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

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

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

 

Speak Italian: How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

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

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

Speak Italian: How to Use the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Introducing… Italian Phrases That Take the Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

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

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

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

Phrases that take the Italian subjunctive mood are listed below:

  1. Phrases that use the verbs credere (to believe), pensare (to think), and sperare (to hope). These verbs use the pattern: [verb  di + infinitive verb to describe the beliefs, thoughts, or hopes that one has. When the subject in the introductory phrase is not the same as the subject in the subjunctive clause that follows, the pattern changes to: [verb + che + subjunctive verb].*
  2. Impersonal constructions that begin with, “It is…” such as, “È possibile che…”
  3. Phrases that express a doubt, such as, “I don’t know…” or “Non so che…”
  4. Phrases that express uncertainty, such as, “It seems to me…” or “Mi sembra che…”
  5. Impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as, “Basta che…” “It is enough that,” or “Si dice che…” “They say that…

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

 

Points to remember about the subjunctive mood:

In Italian, the introductory phrases 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 dubitato che I doubted that Dubitavo che I doubted that
Sono stato(a) convinto che I was convinced that Ero convinto che I was convinced that
 
(A meno che only used in present tense) (Unless)    
Ho convenuto che It was best that Conveniva che It was best that
È bastato(a) che It was enough that Bastava che It was enough that
(Malgrado che only used in present tense) (In spite of that)    
Si è detto che It was said that =
One says/said that
Si diceva che It was said that
Hanno detto che They said that Dicevano che They said that
 C’è stato bisognato che  It was necessary that =
There was a need for that
 Bisognava che  It was necessary that

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

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

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

 

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

Finally, a word of caution:

DO NOT USE THE SUBJUNCTIVE WITH THE FOLLOWING THREE PHRASES!

Forse = Perhaps

 Per me = For me

Secondo me = According to me

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


Speak Italian: The Imperfetto  Subjunctive Mood (Part 1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avere—to have—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(che) lei/lui

avesse you (polite) had

she/he had

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

 

Essere—to be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(che) lei/lui

fosse you (polite) were

she/he were

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

 

Stare—to stay/be—Imperfetto Subjunctive Mood

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

(che) lei/lui

stesse you (polite) stayed/were

she/he stayed/were

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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


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

As we noted in our first blog about the Italian subjunctive, we often close an email with a hope as well—for a nice weekend, for instance, or that we will see the person we have contacted sometime soon.

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

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

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

Buona serata.

Have a good day.

Have a good evening.

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

 


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

As we discussed in our first blog on the subjunctive, the verb essere (to be) is commonly used when describing someone’s characteristics to someone else.  But what if we are not sure that someone possesses a certain characteristic, or we would like someone to possess a characteristic we fear they may not have?

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

Present or Past Tense
Phrase
Present Tense
Subjunctive Phrase
 

 

Lei era bella.

 

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

Speravo che l’insegnante fosse simpatico.

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

 

God is in heaven.

 

 


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

 

 

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


Pensavo che l’attrice fosse 
brava in quel film.

 

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

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

 


I believed that he was fortunate.

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

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

 

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

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

Può darsi che loro fossero bravi cantanti quando erano giovani.

 

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

Dubitavo che lui fosse un bravo studente.

 

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

(It was probable that she was married.)

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

 


Speak Italian: Common Italian Phrases to Introduce the Past Tense

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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 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…”

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

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 an Italian sentence 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 this 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
 “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 subjunctive forms (not the imperfetto form), just as our verbs of hoping, thinking, and believing, sperarepensare, and credere.

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 in the present and the past.

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