Italian/Verbs

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In Italian, most verbs end in a common pattern, such as -are, -ere, and -ire. These are the 1st, 2nd and 3rd conjugations respectively.

Present tense (Presente indicativo)[edit]

The present tense in Italian is essentially the same as in English. The only difference is that it can also be used as the present continuous, so "I do" and "I am doing" are conjugated the same way. The English present continuous, however, is expressed in a better way by a more complex construction with the verb "stare" and the "gerundio" form (the English -ing form).

Also note that the subject pronoun can be dropped from a conjugated verb because the ending of the conjugated verb communicates the subject of the action.

Present Tense Conjugations 1, 2 and 3[edit]

Category 1 words in the infinitive end in ARE:for example parlare (to speak), gioccare (to play), amare (to love) and so on. Similarly, category 2 words in the infinitive end in ERE: vendere (to sell), vedere (to see). Category 3 words in the infinitive end in IRE. There two (2) subcategories of this case: those requiring no special treatment and those requiring an ISC be inserted prior to inserting the ending. Some authors have classified the second subcategory as class 3 and the first subcategory as class 4, thus reclassifying to 4 cases. Using this method, in class 3 we have: capire (to understand), finire (to finish),preferire (to prefer) and in class 4 we have: sentire (to feel),dormire (to sleep) To conjugate regular verbs follow this method:

  1. Drop the ending from the infinitive to give the stem.
    Eg.: lavorare (to work) → lavor-
  2. Add the correct ending:
    Eg.: lavorare → lavor- → lavoro
person -are -ere -ire
io -o -o -o
tu -i -i -i
lui/lei -a -e -e
noi -iamo -iamo -iamo
voi -ate -ete -ite
loro -ano -ono -ono


So, for example, parlare (to speak) would be conjugated as follows:

(Io) parlo ("I speak / am speaking")
(Tu) parli ("You speak / you are speaking")
(Egli/ella/Lei/Lui) parla
(Noi) parliamo
(Voi) parlate
(Essi/Loro) parlano

Note: Words egli, ella, and essi are older versions of lui, lei, and loro, respectively, but are still used occasionally today.

3rd Conjugation Verbs taking "-isc-"[edit]

Many 3rd Conjugation verbs add the letters -isc- between the stem and the ending for the present tense. This is constructed as follows:

finire(to end/finish)

person ire
io -isco io finisco
tu -isci tu finisci
lui/lei/Lei -isce lui/lei/Lei finisce
noi -iamo noi finiamo
voi -ite voi finite
loro -iscono loro finiscono

Remember that, when followed by i or e, -sc- sounds like the English 'shake' (/ʃ/). If a, o or u follow, -sc- will be read as in the English word 'sky' (/sk/).

The Present Perfect (Passato Prossimo)[edit]

The Passato Prossimo is one of the most commonly used past tenses in Italian. It is a compound tense, therefore the auxiliary verbs avere and essere are used in conjugation. Note that the following conjugations are both irregular.

Avere (to have)
io ho
tu hai
lui/lei ha
noi abbiamo
voi avete
loro hanno
Essere (to be)
io sono
tu sei
lui/lei è
noi siamo
voi siete
loro sono

The Past Participle[edit]

The past participle is used with the verbs avere and essere to form the passato prossimo. To form the past participle, the ending of the verb (-are, -ere, -ire) are changed as follows:

  • verbs ending in -are take -ato for their past participle (e.g.: parlareparlato)
  • verbs ending in -ere take -uto for their past participle (e.g.: caderecaduto)
  • verbs ending in -ire take -ito for their past participle (e.g.: finirefinito)

Note that the past participle of avere is avuto and the past participle of essere is stato.

Formation of the Passato Prossimo with Avere[edit]

To form the passato prossimo, you have to use avere or essere plus the past participle. Most verbs take avere for the passato prossimo; all reflexive verbs take essere and a few select verbs of motion take essere.

For now, we deal with the verbs that take avere. First, you conjugate avere for the appropriate subject, then place the past participle after it; an example follows:

Parlare (to speak)
io ho parlato
tu hai parlato
lui/lei ha parlato
noi abbiamo parlato
voi avete parlato
loro hanno parlato

The literal translation of this is "I have spoken", "you have spoken", "he/she has spoken", etc. However, this tense is the main past tense used in Italian and can be loosely translated as "I spoke", "you spoke", "he/she spoke", etc. Note that almost all verbs are conjugated this way with the passato prossimo.

Formation of the Passato Prossimo with Essere[edit]

The passato prossimo is generally conjugated with avere; however there are some situations in which essere is used. Many verbs of motion as well as all the reflexive verbs, require essere.

Some of the most common verbs that take essere are:

  • arrivare (to arrive)
  • andare (to go)
  • uscire (to go out)
  • entrare (to enter)
  • venire as venuto (to come)
  • essere as stato (to be)
  • partire (to leave)
  • stare as stato (to stay, to be)
  • sparire (to disappear)
  • tornare (to come back/return)
  • nascere as nato (to be born)
  • morire as morto (to die)
  • rimanere as rimasto (to remain)

Note that irregular past participles are in parentheses.

And before we get to an example, there is just one other difference between essere and avere for the passato prossimo. While in conjugations with avere, the past participle does not agree with the subject, it must in essere.

E.g., when a feminine subject wants to say 'I spoke', she would say 'io ho parlato'. But if she wants to say 'I was', she would use essere and the respective form of the participle: 'io sono stata'. Similar changes occur for plural subjects, such as noi, which can have a past participle ending in -i or -e. An example of a passato prossimo with essere follows:

Nascere (to be born)
io sono nato/a
tu sei nato/a
lui/lei è nato/a
noi siamo nati/e
voi siete nati/e
loro sono nati/e

The Future Indicative (Il futuro indicativo)[edit]

The future indicative is the equivalent of 'will + a verb' or 'be going to + a verb' in English. It is not a compound tense in Italian (it is not formed with avere/essere like the passato prossimo).

The verbs avere and essere are irregular in the future indicative. Their conjugations are:

Essere (to be)
io sarò
tu sarai
lui/lei sarà
noi saremo
voi sarete
loro saranno
Avere (to have)
io avrò
tu avrai
lui/lei avrà
noi avremo
voi avrete
loro avranno

Regular Verbs in the Future Tense / Verbi regolari al futuro[edit]

The verbs ending by -are and -ere are conjugated by adding the same set of endings for the future indicative. These endings are -erò, -erai, -erà, -eremo, -erete, and -eranno.

The endings for -ire verbs are similar but exactly the same; the difference is that the first e of the ending is replaced by i. Therefore the endings are: -irò,-irai, -irà, -iremo, -irete, -iranno.

Parlare (to speak)
io parlerò
tu parlerai
lui/lei parlerà
noi parleremo
voi parlerete
loro parleranno
Vendere (to sell)
io venderò
tu venderai
lui/lei venderà
noi venderemo
voi venderete
loro venderanno
Finire (to finish)
io finirò
tu finirai
lui/lei finirà
noi finiremo
voi finirete
loro finiranno

There is a small group of verbs whose infinitive ends with -gare or -care. In the formation of the future indicative, these verbs require an h to keep the consistency with the rules of pronunciation. An example of such case follows:

Dimenticare (to forget)
io dimenticherò
tu dimenticherai
lui/lei dimenticherà
noi dimenticheremo
voi dimenticherete
loro dimenticheranno