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Italian Language Lessons

Grammar, spelling, and usage

Italian Present Tense

The Italian present tense (presente) is happening right now. It's a simple tense—that
is, the verb form consists of one word only. The present tense of a regular Italian
verb is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the appropriate endings
to the resulting stem.

The present tense of a regular -are verb is formed by dropping the infinitive ending
-are and adding the appropriate endings to the resulting stem (-o, -i, -a, -iamo, -ate,
-ano). See the table below for a sample conjugation of amare (to love).

PRESENT TENSE CONJUGATION OF AMARE (TO LOVE)
PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL
I (io) amo (I love) (noi) amiamo (we love)
II (tu) ami (you love, familiar) (voi) amate (you love, familiar)
III (Lei) ama (you love, formal) (Loro) amano (you love, formal)
(lui/lei) ama (he/she loves) (loro) amano (they love)

The infinitive of first-conjugation Italian verbs (those ending in -are) and the
conjugated forms of the present tense are pronounced like most Italian words: the
stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. The one exception is the third person plural
form amano, which is pronounced AH-mah-noh, with stress falling on the first
syllable. A few first-conjugation verbs are listed in the following table.

COMMON FIRST-CONJUGATION VERBS
arrivare to arrive
ascoltare to listen
aspettare to wait
ballare to dance
camminare to walk
cantare to sing
dimenticare to forget
guidare to drive
imparare to learn
insegnare to teach
lavorare to work
nuotare to swim
parlare to speak
COMMON FIRST-CONJUGATION VERBS
pranzare to dine, to have lunch
suonare to play (a musical instrument)
telefonare to telephone
visitare to visit

Second-Conjugation Verbs
Italian verbs with infinitives ending in -ere are called second-conjugation (seconda
coniugazione) or -ere verbs. The present tense of a regular -ere verb is formed by
dropping the infinitive ending and adding the appropriate endings (-o, -i, -e, -iamo,
-ete, -ono) to the stem. For an example on how to conjugate a regular second-
conjugation verb, take a look the following table.

PRESENT TENSE CONJUGATION OF SCRIVERE (TO WRITE)
PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL
I (io) scrivo (I write) (noi) scriviamo (we write)
II (tu) scrivi (you write, familiar) (voi) scrivete (you write, familiar)
III (Lei) scrive (you write, formal) (Loro) scrivono (you write, formal)
(lui/lei) scrive (he/she writes) (loro) scrivono (they write)

Second-conjugation (-ere) verbs account for approximately one-quarter of all Italian
verbs. Although many have some sort of irregular structure, there are also many
regular verbs (see the following table for examples) which are conjugated in the
same way as scrivere.

COMMON SECOND-CONJUGATION VERBS
accendere to light, ignite; turn/switch on
battere to beat, to hit
cadere to fall
chiedere to ask
conoscere to know
correre to run
credere to believe
descrivere to describe
eleggere to elect
leggere to read
mettere to put, to place
mordere to bite
nascere to be born
offendere to offend
perdere to lose
COMMON SECOND-CONJUGATION VERBS
rimanere to remain, to stay
ridere to laugh
rompere to break
vendere to sell
sopravvivere to survive

While the infinitive forms of both first- and third-conjugation Italian verbs always
have the accent on the final -are or -ire, second-conjugation verbs are often
pronounced with the accent on the third-to-last syllable, as in prendere (PREHN-deh-
ray).

Third-Conjugation Verbs
If there are first-conjugation and second-conjugation verbs, then it stands to reason
there are third-conjugation verbs (terza coniugazione)! This final group contains
verbs that end in -ire in the infinitive. The present tense of a regular -ire verb is
formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the appropriate endings (-o, -i,
-e, -iamo, -ite, -ono) to the resulting stem. Note that, except for the voi form, these
endings are the same as for regular second-conjugation (-ere) verbs. For an example
of how to conjugate a regular -ire verb, see the table below, which conjugates
sentire (to hear, to feel, to smell).

PRESENT TENSE CONJUGATION OF SENTIRE (TO HEAR, TO FEEL, TO SMELL)
PERSON SINGULAR PLURAL
I (io) sento (I feel) (noi) sentiamo (we feel)
II (tu) senti (you feel, familiar) (voi) sentite (you feel, familiar)
III (Lei) sente (you feel, formal) (Loro) sentono (you feel, formal)
(lui/lei) sente (he/she feels) (loro) sentono (they feel)

Other common -ire third-conjugation regular verbs are listed below.

COMMON THIRD-CONJUGATION VERBS
acconsentire to agree, to acquiesce
assorbire to soak
aprire to open
bollire to boil
coprire to cover
cucire to sew
dormire to sleep
fuggire to flee
mentire to lie
morire to die
COMMON THIRD-CONJUGATION VERBS
offrire to offer
partire to leave
riaprire to reopen
scoprire to discover, to uncover
seguire to follow
sentire to hear, to feel, to smell
servire to serve
sfuggire to escape
soffrire to suffer
vestire to dress, to wear

Table of Regular Verb Endings
Indicative, Subjunctive, Conditional, Imperative, and Gerund Tenses
INDICATIVE/INDICATIVO CONDITIONAL/CONDIZIONALE
Present/Presente
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE Present/Presente
I singular –o –o –o/–isco ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
II –i –i –i/–isci I singular –erei –erei –irei
III –a –e –e/–isce II –eresti –eresti –iresti
I plural –iamo –iamo –iamo III –erebbe –erebbe –irebbe
II –ate –ete –ite I plural –eremmo –eremmo –iremmo
III –ano –ono –ono/–iscono II –ereste –ereste –ireste
Imperfect/Imperfetto III –erebbero –erebbero –irebbero
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE IMPERATIVE/IMPERATIVO
I singular –avo –evo –ivo
II –avi –evi –ivi
Present/Presente
III –ava –eva –iva
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
I plural –avamo –evamo –ivamo
I singular – – –
II –avate –evate –ivate
II –a –i –i/–isci
III –avano –evano –ivano
III –i –a –a/–isca
Past absolute/Passato remoto
I plural –iamo –iamo –iamo
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
II –ate –ete –ite
I singular –ai –ei/–etti –ii
III –ino –ano –ano/–iscano
II –asti –esti –isti
INFINITIVE/INFINITO
III –ò –é/–ette –ì
I plural –ammo –emmo –immo
II –aste –este –iste Present/Presente
III –arono –erono/– –irono ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
ettero PARTICIPLE/PARTICIPIO
Future/Futuro semplice Present/Presente
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
I singular –erò –erò –irò Singular –ante –ente –ente
II –erai –erai –irai Plural –anti –enti –enti
III –erà –erà –irà Past/Passato
I plural –eremo –eremo –iremo ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
II –erete –erete –irete Singular –ato, –ata –uto, –uta –ito, –ita
III –eranno –eranno –iranno Plural –ati, –ate –uti, –ute –iti, –ite
SUBJUNCTIVE/CONGIUNTIVO GERUND/GERUNDIO

Present/Presente Present/Presente
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE ENDING –ANDO –ENDO –ENDO
I singular –i –a –a/–isca
II –i –a –a/–isca
III –i –a –a/–isca
I plural –iamo –iamo –iamo
II –iate –iate –iate
III –ino –ano –ano/iscano
Imperfect/Imperfetto
ENDING –ARE –ERE –IRE
I singular –assi –essi –issi
II –assi –essi –issi
III –asse –esse –isse
I plural –assimo –essimo –issimo
II –aste –este –iste
III –assero –essero –issero
Conjugating regular verbs is fairly simple. Take off the last three letters of -are, -ere,
and -ire ending verbs and add these to the stem:

-ARE ending
(I) -o
(you) -i
(he/she/it) -a
(we) -iamo
(you all) -ate
(they) -ano

-ERE ending
(I) -o
(you) -i
(he/she/it) -e
(we) -iamo
(you all) -ete
(they) -ono

Some -IRE verbs have alternative endings
-IRE ending
(I) -o / -isco
(you) -i / -isci
(he/she/it) -e / -isce
(we) -iamo

(you all) -ite
(they) -ono / -iscono

ESSERE
---Past Tense (Imperfect):
---Present Tense: I was = io ero
I am = io sono you were = tu eri
you are = tu sei he/she/it was = lui/lei era
he/she/it is = lui/lei é we were = noi eravamo
we are = noi siamo you all were= voi eravate
they are = loro sono they were = loro erano
you all are= voi siete

AVERE
---Present Tense: ---Past Tense (Imperfect):
I had = io avevo
I have = io ho you had = tu avevi
you have = tu hai he/she/it had = lui/lei aveva
he/she/it has = lui/lei ha we had = noi avevamo
we have = noi abbiamo you all had = voi avevate
you all have= voi avete they had = loro avevano
they have = loro hanno

CONOSCERE (know or be acquainted with)
---Present Tense: ---Past Tense (Imperfect):
I knew = io sapevo
I know = io conosco you knew = tu sapevi
you know = tu conosci he/she/it knew = lui/lei sapeva
he/she/it knows = lui/lei conosce we knew = npi sapevamo
we know = noi conosciamo you all knew= voi sapevate
you all know= voi conoscete they knew = loro sapevano
they know = loro conoscono

FARE
---Present Tense: ---Past Tense (Imperfect):
I made = io facevo
I make = io faccio you made = tu facevi
you make = tu fai he/she/it made = lui/lei faceva
he/she/it makes = lui/lei fa we made = noi facevamo
we make = noi facciamo you all made = voi facevate
you all make= voi fate they made = loro facevano
they make = loro fanno

Commands
The imperative tense is used for commands. This tense is formed using these rules:

1. The second person singular and plural (tu and voi) forms are the same as their present
indicative forms, with the exception of -are verbs, which add -a to the root.

2. The formal lei/loro form take the present subjunctive form.

3. The first person plural (noi) form also uses the present indicative form.

Here are some examples:

aprire cantare vendere
tu (you) apri canta vendi
lei apra canti venda
(he/she)
noi (we) apriam cantiamovendiamo
o
loro (they) aprano cantino vendano

To form negative commands place non before the Infinitive form:
Don't sleep! => (tu) Non dormire!
Don't sing! => Non cantare!

Imperative
The imperative mood is the mood of command in Italian. There is one tense form.

The imperative in Italian is limited to five personal forms in the affirmative, and five personal forms
in the negative. The imperative lacks a "first person singular" form.

Second Person
The main parts of any imperative are the second person singular and plural.

Affirmative

 For the first conjugation in are, the affirmative second person singular is identical to the third
person singular form of the present tense.

 For the second and third conjugations in ere/ire, the affirmative second person singular is
identical to the second person singular form of the present tense.

 For all conjugations (are/ere/ire), the second person plural is identical to the second person
plural form of the present tense.

"to sing" "to see" "to put" "to finish" "to sleep"
(are) (ére) (ere) (ire w/ isc) (ire w/o isc)
2sg tu canta! vedi! metti! finisci! dormi!

2pl voi cantate! vedete! mettete! finite! dormite!

Negative

The negative imperative in the second person has the following quirk: the second person singular is
the word non before the infinitive. The plural is non before the plural affirmative:
"to sing" "to see" "to put" "to finish" "to sleep"
(are) (ére) (ere) (ire w/ isc) (ire w/o isc)
2sg tu non cantare! non vedere! non mettere! non finire! non dormire!

2pl voi non cantate! non vedete! non mettete! non finite! non dormite!

Formal Imperative

The "formal" imperative, used to make more polite commands, in the singular is identical to the
third person singular form of the present subjunctive:
"to sing" "to see" "to put" "to finish" "to sleep"
(are) (ére) (ere) (ire w/ isc) (ire w/o isc)
2sg.form canti! veda! metta! finisca! dorma!
Lei

The plural form, which is not often used (it is considered too formal), is the third person plural of
the present subjunctive:
"to sing" "to see" "to put" "to finish" "to sleep"
(are) (ére) (ere) (ire w/ isc) (ire w/o isc)
2pl.form cantino! vedano! mettano! finiscano! dormano!
Loro
The negative of the polite forms adds non before the respective forms: (Lei) non canti!, (Loro) non
cantino!

Other Persons
Even though there is no first person singular, there is a first person plural, as well as the third person
(singular and plural).

These forms are identical to the corresponding forms of the present subjunctive
"to sing" "to see" "to put" "to finish" "to sleep"
(are) (ére) (ere) (ire w/ isc) (ire w/o isc)
3sg lei canti! veda! metta! finisca! dorma!

1pl noi cantiamo! vediamo! mettiamo! finiamo dormiamo!

3pl loro cantino! vedano! mettano! finiscano! dormano!

These forms translate as "Let him ..., let's ..., let them ...":

Cantiamo questa canzone! Let's sing this song!
Scrivino a loro genitori! Let them write to their parents!
Mangi tutti i maccheroni! Let him eat all the macaroni!

Negative

The negative is formed by adding non before the affirmative forms: non canti!, non vediamo!,
non dormano!.

Non-Finite Forms
Participles
Participles in Italian are non-finite forms that are usually used with auxiliary verbs, and
sometimes as nominal modifiers (i.e. adjectives). There are two types of participles: present
and past.

Present Participle

The present participle ends in -ante for are verbs or -ente for ere/ire verbs, and is attached to
the verb stem:

cantante (singing)
vedente (seeing)
mettente (setting)
finente (ending)
dormente (sleeping) Present participle forms are not used with verb nowadays; they are
mainly used as adjectives.

Past Participle
The past participle is slightly harder to form as, along with the preterite, this has the most
irregular forms of any verb form.

Verbs in are and ire have the most number of regular forms. The basic ending is -ato or -ito:
<p> cantato (sung)
finito (ended, finished)
dormito (slept)

Verbs in ere have the most number of irregular forms. However, there is a regular affix for
verbs of this class, in -uto: <p> avuto (had) [avere]
saputo (known) [sapere]
tenuto (held) [tenere]

Many irregular forms have endings in -to, -so, or -sso: <p> nato (born) [nascere]
discusso (discussed) [discutere]
messo (set) [mettere]
preso (taken) [prendere]
chiuso (closed) [chiudere]
cotto (cooked) [cuocere]
scelto (chosen) [scegliere]
visto (seen) [vedere]
vissuto (lived) [vivere]
etc...

Many verbs with irregular forms are also irregular in other ways (see *Irregular Verbs).

Use of the Past Participle

The past participle is used mainly with auxiliary verbs in forming compound tenses: <p> è nato
(he was born) [passato prossimo]
sono discusso [per] (I am discussed [by]) [passive]
ebbero messo (they had set) [trapassato remoto]
ho preso (I took) [passato prossimo]
si sarà chiuso (it will be closed) [reflexive future passive]
etc...

The past participle can also be used as an adjective: <p> bottiglia aperta (open bottle)
[aprire]
libro trovato (found book) [trovare]
nemici conosciuti (known enemies) [conoscere]

The past participle can change forms according to gender and number, whether used with an
auxiiary or as an adjective: <p> "sung"
cantato masc. sing.
cantata fem. sing.
cantati masc. sing.
cantate fem. sing. <p> "closed"
chiuso masc. sing.
chiusa fem. sing.
chiusi masc. sing.

chiuse fem. sing.