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I NOMI

Nouns (and how to make them plural)


Italian nouns are divided into two genders: masculine and feminine.

Italian nouns end in 3 possible ways:

-A like pizza, pasta, casa

-O like bambino, minuto, disegno

-E like ristorante, studente, ospedale

Words borrowed from another language like sport, weekend, jogging, film are masculine and
have no plural form.

1. Nouns which end in -A are nearly always feminine; to make them plural change -A to -E:
e.g.
casa = house ; houses = case
pizza = pizza ; pizzas = pizze
porta = door ; doors = porte

2. Nouns which end in -O are nearly always masculine; to make them plural change -O to -I:
e.g.
ragazzo = boy ; boys = ragazzi
gelato = ice cream ; ice creams = gelati
tempo = time ; times = tempi

3. Nouns which end in -E can be either masculine or feminine and you have to learn the
gender when you learn the word; to make these nouns plural change -E to -I :e.g.
ristorante = restaurant ; restaurants = ristoranti
notte = night ; nights = notti
studente = student ; students = studenti

Notes:
1. Many nouns in Italian end in -ità (note the grave accent on the final -a). These nouns do not
have a plural form. Nor does the noun città (city).

2. Look at these two masculine nouns: zio (plural zii) and occhio (plural occhi). You will only
find two 'i's if the 'i' in the singular carries the stress of the word.

3. Spelling: Nouns ending in -ca and -ga are spelt -che and -ghe in the plural: e.g.

banca = bank ; banks = banche


riga = line ; lines = righe

Nouns ending in -co and -go are spelt -chi and -ghi in the plural: e.g.
fico = fig ; figs = fichi
fungo = mushroom ; mushrooms = funghi

Exercise 1: Turn all the nouns below into the plural. (This is not an interactive exercise;
you'll have to use paper and check your answers)

porta ; finestra ; gatto ; cane ; ombrello ; ospedale ; cerimonia ; opportunità ; film ; posto ;
lago ; unione ; spiaggia ; giacca ; albergo ; sbaglio ; sacco ; università ; sport ; città.

To check your answers click here.

Back to Grammar Index Page

N.B. THIS IS NOT AN EXHAUSTIVE SET OF RULES: THERE ARE SOME


IRREGULAR NOUNS WHICH ARE NOT DEALT WITH HERE. LEARN THEM AS
YOU MEET THEM!

However, you ought to know the following:

A. These nouns are masculine although they end in -a:

1. il cinema
2. Nouns ending in -ma which are Greek in origin.

il clima
il diploma
il problema
il programma
il tema (theme)

B. Nouns ending in -ista correspond to English nouns ending in -ist; they denote people who
do things and can be masculine or feminine; the plural can be -isti or -iste depending on the
gender.

C. The noun mano is feminine even although it end in -o: la mano and the plural is le mani.

D. Some masculine nouns have strange plurals:

singular plural
il braccio (arm) le braccia
il dito (finger) le dita
l'osso (bone) le ossa
il labbro (lip) le labbra
l'uovo (egg) le uova
il paio (pair) le paia

E. These two nouns are irregular!


singular plural
l'uomo (man) gli uomini
la moglie (wife) le mogli

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L'articolo determinativo— The Definite Article
This is the grammatical name for the English word “the”.
1 Feminine nouns — easy.
If the feminine noun is singular, use LA (or abbreviate it to L'if the noun begins with a
vowel). If the feminine noun is plural use LE and never abbreviate it, even if the noun begins
with a vowel. For example:

singular plural
la ragazza le ragazze
la casa le case
l'ora le ore
l'erba le erbe
la chiave le chiavi
la notte le notti
l'opinione le opinioni
l'opportunità le opportunità

2 Masculine nouns — tricky.


There is only one word for "the" for feminine nouns, but before a masculine noun you need to
choose between IL and LO. You make the choice depending on how the masculine noun
begins. You should find that you choose IL most of the time. Here are the rules:

1. Use IL and its plural I when the masculine noun begins with a consonant.
2. Use LO and its plural GLI when the masculine noun begins with a vowel, or z or
“impure s” — i.e. the letter s followed by another consonant. LO can be abbreviated
to L' before a word beginning with a vowel.
3. Remember that any nouns borrowed from another language are masculine and have
no plural.

This table summarises all you need to know about masculine nouns and there articles:

singular plural
il ragazzo i ragazzi
il ristorante i ristoranti
l'albergo gli alberghi
lo sbaglio gli sbagli
lo zio gli zii
l'ufficiale gli ufficiali
lo sport gli sport
il film i film

If you can master how to change words from singular to plural a huge amount of Italian
grammar will become very easy. It is vital that you try very hard to master this piece of
grammar before you move on.

If you can master the definite article, you will be able to understand and use correctly some
necessary but rather tricky pieces of Italian grammar, so try to master this before you move
on.

L'articolo indeterminativo — The Indefinite Article


This is the grammatical name for the English word “a”.
1 Feminine nouns — easy.
The word for “a” before a feminine noun is una which can be abbreviated to un' if the noun
begins with a vowel.

2 Masculine nouns — less easy.


The usual word is un which is used before all masculine nouns (including those which begin
with a vowel) except those which begin with z or s impure. Study the following table which
should explain it all.

masculine feminine
un ragazzo una ragazza
un amico un'amica
un ospedale un'intezione
uno sconto una scarpa
uno specchio una specie
uno zingaro una zingara
un salmone una salsiccia
un trattore una trattoria

Exercise 2 : Put the Definite Article (il/lo/l'/la/l') in front of each of the following singular
nouns;
if you are not immediately sure of the gender of the noun, check in a dictionary.
1) .....
6) .... madre
paesino
2) ..... stanza 7) .... padre
3) ..... stato 8) .... umidità
4) ..... acqua 9) .... zucchero
5) .....occhio 10) .... insalata

Exercise 3: Put the Indefinite Article (un/uno/una/un') in front of each of the following
nouns;
if you are not immediately sure of the gender of the noun, check in a dictionary.

1) .....
6) .... madre
paesino
2) ..... stanza 7) .... padre
3) ..... stato 8) .... orecchio
4) .....
9) .... zero
opinione
5) .....occhio 10) .... insalata

Exercise 4: change all the following phrases into the plural:

1. la sera
2. la stazione
3. l'uva
4. l'idea
5. il libro
6. il dente
7. lo strumento
8. lo studente
9. l'ospedale
10. l'uccello

To check your answers click here

Return to Grammar Index Page.

The Partitive Article — Il Partitivo


This is the grammatical name for the English word "some" or
"any".
There are several ways that this can be translated into Italian but you must master the
first method so that you can use the two irregular adjectives bello and quello which follow the
same pattern.

1 The commonest word for "some" is del. This word is a combination of the word di and the
various forms of the definite article as shown in the table below. If you're not sure about all
the various forms of the definite article revise it again here.

masc. sing. fem. sing. masc. plur. fem. plur.


Definite Article il lo l' la l' i gli le
Partitive Article del dello dell' della dell' dei degli delle

Master this word before you move on. The form you need is the one which corresponds to the
definite article which would be used with the noun: for example:
1. Suppose you want to say "some wine"; 'the' wine is il vino, so 'some' wine is del vino.
2. Suppose you want to say "some friends" ; 'the' friends is gli amici, so 'some' friends is degli
amici.

You will see that to handle this word correctly you must understand the definite article.
Revise it again if you have to but it won't get any easier if you pretend that it will go away if
you ignore it.

Exercise 1 Here is a shopping list; translate the items into Italian. (Use a dictionary for the
nouns)

1. some wine
2. some bread
3. some cheese
4. some apples
5. some fruit
6. some biscuits
7. some mineral water
8. some oil
9. some vinegar
10. some garlic
11. some spaghetti (N.B. this word is masc. plur.)
12. some lasagne (N.B. this word is fem. plur.)
13. some sugar
14. some onions
15. some courgettes (courgette = zucchino)

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2 Use a dictionary to help you translate these sentence into Italian, using the correct
part of del.
N.B. "there is" = c'è ; "there are" = ci sono.

1. Is there any bread?


2. Are there any rolls?
3. Is there any butter?
4. Is there any oil?
5. There are some nice strawberries in the garden (nel giardino)
6. There is some wine downstairs.
7. There are some houses
8. Are there any shops?
9. Is there any fresh milk?
10. There are some mistakes.

To check your answers click here.

Master the word del before you go any further. The adjectives bello and quello follow the
same pattern; learn it thoroughly.

Here are the other ways of saying "some" : Look carefully at the conditions under which they
can be used.

2 alcuni ; alcune [only used with a plural noun; it agrees with its noun]

e.g. I invited some friends = Ho invitato alcuni amici


I spent a few hours in Rome = Ho passato alcune ore a Roma

3 qualche [invariable; followed by a singular noun in Italian, but its meaning is plural]

This is a good one to use in higher writing.

e.g. I invited some friends = Ho invitato qualche amico


I spent a few hours in Rome = Ho passato qualche ora a Roma.
I have been leaninng Italian for a few weeks = Imparo l'italiano da qualche settimana.
I would like to spend some days in Rome = Vorrei passare qualche giorno a Roma.

4 un po' di = a little; a bit of ; some [invariable]

e.g. I need a bit of peace = Ho bisogno di un po' di pace.


I take a little milk in my coffee = prendo un po' di latte nel caffe.

5 NOT USED IN A NEGATIVE SENTENCE IN ITALIAN:

e.g. I don't have any problems = Non ho problemi


There's no more milk = Non c è più latte.

6 nessun ; nessuno ; nessuna ; nessun' = not any [double negative! sing.only]


e.g. I didn't prepare any special dishes = Non ho preparato nessun piatto speciale.
I don't have any idea = Non ho nessun'idea.

Exercise 3 Here are some sentences in English which have been partially translated into
Italian. You have to supply the missing words, but be careful, not all the gaps require a word
— look at 5 above!

1. I bought some pasta = Ho comprato ______ pasta.


2. Some friends invited me to a party. = ___________ amici mi hanno invitato a una
festa.
3. I met some nice people = Ho conosciuto ___________ persone simpatiche.
4. There were some long tables = C'erano ________ lunghi tavoli.
5. On the tables there were some bottles of beer = Sui tavoli c'era _________ bottiglia di
birra.
6. There were also a few plates of cheese. = C'erano anche ________ piatti di formaggio.
7. There wasn't any more sparkling wine nor any brandy. = Non c'era più _______
spumante e neanche ______ cognac.
8. I drank a few glasses of red wine = Ho bevuto _______ bicchiere di vino rosso.
9. I ate some salad, and some olives = Ho mangiato _______ insalata e ________ olive.
10. Maria left with some students. = Maria è partita con ________ studenti.

To check your answers click here.

Return to the Grammar Index Page.

ADJECTIVES — Aggettivi
This page is divided into 4 sections dealing with:
• regular adjectives
• irregular adjectives
• possessive adjectives
• comparative and superlative adjectives

1. REGULAR ADJECTIVES
Adjectives in Italian must match the noun they describe in
gender and number.
This means that if the noun is feminine, the adjective must be
feminine, and
if the noun is plural, the adjective must be plural.
Gender means making the adjective masculine or feminine to agree with the noun.
Number means making the adjective singular or plural to agree with the noun.

Adjectives make their plurals in the same way that nouns make their plurals, so go
back and revise the page about nouns if you are not sure.

In Italian, adjectives usually come after the noun they are describing but a few
always stand before their noun; these are as follows:

1. possessive adjectives (my, your, his/her etc.) which are dealt with below.
2. demonstrative adjectives (this/that) also dealt with below.
3. the adjectives "molto" (much) and "troppo" (too much)
4. some adjectives denoting size can come before or after their noun.

In dictionaries, adjectives are always given in the masculine singular and this may not be
the form in which you need the adjective and you may have to change it.

There are only 3 irregular adjectives which you need to know; they are dealt with at the
end of this page.

Italian adjectives are of two basic types: piccolo and grande — i.e. they either end
in -o or they end in -e.

If the adjective ends in -o, it has four possible endlings: piccolo (masc. sing.)
piccola (fem. sing.)

piccolo (masc. sing.) piccola (fem. sing.)


piccoli (masc. plur.) piccole (fem. plur.)

Now compare an adjective that ends in -e

grande (masc. sing.) grande (fem. sing.)


grandi (masc. plur.) grandi (fem. plur.)

This type of adjective has no feminine form; it only has a plural form which is both masculine
and feminine.

Spelling: Be careful when changing some adjectives because you may need to make a
spelling change to preserve the sound of the consonant before the ending: for example:

stanco (masc. sing.) stanca (fem. sing.)


stanchi (masc. plur.) stanche (fem. plur.)

lungo (masc. sing.) lunga (fem. sing.)


lunghi (masc. plur.) lunghe (fem. plur.)

drammatico (masc. drammatica (fem.


sing.) sing.)
drammatici (masc. drammatiche (fem.
plur.) plur.)

The last adjective above "drammatico" shows you something which regularly happens with
adjectives ending in "-ico", — i.e.the masculine plural is -ici while the feminine plural is
-iche.
Similarly, adjectives ending in "-igo" have the masculine plural -igi, and the feminine plural
-ighe.

Remember the rules for making nouns and adjectives plural:

singular plural
ends in -a change to -e
ends in -o change to -i
ends in -e change to -i

Now try a couple of exercises to see if you have mastered the idea of plurals of nouns and
agreement of adjectives:

Exercise 1 : Change the following phrases into the plural. If you have not met the definite
article yet, don't try to make the first word in each phrase plural. If you need to revise the
article, do that before you try this exercise.

1. la bella ragazza
2. il nuovo metodo
3. il bravo studente
4. il vecchio amico scozzese
5. il giovane ragazzo
6. la prima lezione francese
7. il formaggio francese
8. lo studente tedesco
9. il nuovo sport popolare
10. la grande città industriale
11. il vino magnifico italiano
12. l'attore famoso.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2 Change the following phrases into the plural. Be careful about the spelling of
some of the adjectives in the plural. You don't need to know the definite article for this
exercise.

1. capello lungo e biondo


2. occhio castano e lucido
3. tifoso fanatico
4. via larga
5. vecchia fiaba fantastica
6. giacca sporca
7. strada lunga e serpeggiante
8. famiglia ricca e importante
9. giovane americano ricco
10. esercizio grammaticale

To check your answers click here.

2. IRREGULAR ADJECTIVES
There are only 3 irregular adjectives:
1. buono (good)
2. bello (beautiful, nice)
3. quello (that)

When these adjectives are put in front of their noun, they follow their own rules:

1. buono has two forms for the masculine singular, so it looks like this:

buon or buono (masc.


buona (fem. sing.)
sing.)
buoni (masc. plur.) buone (fem. plur.)
Use the form buon where you would use the indefinite article un — i.e. before a masculine
noun beginning with a vowel or consonant or most groups of consonants BUT
use buono where you would use the indefinite article uno — i.e. before a masculine noun
beginning with z or s+consonant.
You'll see that the rest of this adjective is normal.

2. bello and quello have all the possible forms of the word del (the partitive article)
If you have not met the word del yet go and study it now because these two adjectives follow
the same pattern and you need to know it. Go to the page on the Partitive Article.

For those of you who have already met the Partitive Article, here are all the possible forms of
bello and quello:

masc. sing. fem. sing. masc. plur. fem.pl.


del dello dell' della dell' dei degli delle
quel quello quell' quella quell' quei quegli quelle

Exercise 4. Insert the correct part of buono, bello or quello in these phrases:

1. una [buono] idea.


2. in [quello] casa, con [quello][bello] giardino.
3. un [bello] parco.
4. [quello][bello] appartamento.
5. [bello] isola
6. in [quello] zona di [quello] piccolo paese.
7. un [buono]strumento].
8. un [buono] amico.
9. una [buono] amica.
10. [quello] [buono] vino.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 5: Turn all the phrases in Exercise 3 into the plural.

To check your answers click here.

3. POSSESSIVE ADJECTIVES: — my, your, his, her, our, their.


IMPORTANT RULE: In Italian you must put the definite article in front of these
adjectives. Make yourself familiar with the table below:

Singular Plural
masc. fem. masc. fem.
my il mio la mia i miei le mie
your il tuo la tua i tuoi le tue
his/her il suo la sua i suoi le sue
our il nostro la nostra i nostri le nostre
your il vostro la vostra i vostri le vostre
their il loro la loro i loro le loro

Pay particular attention to the boxes which have been given a different colour and notice 2
things:

1. mio, tuo and suo behave like normal adjectives except in the masculine plural.
2. loro does not make any changes at all, it is invariable.

REMEMBER! These adjectives require the definite article UNLESS you are referring to
members of the family, when they are not used.

REMEMBER too, they take the gender of the noun following them, not the gender of the
possessor.

Exercise 3: Translate the following phrases which use possessive adjectives into Italian:

1. my house
2. your name
3. my mother
4. our friends
5. his car
6. her father
7. their holidays
8. his father
9. my parents
10. her eyes
11. their tickets
12. our family

To check your answers click here.

4. COMPARATIVE and SUPERLATIVE and STRUCTURES.


Very basically, “comparative” adjectives are words like “taller”, older”, “more
intelligent”.

“Superlative” adjectives are words like “tallest”, “oldest”, “ most intelligent”.

In Italian there is no equivalent to the English suffixes -er and -est; instead, Italian uses the
adverb più = more.

COMPARATIVES: — Comparative of Inequality:


1. Examine carefully the following sentences:

1. Maria is tall. = Maria è alta.


2. Angela is taller. = Angela è più alta.
3. Angela is taller than Maria = Angela è più alta di Maria

Sentence 3 show a structure called the “comparative of inequality”. Use più with the adjective
to make the comparative form, and di to translate the English word than.
Use it whenever you want to say someone or something is bigger than/ older than/ better than/
faster than/ someone or something else.

Now have a careful look at the following sentences, which show another type of comparison:
1. Marco is intelligent = Marco è intelligente.
2. Giorgio is less intelligent. = Giorgio è meno intelligente.
3. Giorgio is less intelligent than Marco = Giorgio è meno intelligente di Marco.

Sentence 3 shows another type of “comparative of inequality” — when you want to say
someone/something is less old/interesting/exciting than someone/something else; use meno
for the English word less and di to translate the English word than.

Comparative of Equality:

This is when you say something like “Edinburgh is as lively as Glasgow”, or


“Hearts are as good as Hibs”

Here is how you would say that in Italian:


1. Edinburgh is as lively as Glasgow = Edimburgo è così vivace come Glasgow.
2. Hearts are as good as Hibs = Gli Hearts sono così bravi come gli Hibs.

Alternatively, you can express as .....as by using tanto ...... quanto (like the correlative
construction in Latin).
So you could translate the two sentences above this way:

1. Edinburgh is as lively as Glasgow = Edimburgo è tanto vivace quanto Glasgow.


2. Hearts are as good as Hibs = Gli Hearts sono tanto bravi quanto gli Hibs.

SUPERLATIVES.

In English we can use the suffix -est to create the superlative form of the adjective,
producing words like oldest, weakest, fastest etc.
There is no equivalent in Italian. Instead you use the definite article (il/la/i/le) plus
più or meno and the adjective.

Some examples should make this clear. Read carefully the following English sentences and
their translation into Italian:
1. The most beautiful churches in Tuscany are in Florence.
= Le chiese più belle della Toscana sono a Firenze.

2. The oldest houses in the city are being restored.


= Le case più vecchie della città sono in restauro.

3. Milan is the richest city in the country.


= Milano è la città più ricca del Paese.

4. They are the fastest cars in the world.


= Sono le macchine più veloci del mondo.

N.B. Notice how, in Italian, the phrases “in Tuscany”, “in the city” etc. are translated with the
preposition di.

THE ABSOLUTE SUPERLATIVE

This is the grand name for the suffix -issimo (which you must have seen many
times if you are a musician).
To make it, drop the final vowel of the simple adjective and add -issimo, e.g.:
1. bello (beautiful) — bellissimo (very beautiful) or you could say molto bello
2. veloce (fast) ——— velocissimo (very fast) or you could say molto veloce

Be careful! sometimes you will have to insert the letter h to preserve the sound of the
consonant; e.g.:
1. lungo (long) — lunghissimo (very long) = molto lungo
2. simpatico (nice) — simpatichissimo (very nice) = molto simpatico
3. fresco (fresh) — freschissimo (very fresh) = molto fresco

Use this form of the word if you want to say, for example:

1. Venice is a very beautiful city.


= Venezia è una città bellissima.

2. Italian women are always very elegant.


= Le donne italiane sono sempre elegantissime.

Finally, a few adjectives have kept their comparative and superlative forms from Latin:

simple comparative superlative


buono (good) migliore (better) ottimo (best)
cattivo (bad) peggiore (worse) pessimo (worst)
basso (low) inferiore (lower) infimo (lowest)
alto (high) superiore (higher) supremo (highest)
piccolo (small) minore (smaller) minimo (smallest)
grande (big) maggiore (bigger) massimo (biggest)
However, you can also say più buono and il più buono and buonissimo, and similarly with
the others in the table.

The last structure you should know is how you say in Italian phrases like “as long as
possible” , “as warm as possible”

In Italian the equivalent is: “il più lungo possibile” and “il più caldo possibile”.

Return to the Grammar Index Page.

Prepositions are words which stand before a noun or pronoun to create a phrase which
can show place, time, or manner, e.g.:

1. under the table = sotto la tavola


2. at midnight = a mezzanotte
3. with great care = con grande cura.

There are a few common “simple” prepositions which you should know and their basic
meanings are given below. Learn them!

a to ; at ; in
da from ; at the house of ..
su on
in in ; on
di of

These prepositions combine with the various forms of the definite article (il, lo, la, l', i, gli, le)
to form a single word. This is a fundamental part of Italian grammar and you must know it.
The table below shows you what happens when these words combine.

In combination with the article, these simple prepositions are called “articulated prepositions”
— preposizioni articolate.

masculine sing. fem. sing. masc. plur. fem. pl..


il lo, l' la, l' i gli le
a al allo, all' alla, all' ai agli alle
da dal dallo, dall' dalla, dall' dai dagli dalle
su sul sullo, sull' sulla, sull' sui sugli sulle
in nel nello, nell' nella, nell' nei negli nelle
di del dello, dell' della, dell' dei degli delle

N.B. Be particularly careful with the preposition in which has unusual forms when combined
with the article.

N.N.B Learn thoroughly the preposition di in its various combinations because this word is
also the “partitive article” which is equivalent to the English word “some”. It is also the
pattern for the two irregular adjectives bello and quello which, instead of having just the usual
four forms, have all the possible forms of the word del.

What the table above means is that instead of saying a le ragazze (to the girls), you say alle
ragazze.
Similarly, you do not say in il giardino (in the garden), but nel giardino.

Now try this exercise:

Exercise 1. Translate into English:

1. sulla tavola
2. dalla scuola
3. alla porta della chiesa
4. nel centro della città
5. sui tetti delle case
6. il nome dello studente
7. negli alberghi
8. sul pavimento
9. al cinema
10. sulla sedia nella cucina

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2. Translate into Italian:

1. on the chair
2. on the table in the kitchen
3. in the bathroom
4. from the boys
5. to the hotels
6. in the drawer of the table
7. the names of the students
8. at the window of the bedroom
9. in the pupils' books — i.e. "in the books of the pupils"
10. at the end of the day

To check your answers click here.

Prepositions are awkward because they often do not correspond exactly with the equivalent
propisition in the other language. There is no easy way to master them; you must simply try to
remember the way they are used in Italian. It would take up too much space to give you a
definitive list of the various usages which are not the same as in English, but here are a few
usages which you must know:

I. The preposition a.

1. The preposition a already has three basic meanings (to, at, in) but you must know the
following usages:

• Abito a Edimburgo = I live in Edinburgh [use a if you are referring to a town,


otherwise use in]
• C'è un programma alla televisione = There is a programme on television.
• Non è possibile andare a piedi = It's not possible to go on foot.
• Passo le vacanze al mare = I spend my holidays at the seaside.
• Vorrei andare all'estero = I would like to go abroad.

2. The preposition a also links certain verbs to a following infinitive, such as:

andare a to go to ...
aiutare a to help to ...
cominciare a to start/begin to
imparare a to learn to ...
incoraggiare a to encourage to ...
insegnare a to teach to ...
mettersi a to start/begin to ...
pensare a to think about ....
provare a to try to ...
riuscire a to manage to
venire a to come to ...

3. The preposition a also links certain adjectives to a following infinitive, such as:

abituato a accustomed to ...


attento a careful to ...
pronto a ready to ...

II The preposition da.

1. The preposition da has the same meaning as the preposition chez in French: —

Rosaria abitava dalla nonna = Rosaria used to live at her grandmother's .

Ho comprato del dentifricio dal farmacista. = I bought some toothpaste at the chemist's.

C'era una festa da Franco. = There was a party at Franco's house.

2. Da is used to make an expression of time (with a verb in the present tense in Italian) to
show actions or circumstances that began in the past and continue into the present: e.g.
Carla impara l'italiano da un anno = Carla has been learning Italian for a year.
Ti aspetto da un'ora = I have been waiting for you for an hour.

3. Da specifies the agent in a passive sentence, e.g.:


L'inglese è parlato da quasi tutti = English is spoken by nearly everyone.
Marcovaldo è un libro scritto da Calvino = "Marcovaldo" is a book written by Calvino.

4. Da can indicate what something is used for, e.g.:


un campo da calcio = a football pitch
un campo da golf = a golf course
scarpe da sci = ski boots.

5. Da can be followed by an infinitive in expressions like:


Non c'è niente da fare. = There is nothing to do.
Cosa c'è da mangiare? = What is there to eat?

III The preposition su

• ascoltavo un dibatito sulla politica = I was listening to a discussion about politics.


• ho letto sul giornale. = I read in the newspaper.

IV The preposition in

1. In is used with the names of countries, states, or regions to show place, e.g.:
Abito in Scozia = I live in Scotland.
Molti scozzesi sono emigrati in Canada = Many Scots emigrated to Canada.
2. In is used with all methods of transport:

in macchina by car...
in aereo by plane
in moto by scooter
in bicicletta by bicycle
in barca by boat
in treno by train
in autobus by bus
in pullman by coach

V The preposition di

1. Di shows possession, e.g.:

• Hai visto gli occhiali di Lucia? = Have you seen Lucia's glasses?
• Di chi sono queste scarpe? = Whose shoes are these?

2. Di shows what something is made of, e.g:

• una cravatta di seta = a silk tie


• scarpe di cuoio = leather shoes

3. Di is used to make time phrases, e.g.:

di sera in the evenings


di mattina in the mornings
di solito usually
di nuovo again
di rado rarely

4. Di is used after some verbs like parlare, discutere, trattare to indicate the topic of
discussion, e.g.:

• Non mi piace parlare di religione = I don't like talking about religion.


• Questo libro tratta del problema della droga = This book deals with the problem of
drugs.

5. Di is used in expressions making comparisons, e.g.:

• Giovanni è più intelligente del fratello = Giovanni is more intelligent then his brother.
• Tu parli italiano meglio di me. = You speak Italian better than I do.

6. Di is used with the verb essere to indicate origin, e.g.:

• La mia famiglia è di Bologna = My family are from Bologna.


• Tu sei di qui? = Are you from here?
7. Di is also used after certain adjectives to link them to an infinitive verb, e.g.:

capace di capable of ...


contento di happy to ...
desideroso di eager to ...
felice di happy to ...
incapace di ... incapable of
sicuro di sure of ...
soddisfatto di satisfied to ...
spiacente di sorry to ...
stanco di tired of ...
triste di sad to ...

8. Di is also used after several verbs to link to a following infinitive, e.g.:

accorgersi di to realise; be aware


cercare di to try to ...
chiedere di to ask to ...
consigliare di to advise to ...
decidere di to decide to ...
dimenticare di to forget to ...
domandare di to ask ...
essere in grado di to be in a position to ...
fingere di to pretend to ...
finire di to finish
immaginare di to imagine
lamentarsi di to complain about
offrire di to offer
pensare di to think of
permettere di to allow
proibire di to forbid
rendersi conto di to realise; be aware
ricordarsi di to remember
scegliere di to choose to ...
smettere di to stop
sperare di to hope to ...
tentare di to attempt to ...
trattare di to be about; deal with
vietare di to forbid
Prepositions are words which stand before a noun or pronoun to create a phrase which
can show place, time, or manner, e.g.:

1. under the table = sotto la tavola


2. at midnight = a mezzanotte
3. with great care = con grande cura.

There are a few common “simple” prepositions which you should know and their basic
meanings are given below. Learn them!

a to ; at ; in
da from ; at the house of ..
su on
in in ; on
di of

These prepositions combine with the various forms of the definite article (il, lo, la, l', i, gli, le)
to form a single word. This is a fundamental part of Italian grammar and you must know it.
The table below shows you what happens when these words combine.

In combination with the article, these simple prepositions are called “articulated prepositions”
— preposizioni articolate.
masculine sing. fem. sing. masc. plur. fem. pl..
il lo, l' la, l' i gli le
a al allo, all' alla, all' ai agli alle
da dal dallo, dall' dalla, dall' dai dagli dalle
su sul sullo, sull' sulla, sull' sui sugli sulle
in nel nello, nell' nella, nell' nei negli nelle
di del dello, dell' della, dell' dei degli delle

N.B. Be particularly careful with the preposition in which has unusual forms when combined
with the article.

N.N.B Learn thoroughly the preposition di in its various combinations because this word is
also the “partitive article” which is equivalent to the English word “some”. It is also the
pattern for the two irregular adjectives bello and quello which, instead of having just the usual
four forms, have all the possible forms of the word del.

What the table above means is that instead of saying a le ragazze (to the girls), you say alle
ragazze.
Similarly, you do not say in il giardino (in the garden), but nel giardino.

Now try this exercise:

Exercise 1. Translate into English:

1. sulla tavola
2. dalla scuola
3. alla porta della chiesa
4. nel centro della città
5. sui tetti delle case
6. il nome dello studente
7. negli alberghi
8. sul pavimento
9. al cinema
10. sulla sedia nella cucina

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2. Translate into Italian:

1. on the chair
2. on the table in the kitchen
3. in the bathroom
4. from the boys
5. to the hotels
6. in the drawer of the table
7. the names of the students
8. at the window of the bedroom
9. in the pupils' books — i.e. "in the books of the pupils"
10. at the end of the day

To check your answers click here.

Prepositions are awkward because they often do not correspond exactly with the equivalent
propisition in the other language. There is no easy way to master them; you must simply try to
remember the way they are used in Italian. It would take up too much space to give you a
definitive list of the various usages which are not the same as in English, but here are a few
usages which you must know:

I. The preposition a.

1. The preposition a already has three basic meanings (to, at, in) but you must know the
following usages:

• Abito a Edimburgo = I live in Edinburgh [use a if you are referring to a town,


otherwise use in]
• C'è un programma alla televisione = There is a programme on television.
• Non è possibile andare a piedi = It's not possible to go on foot.
• Passo le vacanze al mare = I spend my holidays at the seaside.
• Vorrei andare all'estero = I would like to go abroad.

2. The preposition a also links certain verbs to a following infinitive, such as:

andare a to go to ...
aiutare a to help to ...
cominciare a to start/begin to
imparare a to learn to ...
incoraggiare a to encourage to ...
insegnare a to teach to ...
mettersi a to start/begin to ...
pensare a to think about ....
provare a to try to ...
riuscire a to manage to
venire a to come to ...

3. The preposition a also links certain adjectives to a following infinitive, such as:

abituato a accustomed to ...


attento a careful to ...
pronto a ready to ...

II The preposition da.

1. The preposition da has the same meaning as the preposition chez in French: —
Rosaria abitava dalla nonna = Rosaria used to live at her grandmother's .

Ho comprato del dentifricio dal farmacista. = I bought some toothpaste at the chemist's.

C'era una festa da Franco. = There was a party at Franco's house.

2. Da is used to make an expression of time (with a verb in the present tense in Italian) to
show actions or circumstances that began in the past and continue into the present: e.g.
Carla impara l'italiano da un anno = Carla has been learning Italian for a year.
Ti aspetto da un'ora = I have been waiting for you for an hour.

3. Da specifies the agent in a passive sentence, e.g.:


L'inglese è parlato da quasi tutti = English is spoken by nearly everyone.
Marcovaldo è un libro scritto da Calvino = "Marcovaldo" is a book written by Calvino.

4. Da can indicate what something is used for, e.g.:


un campo da calcio = a football pitch
un campo da golf = a golf course
scarpe da sci = ski boots.

5. Da can be followed by an infinitive in expressions like:


Non c'è niente da fare. = There is nothing to do.
Cosa c'è da mangiare? = What is there to eat?

III The preposition su

• ascoltavo un dibatito sulla politica = I was listening to a discussion about politics.


• ho letto sul giornale. = I read in the newspaper.

IV The preposition in

1. In is used with the names of countries, states, or regions to show place, e.g.:
Abito in Scozia = I live in Scotland.
Molti scozzesi sono emigrati in Canada = Many Scots emigrated to Canada.

2. In is used with all methods of transport:

in macchina by car...
in aereo by plane
in moto by scooter
in bicicletta by bicycle
in barca by boat
in treno by train
in autobus by bus
in pullman by coach
V The preposition di

1. Di shows possession, e.g.:

• Hai visto gli occhiali di Lucia? = Have you seen Lucia's glasses?
• Di chi sono queste scarpe? = Whose shoes are these?

2. Di shows what something is made of, e.g:

• una cravatta di seta = a silk tie


• scarpe di cuoio = leather shoes

3. Di is used to make time phrases, e.g.:

di sera in the evenings


di mattina in the mornings
di solito usually
di nuovo again
di rado rarely

4. Di is used after some verbs like parlare, discutere, trattare to indicate the topic of
discussion, e.g.:

• Non mi piace parlare di religione = I don't like talking about religion.


• Questo libro tratta del problema della droga = This book deals with the problem of
drugs.

5. Di is used in expressions making comparisons, e.g.:

• Giovanni è più intelligente del fratello = Giovanni is more intelligent then his brother.
• Tu parli italiano meglio di me. = You speak Italian better than I do.

6. Di is used with the verb essere to indicate origin, e.g.:

• La mia famiglia è di Bologna = My family are from Bologna.


• Tu sei di qui? = Are you from here?

7. Di is also used after certain adjectives to link them to an infinitive verb, e.g.:

capace di capable of ...


contento di happy to ...
desideroso di eager to ...
felice di happy to ...
incapace di ... incapable of
sicuro di sure of ...
soddisfatto di satisfied to ...
spiacente di sorry to ...
stanco di tired of ...
triste di sad to ...

8. Di is also used after several verbs to link to a following infinitive, e.g.:

accorgersi di to realise; be aware


cercare di to try to ...
chiedere di to ask to ...
consigliare di to advise to ...
decidere di to decide to ...
dimenticare di to forget to ...
domandare di to ask ...
essere in grado di to be in a position to ...
fingere di to pretend to ...
finire di to finish
immaginare di to imagine
lamentarsi di to complain about
offrire di to offer
pensare di to think of
permettere di to allow
proibire di to forbid
rendersi conto di to realise; be aware
ricordarsi di to remember
scegliere di to choose to ...
smettere di to stop
sperare di to hope to ...
tentare di to attempt to ...
trattare di to be about; deal with
vietare di to forbid
VERBS — I VERBI

Italian verbs are arranged into three groups or conjugations depending on the vowel
in the infinitive:

1. parlare: ending in -are

2. vedere: ending in -ere

3. finire: ending in -ire

You need to know the type of verb you are dealing with so that you can make the
tenses correctly.

Some verbs are irregular in that they seem to have an infinitive which fits into the
scheme above but they make some of their tenses in a different way. there are very
few of these verbs and the best thing to do is learn them when you are learning or
revising a particular tense. There is only one verb which is irregular in nearly all its
tenses and that is essere (to be).

Some verbs have infinitives which are shortened versions of their original forms
and this is why they seem to be irregular, in fact it is the infinitive which is slightly
irregular. the common ones are:

dire, shortened from dicere

fare, shortened from facere

bere, shortened from bevere

porre, shortened from ponere

-durre, shortened from -ducere


To see how verbs make their various tenses, return to

PRESENT TENSE — TEMPO PRESENTE


In English this tense looks like "he runs", "they live", "she is working", "we are talking"
These four examples all have pronouns — he, they, she, we, but in Italian the pronouns are
not necessary because the verb always has an ending to indicate what personal pronoun we
want. the four English examples above would each be one single word in Italian.

Italian does have personal pronouns; you won't see them very often, but here they are:

io I noi we
tu you voi you
lui he loro they
lei she
Lei you

The pronoun Lei (with a capital L) means you. It is different from the pronoun tu because Lei
is formal: you would use it when politely addressing a stranger; if you speak to someone
using a formal title like signore/signorina you should use Lei and even if you don't use the
pronoun, the verb should be in the 3rd person singular.

Italian verbs fall into 3 types, depending on the vowel in the infinitive. The grammatical name
is not type but conjugation and that's the name I'm going to use.

• Conjugation 1 contains verbs with an infinitive ending in -ARE


• Conjugation 2 contains verbs with an infinitive ending in -ERE
• Conjugation 3 contains verbs with an infinitive ending in -IRE

1 PARLARE 2 SCRIVERE 3 DORMIRE 3 CAPIRE


1st pers. sing. I parlo scrivo dormo capisco
2nd pers. sing. you parli scrivi dormi capisci
3rd pers. sing. he, parla scrive dorme capisce
she, it
1st pers. plur. we parliamo scriviamo dormiamo capiamo
2nd pers. plur. you parlate scrivete dormite capite
3rd pers. plur. they parlano scrivono dormono capiscono

Don't let a table like this put you off; look for all the similarities, not the differences; for
example:

All verbs use the ending -o for the first person singular — i.e. if you want to say I do
something.

All verbs use the ending -i for the second person singular — i.e. if you want to say you do
something.

All verbs use the ending -iamo for the first person plural — i.e. if you want to say we do
something.

English has three forms of the present tense and Italian has only one. In English we can say I
speak or I am speaking but in Italian there is only the form parlo. To ask a question in
English we would use the phrase do you speak? but in Italian you can only indicate a
question by the tone of your voice or by writing a question mark — parli?

You'll see that there are two examples of a 3rd conjugation verb, dormire and capire and they
behave differently. Most verbs behave like dormire but a small number insert the syllable -isc-
before the personal endings. There is no rule about which do and which don't, you just have to
learn as you meet them. The commonest ones which insert -isc- are:-
finire (to finish)
preferire (to prefer)
pulire (to clean)
punire (to punish)
spedire (to send)

IRREGULAR VERBS — There are very few verbs which do not fit into the scheme shown
in the table above, but two which are very important are the verb avere (to have) and the verb
essere (to be) because as well as being very common verbs in their own right, they are also
the auxiliary verbs which help to make the past tense (passato prossimo). Here they are:

avere to have essere to be


1 ho I have sono I am
2 hai you have sei you are
he/she/it he/she/it
3 ha è
has is
1 abbiamo we have siamo we are
2 avete you have siete you are
3 hanno they sono they are
have

There are twelve common verbs which are irregular in their present tense. They are in the
table below. You have to learn them because you will not be able to find these forms in a
dictionary.

essere = to venire = to uscire = to go andare = to


avere = to have dare = to give
be come out go
ho sono vengo esco vado do
hai sei vieni esci vai dai
ha è viene esce va dà
abbiamo siamo veniamo usciamo andiamo diamo
avete siete venite uscite andate date
hanno sono vengono escono vanno danno

fare= to do; sapere = to stare = to stay; potere = dovere =


volere = to want
make know be can must
faccio so sto posso devo voglio
fai sai stai puoi devi vuoi
fa sa sta può deve vuole
facciamo sappiamo stiamo possiamo dobbiamo vogliamo
fate sapete state potete dovete volete
fanno sanno stanno possono devono vogliono
THE FUTURE TENSE — IL FUTURO
The future tense in English is a compound (i.e. more than a single word) tense, made with the
auxiliary verbs "shall" and "will".

In Italian, the future tense is a simple (i.e. single word) tense, made by adding six ending to
the present infinitive:

singular plural
-ò = I shall ... -emo = we shall...
-ai = you will ... -ete = you will ...
-à = he/she will... -anno = they will...

These ending are attached to the present infinitive which loses the final -e. Look at the table
below:

parlare scrivere partire


parlerò scriverò partirò
parlerai scriverai partirai
parlerà scriverà partirà
parleremo scriveremo partiremo
parlerete scriverete partirete
parleranno scriveranno partiranno

Please note three things:

1. Verbs like parlare change the vowel in their infinitive from -a- to -e-

2. There are accents written on the First Person Singular and Third Person Singular in all
verbs.

3. You will have to be careful with the spelling of some verbs when you put them into the
Future Tense in order to preserve the sound in their infinitive. This will happen with verbs
ending in -care and -gare, e.g.
pagare (to pay) I'll pay = pagherò
cercare (to look for) I'll look for = cercherò

This will also happen with verbs ending in -ciare and -giare, e.g.

cominciare (to begin) I'll begin = comincerò


viaggiare (to travel) I'll travel = viaggerò

IRREGULAR VERBS: A few verbs don't quite follow the pattern above. You need to learn
what they do:

The Future Tense of avere and essere is:

avere essere
avrò sarò
avrai sarai
avrà sarà
avremo saremo
avrete sarete
avranno saranno

There are another ten common verbs which you need to learn:

andare dare fare stare sapere dovere potere volere vedere venire
andrò darò farò starò saprò dovrò potrò vorrò vedrò verrò
andrai darai farai starai saprai dovrai potrai vorrai vedrai verrai
andrà darà farà starà saprà dovrà potrà vorrà vedrà verrà
andremo daremo faremo staremo sapremo dovremo potremo vorremo vedremo verremo
andrete darete farete starete saprete dovrete potrete vorrete vedrete verrete
andrann darann farann starann saprann dovrann potrann vorrann vedrann
verranno
o o o o o o o o o

Apart from the verb essere, only two verbs, volere and venire, are awkward and need careful
att
The Conditional — Il Modo Condizionale: condizionale
presente
The Conditional is a mood of the verb for expressing hopes, wishes and
aspirations.

In English, the equivalent is the tense/mood made with the the auxiliary very
would: e.g.—

• I would take a holiday if I had the time.


• I'm sure that you would enjoy the party, even if your parents are there too.

This mood of the verb is made up like the future tense, by adding endings to the infinitive.
The endings are:

singular plural
-ei = I would ... -emmo = we would...
-esti = you would ... -este = you would ...
-ebbe = he/she -ebbero = they
would... would...

These ending are attached to the present infinitive which loses the final -e. Look at the table
below:

parlare scrivere partire


parlerei scriverei partirei
parleresti scriveresti partiresti
parlerebbe scriverebbe partirebbe
parleremmo scriveremmo partiremmo
parlereste scrivereste partireste
parlerebbero scriverebbero partirebbero

Please note that as with the Future Tense, verbs like parlare change the vowel in their
infinitive from -a- to -e- and also the spelling changes for the Future Tense which affect verbs
ending -care, -gare, -ciare and -giare also apply to this tense.
IRREGULAR VERBS: The verbs which were irregular in their Future Tense, are also
irregular in the Conditional, but all you need to do is change the endings:

The Conditional of avere and essere is:

avere essere
avrei sarei
avresti saresti
avrebbe sarebbe
avremmo saremmo
avreste sareste
avrebbero sarebbero

There are the other ten common verbs which you need to learn:

andare dare fare stare sapere dovere potere volere vedere venire
andrei darei farei starei saprei dovrei potrei vorrei vedrei verrei
andresti daresti faresti staresti sapresti dovresti potresti vorresti vedresti verresti
andrebbe darebbe farebbe starebbe saprebbe dovrebbe potrebbe vorrebbe vedrebbe verrebbe
andremm daremm faremm staremm saprem dovrem potrem vorrem vedrem verremm
o o o o mo mo mo mo mo o
andreste dareste fareste stareste sapreste dovreste potreste vorreste vedreste verreste
andrebbe darebbe farebbe starebbe saprebbe dovrebbe potrebbe vorrebbe vedrebbe verrebber
ro ro ro ro ro ro ro ro ro o

So, once you have learned how this mood is formed,you need to be clear about when it is
used. Here is a list:

1. to express wishes, hopes, desires, aspirations:

I would enjoy spending a year abroad.


Mi piacerebbe passare un anno all'estero.

2. to express a request politely:

I would like an ice-cream


vorrei un gelato.

Could you help me, please?


Potresti aiutarmi, per favore? (informal)
Potrebbe aiutarmi, per favore?(formal)

3. to express doubt:
I don't think that he would earn much money.
Non penso che guadagnerebbe molti soldi.

Mum doesn't think it would be a good idea.


La mamma non crede che sarebbe una buon'idea.

4. to express personal opinions:

I would say that it should be possible to do it.


direi che dovrebbe essere possibile farlo.

5. to repeat rumours, hearsay and other people's opinions:

According to press, they will probably get divorced:


Secondo la stampa, si divorzierebbero.

The modal verbs: potere (can), dovere (must/ have to), and volere (want) need a bit of care:

potrei = I could

dovrei = I should

vorrei = I would like

For Example:

1. Sandra could learn Italian but she's too lazy.


Sandra potrebbe imparare l'italiano me è troppo pigra.

2. They should write to you soon.


Dovrebbero scriverti presto.

3. Giorgio would like to accompany you.


Giorgio vorrebbe accompagnarti.

Return to Grammar Index Page.


The Past Conditional — Il Condizionale Passato
In English the equivalent tense/mood is made with the auxiliaries would have: e.g.—

• I would have gone, if I had been invited.


• He would have earned more money in the States.

In Italian this is a compound tense (i.e.made with more than one word). It is made with the
present conditional tense of the auxiliary verb (avere or essere) and the past participle of the
verb. Study the table below:

parlare finire arrivare partire vestirsi


avrei parlato avrei finito sarei arrivato/a sarei partito/a mi sarei vestito/a
saresti
avresti parlato avresti finito saresti partito/a ti saresti vestito/a
arrivato/a
sarebbe sarebbe si sarebbe
avrebbe parlato avrebbe finito
arrivato/a partito/a vestito/a
avremmo avremmo saremmo saremmo ci saremmo
parlato finito arrivati/e partiti/e vestiti/e
sareste
avreste parlato avreste finito sareste partiti/e vi sareste vestiti/e
arrivati/e
avrebbero avrebbero sarebbero sarebbero si sarebbero
parlato finito arrivati/e partiti/e vestiti/e

So, when do you use it?

1. to express a past intention or wish that can no longer be fulfilled:

I would have booked the hotel last week; now it's too late.
Avrei prenotato l'albergo la settimana scorsa; adesso è troppo tardi.

Maria would have come to the party but she is ill.


Maria sarebbe venuta alla festa ma sta male.

2. to express "the future in the past" — i.e. in reported speech to express a future action
from a point of view in the past: e.g.

She said yesterday that she would come.


Lei ha detto ieri che sarebbe venuta.
I knew that it would be difficult.
Ho saputo che sarebbe stato difficile.

My father promised that he would buy me a car for my birthday.


Mio padre ha promesso che mi avrebbe comprato una macchina per il mio
compleanno.

The "future in the past" is a difficult piece of grammar but you might want to use it in Higher
writing. In essence you use the past conditional when the clause introduced by "that" in
English, or "che" in Italian follows a verb in the past tense. In English the verb in the "that"
clause sounds like a conditional, but in Italian it has to be past conditional.
The modal verbs: potere (can), dovere (must/ have to), and volere (want) need a bit of care:

avrei potuto = I could have

avrei dovuto = I should have

avrei voluto = I would have liked to

For Example:

1. Claudia could sit her exams next week; she could have sat them all last week.
Claudia potrebbe fare gli esami la settimana prossima; avrebbe potuto farli la
settimana scorsa.

2. You should go to the doctor's; you should have gone yesterday


Dovresti andare dal medico; avresti dovuto andare ieri.

3. Giorgio would have liked to accompany you.


Giorgio avrebbe voluto accompagnarti.

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The Perfect Tense — Il Passato Prossimo
1. This is a compound tense — i.e. composed of two words — auxiliary verb and past
participle.
2. This tense corresponds to two different tenses in English:

The Simple Past: e.g. I visited Italy last year.


The Present Perfect: e.g. She has gone on holiday for a month.

N.B. This means that the English "I went" and "I have gone" are the same in Italian.

To make this tense you need the present tense of avere followed by the past participle of the
verb you want.
You already know the present tense of avere, so you now need you learn how to make the past
participle.
The table below explains how:

Present Infinitive Past Participle


parlare parlato
vedere veduto
finire finito
So, to say in Italian "I have finished" you say Ho (I have) finito (finished); if you want to say
"I finished" it is also Ho finito.
It is important that you understand that you can only make the past tense in Italian in two
words — auxiliary verb and a past participle. Here is the full past tense of the verb vedere (to
see) :
abbiamo
ho veduto I saw; I have seen we saw; we have seen
veduto
you saw; you have
hai veduto avete veduto you saw; you have seen
seen
they saw; they have
ha veduto he/she saw; has seen hanno veduto
seen
Note that the past participle does not change when the auxiliary verb is avere.

If you have learned French you will see that the system is exactly the same.

The vast majority of verbs make their past participle by following the pattern in the table
above, but some do not follow the general rule; they are called strong verbs. You have to
learn them as you meet them but listed below you will find some of the most common verbs.
Learn them now!

infinitive meaning past participle


aprire to open aperto
bere to drink bevuto
chiedere to ask chiesto
chiudere to close chiuso
to say; to
dire detto
tell
to make;
fare fatto
to do
leggere to read letto
mettere to put messo
prendere to take preso
rispondere to answer risposto
scegliere to choose scelto
scoprire to discover scoperto
scrivere to write scritto
smettere to stop smesso
vedere to see visto
vincere to win vinto
vivere to live vissuto

You will see that the verb vedere (to see) has two past participles: veduto and visto; choose
whichever you like.

Verbs which require the verb essere as the auxiliary:


Intransitive verbs (usually verbs of motion) and all the reflexive verbs require
essere as the auxiliary verb, not avere. This means that you use the present tense of
essere and the past participle.

N.B. When essere is the auxiliary, the past participle agrees with the subject of the
verb.

For example: “The girls have left” = Le ragazze sono partite.


“The boys arrived late” = I ragazzi sono arrivati in ritardo.
“The children woke up early” = I bambini si sono svegliati presto.

Listed below are the commonest verbs which require essere as their auxiliary; learn them now
be careful to learn the strong past participles.
Infinitive Meaning Past Participle
andare to go andato
venire to come venuto
partire to leave partito
arrivare to arrive arrivato
entrare to enter entrato
uscire to go out uscito
salire to get into salito
scendere to get out of sceso
nascere to be born nato
morire to die morto
tornare to return tornato
cadere to fall caduto
rimanere to remain rimasto
succedere to happen successo
essere to be stato
diventare to become diventato
This is a very important tense: you must be able to use it for both Standard Grade and
Higher. Try the following exercises.

Exercise 1. Translate into English:

1. Ho mangiato troppo.
2. Non ho mai visitato Roma.
3. Hai fatto i compiti?
4. Dove hai passato le vacanze?
5. Non ho fatto niente durante le vacanze.
6. Ho letto un libro interessante la settimana scorsa.
7. Hai visto quel film ieri sera?
8. Mariella ha chiuso la porta quando ha lasciato la casa.
9. La mamma ha comprato del pane al mercato.
10. Cosa hai preso da mangiare oggi?

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2. Translate into English:

1. La famiglia è andata a Roma.


2. Tutti sono arrivati in treno.
3. La mia amica è partita ieri sera.
4. L'uomo è salito in macchina.
5. Roberto si è svegliato molto presto.
6. Le ragazze si sono alzate alle sette.
7. I miei genitori sono venuti qui anni fa.
8. La principessa Diana è nata in Inghilterra ma è morta a Parigi.
9. Sono rimasti dieci giorni a Bologna.
10. Dopo la guerra gli uomini sono tornati a casa.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 3 Translate into Italian: [transitive verbs — use avere as the auxiliary]

1. I visited Italy last year.


2. I had a strange dream.
3. We have finished.
4. Have you seen my watch?
5. They spent two weeks in Sicily.
6. We ate a delicious pizza.
7. Marco drank too much.
8. They have not paid the bill.
9. I have never slept so well.
10. I closed the door and opened the windows.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 4. Translate into Italian: [intransitive and reflexive verbs — use essere as the
auxiliary]

1. The results have arrived.


2. Maria has gone to the cinema.
3. The guests left this morning.
4. The girls got up very early.
5. Franco got dressed in a hurry.
6. The children fell asleep.
7. Giuliana has been in Florence on holiday.
8. The others arrived two hours ago.
9. She went out and got into the car.
10. The boys have gone home.

To check your answers click here.

THE IMPERFECT TENSE — L'IMPERFETTO


In Italian the imperfect tense is a simple (i.e. a single word) past tense for describing repeated
actions in the past or conditions that last for an indefinite time or for descriptions in the past.

In English, the equivalent tense is the continuous past or the structure used to.... Here are
some examples of the tense in English:

1. I was listening to some music.


2. My parents were watching television.
3. I used to play football when I was younger.
4. The weather was beautiful, the sun was shining, the birds were singing.
5. Every Saturday they worked in a supermarket
6. Every morning she would wait for the postman to arrive.

N.B. In sentence 5, the English verb is worked — i.e. the 'simple past' but in Italian you must
use the imperfect because the phrase "every Saturday" shows that the action was repeated in
the past.

In sentence 6, the English verb is would wait which sounds like the 'conditional' but this is
yet another way the English language has of showing repeated actions in the past. Translated
into Italian, the verb would be in the imperfect tense.

This is an easy tense to make in Italian; it has very few exceptions: each verb group adds a set
of endings to the stem. In the table below you will see the full scheme. Look for the
similarities not the differences!

parlare scrivere dormire


parlavo (I was scrivevo (I was dormivo (I was
speaking) writing) sleeping)
parlavi scrivevi dormivi
parlava scriveva dormiva
parlavamo scrivevamo dormivamo
parlavate scrivevate dormivate
parlavano scrivevano dormivano

You'll see that each verb uses the endings -vo, -vi, -va, -vamo, -vate, -vano.

In front of these endings you will find the same vowel as the verb has in its infinitive.

The exceptions: You need to learn the following verbs which do not follow the above rule.

ESSERE
ero (I was)
eri
era
eravamo
eravate
erano

There are another five verbs which have a contracted infinitive but they make this tense from
their original uncontracted infinitive:

fare dire bere porre -durre


[facere] [dicere] [bevere] [ponere] [ducere]
facevo dicevo bevevo ponevo -ducevo
facevi dicevi bevevi ponevi -ducevi
faceva diceva beveva poneva -duceva
facevamo dicevamo bevevamo ponevamo -ducevamo
facevate dicevate bevevate ponevate -ducevate
facevano dicevano bevevano ponevano -ducevano

N.B. The verb -durre does not exist in this simple form; it always has a prefix like produrre
(to produce), ridurre (to reduce) etc.

The other verbs have the following meanings:

1. fare = to do; to make


2. dire = to say ; to tell
3. bere = to drink
4. porre = to put ; to place

NN.B There is one odd place where this tense is used when you would not expect it: if you
look at the following piece of English translated into Italian, you'll see it:

"The policeman asked me where Stefano lived, but I didn't know


= Il poliziotto mi ha chiesto dove abitava Stefano, ma non lo sapevo.

Usually if you want to say "I didn't know", you say "non ho saputo". (past tense).

Return to Grammar Index Page.

The Pluperfect Tense — Il Trapassato Prossimo


In English this is a compound tense using the auxiliary "had" and a past participle.
In Italian this is a compound tense (i.e. two words) using the imperfect tense of the
auxiliary verb avere or essere and the past participle of the verb.

The tense describes an action in the past which took place before another action in
the past: e.g.

1. I looked for my friend but he had already left.


Ho cercato il mio amico ma lui era già partito.

2. My sister gave me a present of a book which I had read years ago.


Mia sorella mi ha regalato un libro che avevo letto anni fa.

Here is the full pluperfect tense of a few verbs:

fare meaning vedere meaning partire meaning


avevo fatto I had done avevo visto I had seen ero partito/a I had gone
avevi fatto you had done avevi visto you had seen eri partito/a you had gone
he/she had he/she had
aveva fatto aveva visto era partito/a he/she had gone
done seen
avevamo avevamo eravamo
we had done we had seen we had gone
fatto visto partiti/e
avevate eravate
avevate fatto you had done you had seen you had gone
visto partiti/e
avevano erano
avevano fatto they had done they had seen they had gone
visto partiti/e

Exercise 1 Translate the following sentences or clauses into Italian:

1. When I had finished, ........


2. They had already arrived.
3. My parents had bought a house near Naples.
4. Because I had forgotten to telephone, .....
5. The train had already left.
6. They had cancelled our flight.

To check your answers click here.

IL GERUNDIO
This is equivalent to the English present participle — i.e. the part of the verb ending in -ing,
like thinking, running, talking, going etc.

The table below will show you how the gerundio is made from the present infinitive:

infinitive meaning gerundio meaning


parlare to speak parlando speaking
vedere to see vedendo seeing
dormire to sleep dormendo sleeping

N.B. The gerundio is invariable; it does not behave like an adjective. For example:

1. Sandra fell while skiing = Sandra è caduta sciando


2. Seeing him, the others went away = Vedendolo, gli altri sono andati via.

Notice in the last example in Italian the gerundio “vedendolo”. The “lo” is the pronoun 'him'
and it illustrates a rule with the gerundio, that pronouns are attached to the end of it to make
one word, they are not put in front of it as happens with the ordinary tenses of the verb.

STRUCTURE: This part of the verb creates a present and past continuous tense when the
verb “stare” is used as the auxiliary. For example:

1. I am thinking = sto pensando.


2. She is crying = sta piangendo.
3. They were waiting = stavano aspettando.
4. We were watching TV = stavamo guardando la TV.

Exercise 1. Translate these sentences into English:

1. Cosa stai facendo?


2. Sto leggendo il giornale.
3. Stanno preparando l'insalata.
4. Stavo ascoltando la radio quando il telefono ha squillato.
5. I ragazzi stavano vestendosi.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2. Translate these sentences into Italian:

1. I am writing a letter.
2. She is waiting for a phone call.
3. I was watching a football match.
4. He was doing something.
5. The girls were sleeping.
To check your answers click here.

REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS and REFLEXIVE VERBS and how to use them:

mi myself ci ourselves
ti yourself vi yourselves
si himself/herself si themselves

Rules:

1. Like all pronouns, the reflexive pronouns stand before the verb or the auxiliary verb in
compound tenses. e.g.:

Mio fratello si chiama Giancarlo = My brother is called Giancarlo.


L'uomo si è ucciso = the man killed himself.

2. Reflexive verbs use essere as the auxiliary verb as in the last example above. e.g.:

I bambini si erano vestiti = The children had got dressed


A che ora ti alzerai, Luisa? = What time will you be getting up, Luisa?

3. Reflexive pronouns are added to the end of the infinitive, gerundio and imperative to
form one word. e.g.:

Ero così stanco che non ho potuto alzarmi = I was so tired that I couldn't get up.
Maria è in bagno,e sta lavandosi i capelli = Maria is in the bathroom, she's washing
her hair.

English has very few real reflexive verbs, like to enjoy oneself, to hurt oneself, to kill
oneself, but they are very common in Italian, often where English uses another verbal phrase.
It is useful to know the commonest reflexive verbs; here are a few to learn as items of
vocabulary, along with their meaning.

svegliarsi to wake up
alzarsi to get up
lavarsi to get washed
vestirsi to get dressed
spogliarsi to get undressed
pettinarsi to comb one's hair
truccarsi to put on makeup
lamentarsi to complain
divertirsi to enjoy oneself
fermarsi to stop
sedersi to sit
muoversi to move
annoiarsi to get bored
arrabbiarsi to get angry
avvicinarsi to approach
sbagliarsi to make a mistake
preoccuparsito be worried
to be aware of;
accorgersi
realise
Relfexive verbs behave like ordinary verbs except that you have to put a reflexive pronoun in
front. Make sure you know what type of verb you are dealing with; e.g. divertirsi is
conjugated as divertire with a reflexive pronoun in front; similarly annoiarsi is annoiare with
a reflexive pronoun. If you would like to see the whole present tense of a reflexive verb look
at the table below, where divertirsi (to enjoy oneself) has been laid out for you:

mi diverto ci divertiamo
ti diverti vi divertite
si diverte si divertono

N.B. Higher candidates: make sure you know and can use the following reflexive verbs:

1. mettersi a ... = to start to ...


2. accorgersi di ... = to be aware of; to realise
3. andarsene ...= to go away; leave [= s'en aller in French]

Now try some exercises to see if you have grasped the idea.

Exercise 1. Translate into English.

1. Ogni mattina mia madre si alza alle sette.


2. Ieri mi sono svegliato molto presto.
3. La festa era orrenda; mi sono annoiato molto.
4. Prima di vestirti, Franco, devi lavarti la faccia.
5. Gina si era già lavata i denti.
6. Se tu prendi la macchina, papà si arrabbierà.
7. Avevo paura di sbagliarmi.
8. Luigi si annoia perché non c'è niente da fare.
9. Ci siamo divertiti alla festa.
10. Il treno, avvicinandosi alla stazione, si è fermato all'improvviso.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 2. Complete the following passage by transforming the infinitive verbs into the
correct form of the present tense.

Signor Tommasini is describing his daily routine before he leaves home in the morning.

Di solito la mattina [svegliarsi] alle sette. [alzarsi] poco dopo e [farsi] la doccia. Poi [radersi]
e [spruzzarsi] con il dopobarba. Infine [vestirsi] e vado in cucina dove [prepararsi] un
cappuccino. Dopo la colazione [lavarsi] i denti, [guardarsi] allo specchio, [mettersi] la giacca
ed esco di casa.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 3. Try to describe your daily routine; translate the following sentences, then modify
them to suit your own situation.

1. I wake up at 7.30.
2. I get up a little later.
3. I get dressed in a hurry.
4. I make myself breakfast.
5. Then I brush my teeth.
6. I look at myself in the mirror and comb my hair.
7. Before leaving the house, I put on a coat.

To check your answers click here.

Exercise 4. Re-write exercise 3 in the perfect tense.

1. I woke up at 7.30.
2. I got up a little later.
etc.

To check your answers click here.


The Modal Verbs
There are three verbs called “modal verbs” which you will meet very frequently; learn them
thoroughly because they have very basic meanings and you will want to use them in speaking
and writing. They are the verbs:

• potere = to be able; can


• dovere = to have to ; must
• volere = to want

These verbs are followed by an infinitive verb without any linking preposition.

We'll look at the verbs individually

1. potere = to be able; can. Here is the scheme of its tenses; the present tense is irregular and
is written out in full; you should be able to complete the other tenses if you are given the First
Person. The present subjunctive is also irregular:

past
present future conditional imperfect perfect pluperfect pres.subj. impf. subj.
cond.
avrei ho avevo
posso potrò potrei potevo io possa io potessi
potuto potuto potuto
puoi tu possa tu poteesi
lui/lei
può potesse
possa
possiamo possiamo potessimo
potete possiate poteste
possono possano potessero

Exercise 1. Translate into English. — These sentences require a knowledge of all the
tenses, and the subjunctive.

1. Non posso fare ciò che mi chiedi.


2. Non ho potuto finire l'esercizio.
3. Alla fine degli esami, Marco potrà rilassarsi.
4. Forse qualcuno più giovane potrebbe aiutare.
5. Quando era studente, poteva uscire a divertirsi tutte le sere.
6. Se mi telefoni domani, è possibile che ti possa dare un risposta.
7. Potrei usare questa macchina, ma preferirei un'altra.
8. Se Maria avesse potuto scegliere, avrebbe fatto una carriera diversa.
9. Avrei potuto andare alla festa, ma ho deciso di stare a casa.
10. Sì, Marco avrebbe potuto accompagnarci, ma vuole andare da solo.

To check your answers, click here.

The conditional mood of this verb translates the English "could" when you mean something
like "I could go, but I don't want to."
The past conditional translates the English "could have" , e.g. "I could have gone, but I didn't
want to."

Use this information to help you translate the following sentences into Italian.

Exercise 2. Translate into Italian:

1. He can speak Italian very well.


2. I have never been able to understand French.
3. During the holidays I shall be able to sleep all day.
4. When they were children, they were able to understand English.
5. I can't eat much.
6. I used to be able to play the piano years ago.
7. Adriana could come with us but she prefers to go out with her boyfried.
8. I could have danced all night.
9. We could have taken a taxi.
10. If I could have gone, I would have enjoyed myself.

To check your answers, click here.

Return to the Grammar Index Page

2. dovere = to be have to; must; ought to. Here is the scheme of its tenses; the present tense
is irregular and is written out in full; you should be able to complete the other tenses if you are
given the First Person. The present subjunctive is also irregular:

past
present future conditional imperfect perfect pluperfect pres.subj. impf. subj.
cond.
avrei ho avevo
devo dovrò dovrei dovevo io debba io dovessi
dovuto dovuto dovuto
devi tu debba tu dovessi
lui/lei
deve dovesse
debba
dobbiamo dobbiamo dovessimo
dovete dobbiate doveste
devono debbano dovessero

N.B. The conditional of this verb translates the English "ought" or "should"; the past
conditional translates the English "ought to have ..." or "should have"

Exercise 3. Translate into English. — These sentences require a knowledge of all the
tenses, and the subjunctive.

1. Devo partire subito, ho fretta.


2. Purtroppo dovrete fare l'esercizio di nuovo.
3. Quando ero piccolo, dovevo imparare a suonare il violino.
4. Daniela non è venuta; ha dovuto andare all'ospedale.
5. Dobbiamo comprare i biglietti prima di salire in autobus.
6. L'insegnante dice che Franco dovrebbe passare gli esami facilmente.
7. L'insegnante dice che Franco avrebbe dovuto passare gli esami facilmente.
8. I tuoi genitori avrebbero dovuto educarti meglio.
9. E' probabile che tu debba rifare l'esame.
10. Se io avessi dovuto prendere soldi in prestito, non avrei potuto andare all'università.

To check your answers, click here.

Exercise 4. Translate into Italian.— These sentences get progressively more difficult.

1. I must finish this work.


2. I shall have to listen more attentively.
3. Unfortunately Maria's sister has had to cancel her holiday.
4. In primary school we used to have to wear short trousers.
5. I often had to stay at home because I didn't have any money.
6. It ought to be quite easy.
7. The doctor says that I should try to relax.
8. The students should have finished the course by now.
9. It is possible that Angela must pay the fine, if she can't find the ticket.
10. If my father had had to emigrate, he would have gone to America.

To check your answers, click here.

Return to the Grammar Index Page

3. volere = to want. Here is the scheme of its tenses; the present tense is irregular and is
written out in full; you should be able to complete the other tenses if you are given the First
Person. The present subjunctive is also irregular:

past
present future conditional imperfect perfect pluperfect pres.subj. impf. subj.
cond.
avrei ho avevo
voglio vorrò vorrei volevo io voglia io volessi
voluto voluto voluto
vuoi tu voglia tu volessi
lui/lei
vuole volesse
voglia
vogliamo vogliamo volessimo
volete vogliate voleste
vogliono vogliano volessero

Exercise 5. Translate into English. — These sentences require a knowledge of all the
tenses, and the subjunctive.

1. Gina non vuole accompagnarci.


2. Quando ero piccolo,volevo avere un bicicletta.
3. So che non hai fame adesso, ma forse vorrai qualcosa più tardi.
4. Vorrei chiederti qualcosa.
5. Noi tutti vorremmo più soldi e più tempo libero.
6. Cosa vorresti vedere a Pisa?
7. Avrei voluto comprarti qualcosa, ma non avevo i soldi.
8. Forse il tuo amico vorrebbe che tu lo invitasse alla festa.
9. Era possibile che i tuoi amici volessero andarci senza di te.
10. Se io avessi voluto imparare la grammatica, ne avrei comprato un libro.

Exercise 6. Translate into Italian.

1. I want to telephone him.


2. I was not wanting to disturb you.
3. When they were little, they wanted to have a pet.
4. My cousin would like to go on holiday with me.
5. I had never wanted to work in an office.
6. My mother would have liked a bigger house.
7. My parents don't want me to go on holiday with my friends.
8. Our teacher would like us to finish this for tomorrow.
9. It seemed that Carla wanted a more interesting job.
10. If I had wanted to study medicine, the course would have lasted six years.

To check your answers, click here.

Return to the Grammar Index Page

THE IMPERATIVE MOOD


This is the form of the verb which is used to give orders,
commands or requests.
For example:

1. Listen carefully = Ascolta attentamente.


2. Take notes in Italian. = Prendete appunti in italiano.
3. Let's go! = Andiamo!

Here is how the imperative is formed:

parlare ripetere aprire finire


sing. parla ripeti apri finisci
plur. parlate ripetete aprite finite

These forms are the most frequently used.

However, to express a command or request in more polite or formal language, use the
following forms:

parlare ripetere aprire finire


sing. parli ripeta apra finisca
plur. parlino ripetano aprano finiscano

This is why there are apparently two ways of saying "Excuse me". The explanation is:
Use scusa if you addressing someone informally.
Use scusi if you are being formal or polite.

There is also a form of the imperative equivalent to the English structure "Let's finish early"
"Let's go to lunch". The equivalent in Italian is:
Let's finish early = Finiamo presto.
Let's go to lunch = Andiamo a pranzare.

You'll see that this form of the imperative is the same as the ordinary present tense.

A few verbs have an irregular formation:

andare dare fare stare dire


sing. va' da' fa' sta' di'
plur. andate date fate state dite

Very often general commands are expressed by the infinitive, e.g.:

1. Tirare = Pull
2. Spingere = Push
Remember that pronouns get attached to the end of the imperative to form one word, e.g.

1. Ripetilo, per favore. = Repeat it, please.


2. Leggimelo = Read me it.

With imperatives of only one syllable, like da', fa', sta', di', the first consonant of the pronoun
is doubled (but not with "gli"), e.g.

1. Dimmi! = Tell me!


2. Stacci = Stay there
3. Dammelo! = Give me it!
4. Diglielo = Tell it to him!

However, with the formal imperative, pronouns go in front of it, e.g.:

1. Mi dica! = Tell me.


2. S'accomodi! = Have a seat.

NEGATIVE COMMANDS: "DON'T EAT IN THE CORRIDORS" "NO SMOKING"

Negative commands are usually expressed in Italian with non followed by the infinitive
verb.For example:

1. Don't eat in the corridors! = Non mangiare nei corridoi!


2. No smoking! = Non fumare!
3. Don't throw things out of the window = Non gettare oggetti dalla finestra.

However, if you want to direct a negative commands to more than one person, use the normal
imperative preceded by non, e.g.:

1. Don't run, boys! = Non correte, ragazzi!


2. Don't eat too much, gentelmen! = Non mangiate troppo, signori!

Finally, if you want the negative command using the more formal imperative, simply put non
in front of it, e.g.:

1. Don't drink it! = Non lo beva!


2. Don't give it to him! = Non glielo dia!

N.B. In the writing you will do at Standard Grade and Higher, you will probably never use
this mood of the verb, but you will certainly meet it when you are reading Italian, so learn it!

Return to Grammar Index Page.

THE PASSIVE VOICE OF THE VERB


Verbs can be active or passive voice. This means that when the subject of the verb performs
the action of the verb, we say that the verb is in the active voice. A verb is in the passive
voice if the subject has the action of the verb done to it, e.g.:
Active Voice = Calvino is writing a book = Calvino scrive un libro.
Passive Voice = The book is written by Calvino = Il libro è scritto da Calvino

The passive is formed by using the appropriate tense of essere and the past participle of the
verb, e.g.:

1. Lots of book have been written on this theme,


= Molti libri sono stati scritti su questo tema
2. This film is being produced by Visconti.
= Questo film è prodotto da Visconti.

Note the following points about the passive:

1. The passive voice always requires at least two words, sometimes three.
2. The past participle always agrees with the grammatical subject of the sentence.
3. Any tense can have a passive voice, e.g.:

present: molte informazioni sono date dal professore


a lot of information is given by the teacher
future: molte informazioni saranno date dal professore.
a lot of information will be given by the teacher

imperfect: molte informazioni erano date dal professore.


a lot of information was given by the teacher

perfect: molte informazioni sono state date dal professore.


a lot of information has been given by the teacher.

pluperfect: molte informazioni erano state date dal professore.


a lot of information had been given by the teacher.

conditional: molte informazioni sarebbero date dal professore.


a lot of information would be given by the teacher.

past conditional: molte informazioni sabbero state date dal professore.


a lot of information would have been given by the teacher.

N.B. The verb venire can be used instead of essere in the present, future, imperfect and
conditional, e.g.:

Poche macchine veranno vendute l'anno prossimo.


= Few cars will be sold next year.
Although the passive voice is available as outlined above, a very neat way to create it is by
using the pronoun si with the third person of the active voice of the verb. This construction is
called si passivante. This is how to use it:

1. Si danno troppi soldi al sud.


= Too much money is given to the South.
2. Non si mangia carne ogni giorno.
= Meat is not eaten every day.

You will often see this construction in newspaper advertisements or selling or renting articles.
Then the si is attached to the verb, e.g.:

1. Vendesi bicicletta.
= Bicycle for sale.
2. Affittasi piccolo appartamento.
= Small appartment for rent.

Students usually find the passive is awkward to form correctly in Italian; the best solution is
to use the si passivante contruction, but if that is not possible, try to turn the sentence around
and write it in the active voice, e.g. instead of trying to write "the tickets had already been
posted by my parents" turn it into "my parents had already posted the tickets

Return to the Grammar Index Page.


IMPERSONAL VERBS

These verbs only exist in the third person; there are three groups:

1. Verbs referring to the weather:

1. piove = it is raining
2. nevica = it is snowing
3. fa freddo = it is cold
4. fa caldo = it is warm

2. Impersonal expressions like “it is easy to ...”, “ it is likely that ...”, e.g.

1. è facile (+ infinitive) = it's easy to ...


2. è difficile (+ infinitive) = it's difficult to ...
3. è probabile che (+ subjunctive) = it's probable that ...
4. è necessario che (+ subjunctive) = it's necessary that ....

3. Certain verbs expressing need, necessity etc. e.g.

bisogna it's necessary


occorre it's necessary
pare it seems
sembra it seems
succede it happens
accade it happens
importa it's important; it matters
basta it is enough

However, the impersonal construction is very common in Italian when you want to
show that the action of a verb is perfomed by a subject which is indefinite or by
people in general.
The construction uses si + 3rd person of the verb. The construction is called si impersonale.
It is used where in English we would say “You go to school, you come home, you go to bed,
you get up, you go to school.” or “one reads about it all the time.”

The examples below should make it clear:

1. Si lavora per guadagnare soldi.


People work to earn money.
2. Non si può pagare con una carta di credito.
You can't pay by credit card.
3. Come si dice awkward in italian?
How do you say awkward in Italian.
4. Non si paga molto in alberghi di quella categoria.
You don't pay much in hotels of that class.
5. Si scelgono diversi corsi.
People choose different courses.
(Different courses are chosen)

Look at the last example carefully. The verb is plural because the noun following it is plural.
This usage is the same as the si passivante construction.

Return to the Grammar Index Page.


THE SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD — IL MODO CONGIUNTIVO

All the tenses of the verb which are listed under the verbs on the Grammar Index Page, apart
from the conditional tenses, are in a mood called the INDICATIVE. This is the form of the
verb which is used for making statements of fact. Now meet the subjunctive:

This is a mood of the verb which no longer exists in English, except in one structure with the
verb "to be", so English speakers usually find it difficult to grasp the subjunctive. Many other
languages still have there subjunctive mood but it has vanished from English.
It is a form of the verb which is used in Italian quite commonly in certain situations.
The subjunctive mood is available in only four tenses: present, imperfect, perfect and
pluperfect.

Firstly you have to get to know what the subjunctive looks like; here are some verbs to
illustrate how the present and imperfect are formed:

PRESENT TENSE IMPERFECT TENSE


parlare vedere dormire capire parlare vedere capire
parli veda dorma capisca parlassi vedessi capissi
parli veda dorma capisca parlassi vedessi capissi
parli veda dorma capisca parlasse vedesse capisse
parliamo vediamo dormiamo capiamo parlassimo vedessimo capissimo
parliate vediate dormiate capiate parlaste vedeste capiste
parlino vedano dormano capiscano parlassero vedessero capissero

N.B. You will see that in the present tense, the first three persons of the verb are identical and
this is one occasion when you will probably have to use the personal pronouns in order to
avoid confusion. Similarly, in the imperfect tense, you cannot distinguish the first and second
persons without using pronouns.

You know that in the present tense there are two types of verb in the Third Conjugation (those
whose infinitive ends in -ire). If you are not sure of this, go back and look again at how you
form the present tense by clicking here. Both these types of verb form there imperfect in the
same way.

Here are the subjunctives of essere and avere. You need these as verbs in their own right but
they are also the auxiliary verbs which make the perfect and pluperfect subjunctives for all the
other verbs in the language.

PRESENT TENSE IMPERFECT TENSE


essere avere essere avere
sia abbia fossi avessi
sia abbia fossi avessi
sia abbia fosse avesse
siamo abbiamo fossimo avessimo
siate abbiate foste aveste
siano abbiano fossero avessero

Again you need to use pronouns to distinguish the persons of the verb which are identical.

The tables above show you how to make the subjunctive, now you need to learn when and
when not to use it.
I have divided the rest of this page into eight sections to illustrate the uses of the subjunctive.
In Higher Grade Writing, I would expect you to be able to use a few clauses and structures
which require the subjunctive.

SECTION 1: Use it : after impersonal verbs and expressions like:

bisogna che
it is necessary that .... è facile/difficile che ... it is easy/difficult
...
occorre che è possibile/impossibile it is possible/impossible
it is necessary that ....
... che ... that
è probabile/improbabile it is probable/improbable
sembra che ... it seems that ...
che ... that
pare che ... it seems that ... è meglio che ... it is better that ...
è peccato che ... it is a pity that ...
è bene che ... it is good that ...
è importante che ... it is important that

But DON'T USE IT when you use an infinitive, e.g.:

1. It is difficult to understand all this = E' difficile capire tutto questo.


2. You need to book the tickets = Bisogna prenotare i biglietti.

SECTION 2: Use it : after verbs expressing hope, want, expect, prefer, fear, think,
e.g.

1. I hope that you understand all this = Spero che tu capisca tutto questo.
2. The boss wanted us all to work hard = Il padrone voleva che lavorassimo sodo.
3. My parents prefer me to go with them = I miei genitori preferiscono che io li
accompagni.
4. I thought Angelina was very sweet = Pensavo che Angelina fosse molto simpatica.

But DON'T USE IT when you use an infinitive, e.g.:

1. I hope to go to university = Spero di andare all'università.


2. I would like to study law = Vorrei studiare legge.
3. I would prefer to continue to study Spanish = Preferirei continuare a studiare lo
spagnolo.
4. I am thinking of looking for a job = Penso di cercare un lavoro.

SECTION 3: It must be used in clauses introduced by the following conjunctions:

benché although
sebbene although
purché provided that
a condizione che on condition that
... ...
nel caso che ... in case

For example:

1. We enjoyed ourselves although the weather was terrible


= Ci siamo divertiti benché il tempo fosse terribile
2. I'll buy him a present for his birthday provided it doesn't cost too much
= Gli comprerò un regalo per il suo compleanno purché non costi troppo
3. I'll take an umbrella in case it rains.
= Porterò un ombrello nel caso che piova.

SECTION 4: USE IT to express purpose after the following conjunctions BUT only if
the subjects of the main and dependent clauses are different/

in order that ...; so that


affinché
...
in order that ...; so that
perché
...
in order that ...; so that
cosicché
...
in modo in order that ...; so that
che ...

For example:

1. We hired bikes so that the children could go into the countryside.


= Abbiamo noleggiato delle biciclette affinché i bambini vadano in campagna.
2. Let's wait a little for the wine to get cooler.
= Aspettiamo un po' cosicche il vino sia più freddo.

But DON'T USE IT if the subjects in the two clauses are the same; instead, use per +
infinitive, e.g.:

1. I would like to go to university to study foreign languages.


= Vorrei andare all'università per studiare lingue straniere.
2. If I had the money, I would go to Italy to improve my Italian.
= Se io avessi i soldi, andrei in Italia per migliorare il mio italiano.
3. I went to the bank in order to change money.
= Sono andato alla banca per cambiare soldi.

SECTION 5: USE IT after the conjunction “prima che”to translate “before”


if the subjects of the two clauses are different, e.g.:

1. I'll leave before your parents come back home.


= Partirò prima che i tuoi genitori tornino a casa.
2. The house had been burning for half an hour before the firemen arrived.
= La casa brucciava da una mezz'ora prima che i pompieri arrivassero.

But DON'T USE IT if the subjects in the two clauses are the same; instead, use prima di
+ infinitive, e.g.:

1. We played cards before going to bed.


= Abbiamo giocato a carte prima di andare a letto.
2. I would like to have a gap year before going to university.
= Vorrei avere un anno sabatico prima di andare all'università.

SECTION 6: USE IT after the conjunction “senza che”to translate “without”


if the subjects of the two clauses are different, e.g.:

1. The boys used to smoke without their parents being aware of it.
= I ragazzi fumavano senza che i loro genitori se ne accorgessero.
2. I can't do anything without my family knowing about it.
= Non posso fare niente senza che la mia famiglia lo sappia.

But DON'T USE IT if the subjects in the two clauses are the same; instead, use senza +
infinitive, e.g.:

1. I didn't want to come back without buying some presents.


= Non volevo tornare senza comprare qualche regalo.
2. Breakfast is important. It's not a good idea to leave home without having something to
eat.
= La colazione è importante. Non è una buona idea uscire di casa senza mangiare
qualcosa.

SECTION 7: USE IT with the structure“non


vedo l'ora che”to translate “I
can't wait; I am looking forward to” if the subjects of the two clauses
are different, e.g.:

1. I can't wait for the holidays to arrive.


= Non vedo l'ora che le vacanze arrivino.
2. I couldn't wait for the phone to ring.
= Non vedevo l'ora che il telefono squillasse.
But DON'T USE IT if you want an infinitive; instead, use non vedo l'ora + infinitive, e.g.:

1. I can't wait to go back to Rome.


= non vedo l'ora di tornare a Roma.
2. My partner was looking forward to visiting Scotland.
= La mia corrispondente non vedeva l'ora di visitare la Scozia.

SECTION 8: Commonest mistakes when using the subjunctive.

These are:

1. Using the subjunctive when you don't need it. Look at the sections above and note when it
is not required; it is usually only needed after certain conjunctions when the subjects in the
two clauses are different.

2. Using the wrong tense.


There are only four tenses which have a subjunctive: present, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect.

Rule: If the verb in the main clause is present, future, or imperative, use the present or
perfect subjunctive.
If the verb in the main clause is past, or conditional, use the imperfect or pluperfect
subjunctive.

Exercise 1: Here is a short passage in English; after it you will find that most of it has been
translated but you have to change the verbs given from the infinitive into the correct tense of
the subjunctive. In the passage someone is telling of their dreams and wishes when he was
younger and this is a situation where the subjunctive is needed.

When I was a little boy, I always


Quando ero piccolo,sempre volevo che mio
wished that my father was rich. I
padre (essere) ricco. Volevo che la mia
wanted my family to live in a big
famiglia (abitare) in una grande casa. Speravo
house. I hoped that my father would
che mio padre ci (comprare) una macchina, e
buy us a car, and that we would spend
che noi (passare) le nostre vacanze
our holidays abroad. I wanted us to
all'estero.Volevo che noi (abitare) in una
live in a big town because I always
grande città perché pensavo sempre che il
thought that our town was boring and
nostro paese (essere) noioso e mi sarebbe
I would have liked us to have been
piaciuto che noi (potere) andare ai concerti ed
able to go to concerts and the theatre
a teatro ecc.
etc.

To check your answer click here.

Exercise 2: Translate these sentences into Italian:

1. I used to think that life in America was exciting.


2. I doubt that Anna is happy.
3. I suppose that teachers in Italy don't earn much.
4. My mother hoped that we were spending our holiday quietly.
5. I always imagined that the beaches were crowded in summer.
6. Our grandmother always wished that we had gone to university.
7. It is possible that someone has found the wallet.
8. It was necessary for the children to get dressed in a hurry.
9. I had bought a house in the country because I thought that the air was cleaner there.
10. My parents would have liked me to stay at home.

To check your answer click here.

PRONOUNS — I PRONOMI
This page is divided into six sections organised as follows:
1. Direct Object Pronouns
2. Indirect Object Pronouns
3. Reflexive Pronouns
4. Disjunctive Pronouns
5. The pronoun “ ne”
6. Rules for using two pronouns before the verb

Pronouns are words which take the place of nouns.


In Italian there are four types of pronouns; they sometimes have horrendous technical names
but they are quite easy. They are given below with their grammatical names and a translation
into English.

There is also a special pronoun ne which is in a class of its own.

1 DIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS:

mi me ci us
ti you vi you
lo him li them (masc.)
la her le them (fem.)
you
La Le you (formal
(formal)

To see how to use them click here.

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2 INDIRECT OBJECT PRONOUNS:

mi to/for me ci to/for us
ti to/for you vi to/for you
gli to/for him loro to them
le to/for her loro to them
to you to you
Le Loro
(formal) (formal)

To see how to use them click here.

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3 REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS:

mi myself ci ourselves
ti yourself vi yourselves
si himself/herself si themselves

To see how to use them click here.

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4 DISJUNCTIVE PRONOUNS (used after prepositions)

me me noi us
te you voi you
lui him loro them (masc.)
lei her loro them (fem.)
you
Lei Loro you (formal
(formal)

To see how to use them, click here.

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5 THE PRONOUN ne.


This pronoun is very idiomatic. Spend a little time with it and try to master it,
especially if you are doing Higher Writing.

Rules:

1. It stands before the verb or before the auxiliary verb in compound tenses.

2. It is attached to the end of the infinitive, gerundio and imperative to form one word.

3. It follows the rule about using two pronouns before the verb. Check it out in the next
section.

4 In compound tenses, when ne replaces the direct object, the past participle agrees with the
direct object:—
Quante bottiglie di vino hai comprato? — Ne ho comprate dieci.
= How many bottles of wine did you buy? — I bought ten.

1. Nemeans “of it; of them”. It frequently does not need to be translated into
English: e.g.:
1. Hai molti esami? — Sì, ne ho sette.
= Do you have many exams? Yes, I have seven (of them)

2. Hai fatto tutti gli esercizi? — No. Però, ne ho fatti tre.


= Have you done all the exercises? No. But I've done three (of them)

Although English not have an equivalent for ne in the type of sentences shown above, you
must remember to use it in Italian.

2. This pronoun replaces a prepositional phrase beginning with di, and it does need to be
translated into English. For example:

1. Hai paura del cane? — No, non ne ho paura.


= Are you frightened of the dog? No, I'm not frightened of it.

2. Carlo parla mai della sua infanzia? — Sì, ne parla spesso.


= Does Carlo ever talk about his childhood? Yes, he often talks about it.

You could find that you need to use this pronoun if you are dealing with one of the common
verbs or expressions which are followed by di. Here are the commonest; try to learn them:

avere bisogno di to need


avere paura di to be afraid of
avere voglia di to want
sapere di to know of
accorgersi di to notice; realise
rendersi conto di to notice; realise
ricordarsi di to remember
dimenticarsi di to forget

For example:

1. Ti sei accorto di quanto costava la macchina? — Sì, me ne sono accorto.


= Did you notice how much the car cost? — Yes, I noticed (it).

2. Ti ricordi della scuola materna? — No, non me ne ricordo niente.


= Do you remember your nursery school? — No, I don't remember anything about it.

3. Cosa sai di Sardegna? — Non ne so molto.


= What do you know about Sardinia? — I don't know much about it.

3. This pronoun also replaces expressions consisting of da + place. For example:


1. Ha aperto la borsetta e ne ha preso una fotografia.
= She opened her handbag and took a photograph out of it.
2. A che ora tuo marito è uscito dall'ufficio? — Ne è uscito alle sette e mezzo.
= What time did your husband leave the office? He left it at 7.30.

4. This pronoun also has some idiomatic usages which have no equivalent in English. The
only one which you should be familiar with is with the reflexive form of the verb andare.
This produces the verb andarsene which means “to leave; go away”. Although there is no
equivalent in English, in French you may have met the verb s'en aller . Here is the verb in its
present and perfect tenses. This verb cannot take a direct object.

present tense passato prossimo


me ne sono
me ne vado I am leaving I left/ have left
andato/a
te ne vai you .... te ne sei andato/a you ....
se ne va he/she/it .... se n'è andato/a he/she/it ....
ce ne ce ne siamo
we .... we ....
andiamo andati/e
ve ne siete
ve ne andate you .... you ....
andati/e
se ne vanno they .... se ne sono andati/e they ....

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6 RULES ABOUT USING TWO PRONOUNS.

Look at these sentences:

1. I bought her a present but forgot to give her it.


2. We sent for their autographs and they said they would give us them.

There are two pronouns highlighted in each one. English speakers often have problems
translating this kind of sentence into Italian because they are not quite sure what pronouns to
use. the sentences actually mean:

1. I bought a present for her, but I forgot to give it to her.


2. We sent for their autographs and they said they would sent them to us.

So, in the first sentence it is a direct object pronoun and to her is an indirect object pronoun.
Similarly in the second sentence, them is a direct object pronoun and to us is an indirect
object pronoun.

In Italian there is a rule which governs the order in which these pronouns are used, namely:
indirect object followed by direct object.

This causes a slight change of spelling: pronouns which normally end in i change this letter to
e. This is more complicated than it should be and perhaps the best way to grapple with it is to
look at the following table where two pronouns are used.The first pronoun means "to me" ,
"to you" etc.; lo and la mean "it", and li and le mean "them". You'll see that the pronoun gli
means "to him" or "to her" or "to them" and it combines into one word with the direct object
pronouns lo, la, li, le.

Indirect Object
Direct Object Pronouns
prons.
lo li le ne (of it/of
la (her/it)
(him/it) (them) (them) them)
mi (to me) me lo me la me li me le me ne
ti (to you) te lo te la te li te le te ne
gli (to him) glielo gliela glieli gliele gliene
le (to her) glielo gliela glieli gliele gliene
ci (to us) ce lo ce la ce li ce le ce ne
vi (to you) ve lo ve la ve li ve le ve ne
gli (to them) glielo gliela glieli gliele gliene

So, look at how these English senteces translate into Italian:

1. They bought a scooter and gave me it for my birthday


Hanno comprato un motorino e me l'hanno regalato per il mio compleanno.
2. She doesn't have your telephone number; I'll send her it with my letter.
Non ha il tuo numero telefonico; glielo mando con la mia lettera.
3. They already have the results; when will they give us them?
Hanno già i risultati; quando ce li daranno?
4. He has a new car; he was showing her it.
Ha una nuova macchina; gliela mostrava.

As with single pronouns, both of these pronouns get attached to the end of the infinitive,
gerundio, or imperative, so the last sentence could also be : Ha una nuova macchina; stava
mostrandogliela.

When added to an infinitive or imperative, pairs of pronouns can make the verb look very
strange, e.g.

Ti ho comprato qualcosa; quando posso dartela? = I bought something for you; when can I
give you it?
Mi hanno chiesto di spiegarglielo = They asked me to explain it to them.
Quelle sigarette sono le mie; dammele subito. Those cigarettes are mine; give me them
immediately.

The same rules apply to reflexive pronouns used with direct object pronoun,e.g.

Reflexive
Direct Object Pronouns
pronouns.
lo li le ne (of it/of
la (her/it)
(him/it) (them) (them) them)
mi (myself) me lo me la me li me le me ne
ti (yourself) te lo te la te li te le te ne
si
se lo se la se li se le se ne
(himself/herself)
ci (ourselves) ce lo ce la ce li ce le ce ne
vi (yourselves) ve lo ve la ve li ve le ve ne
si (themselves) se lo se la se li se le se ne

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ADVERBS — GLI AVVERBI


ADVERBS indicate time, place, manner or quantity; unlike adjectives, they are invariable and
can modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

Here are some common adverbs which you should know as items of vocabulary. Learn them:

adverbs of time adverbs of place adverbs of manner adverbs of quantity


ieri yesterday qui here così so molto very
too
oggi today lì there bene well troppo
(much)
quite;
domani tomorrow vicino near male badly abbastanza
enough
sempre always lontano far away meglio better piuttosto rather
spesso often daperttutto everywhere peggio worse assai quite
tardi late fuori outside purtroppo unfortunately più more
presto early dentro inside davvero really anche also
subito immediately
ancora still; again
fa ago
già already
Many adverbs can be made from adjectives by adding the suffix -mente to the feminine form
of the adjective as shown below:

ADJECTIVE ADVERB
vero true veramente truly
chiaro clear chiaramente clearly
ovvio obvious ovviamente obviously
recente recent recentemente recently
veloce quick velocemente quickly

If the adjective ends in -le or -re and there is a vowel in front, the final -e is dropped and
-mente is added, for example:

ADJECTIVE ADVERB
facile easy facilmente easily
probabile probable probabilmente probably
regolare regular regolarmente regularly
popolare popular popolarmente popularly

Comparative Adverbs
Comparative is when you want to say “more easily” or “less often”.
The equivalent in Italian is to say “più facile” and “meno spesso”.

Position of Adverbs:

1. Adverbs usually follow the verb they qualify: e.g.


Marco va sempre in macchina = Marco always goes by car.

2. Adverbs qualifying a noun, precede it: e.g.


Roma è una città molto viva = Rome is a very lively city.

3. The common adverbs ancora, anche, già, mai, più, sempre usually insert themselves
between the auxiliary verb and past participle in the perfect tense: e.g.
Non ho mai visitato gli Stati Uniti = I have never visited the USA.
Maria è già andata via = Maria has already gone away.

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