood with
Piacere and Dispiacere
The verb forms mi piace, mi piacerrebbe and mi dispiace, mi dispiaccerebbe follow the same rule given for the verbs in Group 6 we just discussed: when the verb that follows these introductory phrases refers to the speaker (io form), then a verb in the infinitive form follows directly. When the verb that follows refers to someone else, che is used as a link to a verb in the subjunctive mood in the second clause.
In this blog, we will only discuss the present tense subjunctive mood used with mi piace and mi dispiace.
In our example table that follows, we will illustrate the use of che followed by a different speaker from the introductory phrase with ...che tu. This conjunction means …that you. Of course, we can replace tu with any of the other subject pronouns, and then the phrases would be: ….che Lei, che lei, che lui, che noi, che voi, or che loro.
|Phrases Used to Introduce the Subjunctive Mood with Volere, Desiderare, Piacere, Dispiacere|
|Present Tense &
Groups 6 and 7
|Past Tense &
Past Conditional Tense
Groups 6 and 7
|Voglio… che tu||I want… that you||Volevo… che tu||I wanted… that you|
|Vorrei… che tu||I would like…
|Volevo… che tu||I wanted… that you|
|Desidero… che tu
Chiedo … che tu
Esigo… che tu
I want… that you
|Desideravo… che tu
Chiedevo… che tu
Esigevo… che tu
|I wanted… that you
I asked… that you
I insisted… that you
|Mi piace… che tu||I like… that you||Mi piaceva… che tu||I liked… that you|
|Mi dispiace… che tu||I am sorry… that you||Mi dispiaceva… che tu||I was sorry… that you|
|I would like…
|Mi sarebbe piaciuto… che tu||I would have liked…
|I don’t mind…
|Mi sarebbe piaciuto… che tu||I didn’t mind… that you|
Finally, a word of caution:
DO NOT USE THE SUBJUNCTIVE WITH THE FOLLOWING THREE PHRASES!
Forse = Perhaps
Per me = For me
Secondo me = According to me
The above may seem like exceptions to the rule, but perhaps… because these phrases already express doubt or your personal opinion… in the Italian way of thinking, it would be redundant to use these phrases along with the subjunctive!
How to Conjugate the Italian Subjunctive Mood Present Tense for -are, -ere, and -ire Verbs
To change any regular infinitive verb into the present subjunctive mood, first drop the final -are, -ere, or -ire to create the stem. Then add the endings given in the first table below to the stem that has been created. Examples for each verb type are given in the second table below.*
The word che is included in parentheses in the subject pronoun column as a reminder that these verb forms typically are used with the conjunction che. Also, use the subject pronoun in your sentence after che for clarity, since the endings for the singular forms are all the same!
Practice the subjunctive verbs out loud by saying che, the subject pronoun and then the correct verb form that follows!
|Subjunctive Mood – Present Tense|
|Subject Pronoun||-are ending||-ere ending||-ire ending|
*(The stressed syllable for the example verbs has been underlined in the table above.)
- When pronouncing the subjunctive verbs, the stress will fall in the same place as in the conjugated verb forms for the present tense. This will be in the beginning of the verb (first or second syllable) for the io, tu, Lei/lei, lui, and loro forms, and one syllable to the right (second or third syllable) for the noi and voi forms.
- Notice that all of the singular subjunctive endings (io, tu, Lei/lei lui) are the same for each infinitive form of the verb.
- Also, all the endings for the -ere and -ire verbs are identical in the first person!
- The noi and voi forms are the same for all infinitive verb forms as well.
- The noi form is identical to the present tense!
The Subjunctive Mood – Present Tense
Commonly Used Irregular Verbs
Here are the irregular present subjunctive forms for six commonly used verbs in Italian. It may be useful to commit these forms to memory, as these verbs are often used in the subjunctive mood in written and spoken Italian. Notice that the translation is the simple present tense in English.
Andare – to go – Present Subjunctive Mood
|(che) io||vada||I go|
|(che) tu||vada||you (familiar) go|
|vada||you (polite) go
|(che) noi||andiamo||we go|
|(che) voi||andiate||you all go|
|(che) loro||vadano||they go|
Dare – to give – Present Subjunctive Mood
|(che) io||dia||I give|
|(che) tu||dia||you give|
|(che) noi||diamo||we give|
|(che) voi||diate||you all give|
|(che) loro||diano||they give|
Dire – to say/ to tell – Subjunctive Mood
|(che) io||dica||I say/tell|
|(che) tu||dica||you (familiar) say/tell
|dica||you (polite) say/tell
|(che) noi||diciamo||we say/tell|
|(che) voi||diciate||you all say/tell|
|(che) loro||dicano||they say/tell|
Fare – to do/ to make– Present Subjunctive Mood
|(che) io||faccia||I do/ make|
|(che) tu||faccia||you (familiar) do/make
|faccia||you (polite) do/make
|(che) noi||facciamo||we do/make|
|(che) voi||facciate||you all do/make|
|(che) loro||facciano||they do/make|
Sapere – to know (facts) – Present Subjunctive Mood
|(che) io||sappia||I know|
|(che) tu||sappia||you (familiar) know|
|sappia||you (polite) know
|(che) noi||sappiamo||we know|
|(che) voi||sappiate||you all know|
|(che) loro||sappiano||they know|
Venire – to come – Present Subjunctive Mood
|(che) io||venga||I come|
|(che) tu||venga||you (familiar) come|
|venga||you (polite) come
|(che) noi||veniamo||we come|
|(che) voi||veniate||you all come|
|(che) loro||vengano||they come|
Example Phrases Using the Present Tense Subjunctive Mood
To follow are some examples of how the Italian subjunctive mood in the present tense might be used in conversation during daily life. (In later blog posts in this series, we will cover examples of how to use the subjunctive when the introductory phrase is in the conditional or the past tense.)
Notice that English sentence structure differs from Italian in most of these sentences. We can make a similar sentence in English as in Italian, but it would be considered an “awkward” sentence.
The biggest difference is that we English speakers 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. You can see from our first example that use of the subjunctive in the opening phrase really does allow one to make complex sentences. The first example has been completed to express a complex situation. Have fun expanding the sentences we have given. How many more combinations can you think of?How many more combinations can you think of?
|Voglio che tu torni presto perché ho una bella sorpresa per te.||I want that you return soon because I have a wonderful surprise for you. =
I want you to return soon because I have a wonderful surprise for you.
|Voglio che lui venda la macchina vecchia.||I want that he sells the old car. =
I want him to sell the old car.
|Desidero che lei parta questa sera.||I want that she leaves tonight. =
I want her to leave tonight.
|Desidero che Lei faccia una bella torta per la festa.||I want that you make a nice cake for the party. =
I want you to make a nice cake for the party.
|Mi piace che tu vada a Roma ogni giorno.||I like that you go to Rome every day. =
I like (that fact that) you to go to Rome every day.
|Mi dispiace che lui non sappia questa informazione.||I am sorry that he doesn’t know this information. =
I am sorry he doesn’t know this information.
|Voglio che noi torniamo presto.||I want that we return soon. =
I want us to return soon.
|Voglio che noi vendiamo la macchina vecchia.||I want that we sell the old car. =
I want us to sell the old car.
|Desidero che voi partiate questa sera.||I want that you all leave tonight. =
I want you all to leave tonight.
|Desidero che voi facciate una bella torta per la festa.||I want that you all make a nice cake for the party. =
I want you all to make a nice cake for the party.
|Mi piace che voi andiate a Roma ogni giorno.||I like that you all go to Rome every day. =
I like (the fact that) you to go to Rome every day.
|Mi dispiace che voi non sappiate questa informazione.||I am sorry that you all don’t know this information. =
I am sorry you all don’t know this information.
|Voglio che loro tornino presto.||I want that they return soon. =
I want them to return soon.
|Voglio che loro vendano la macchina vecchia.||I want that they sell the old car. =
I want them to sell the old car.
|Desidero che loro partano questa sera.||I want that they leave tonight. =
I want them to leave tonight.
|Desidero che loro facciano una bella torta per la festa.||I want that they make a nice cake for the party. =
I want them to make a nice cake for the party.
|Mi piace che loro vadano a Roma ogni giorno.||I like that they go to Rome every day. =
I like them to go to Rome every day.
|Mi dispiace che loro non sappiano questa informazione.||I am sorry that they don’t know this information. =
I am sorry they don’t know this information.
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.
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Italian Subjunctive (Part 2): Speak Italian!