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Italian Verbs

Verbs are doing words, and with Italian verbs, just like in English, they're used to denote an action performed by someone or something.

Anything you or anyone else does needs a verb so that you can do it. You can't run without verbs, you can't sing without verbs. Let's face it, without verbs you just can't do anything at all.

Love, breathe, live... All verbs.

So let's hear it for the mighty verb, and let's find out more about exactly how verbs work in Italian...

Italian verbs are divided into three patterns of conjugation, according to the ending of the infinitive form:

Italian verbs ending in the infinitive with - ARE:

Italian verbs ending in the infinitive with - ERE:

Italian verbs ending in the infinitive with - IRE:

Regular verbs have always the same stem, but most of the Italian verbs are irregular, which means that they use more stems, according to their Latin origin. For ex. the verb andare (to go) has the following stems: and-, v-, vad- .

 

The verbs are divided into 2 forms, for a total of 7 moods - the personal form, which is related to a noun or a pronoun (indicative, subjunctive, imperative, conditional), and the impersonal form (infinitive, gerund and participle).

Simple and Compound Tenses

The Italian verbs have 21 tenses, divided in two classes: simple tenses (one word in the active form, two words in the passive form) or compound tenses (two words in the active form, three words in the passive form). The compound tenses express an action that has happened before the corresponding simple tense form.

The imperative has just a simple tense form.


The compound tenses are built with the auxiliary verb of the corresponding simple tense + the past participle. In the active form, the transitive verbs use the auxiliary avere, while the intransitive ones the auxiliary essere. The following verbs also require the auxiliary essere:

  • verbs meaning movement: (andare, to go; venire, to come; etc.): io sono andato, I went. Please note: camminare (to walk), nuotare (to swim) and sciare (to ski) require avere.
  • reflexive verbs (alzarsi, stand up): io mi sono alzato, I stood up
  • piacere (like): mi è piaciuto, I liked it

The past participle with essere follows the usual adjective agreement rules concerning genre and number.

Practice phrases containing compound forms:

Active compound tense:

Passive compound tense:

Intransitive compound tense:

Scheme of connection between simple and compound tenses

Indicativo

 
Simple tense
Example
Translation
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
Io canto
I sing
Passato Prossimo
Io ho cantato
I have sung
Imperfetto
Io cantavo
I used to sing
Trapassato Prossimo
Io avevo cantato
I had sung / I had used to sung
Passato Remoto
Io cantai
I sang
Trapassato Remoto
Io ebbi cantato
I had sung
Futuro Semplice
Io canterò
I will sing
Futuro Anteriore
Io avrò cantato
I will have sung

Condizionale

 
Simple tense
Example
Translation
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
io canterei
I would sing
Passato
Io avrei cantato
I would have sung

Congiuntivo

 
Simple tense
Example
Translation
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
che io canti
that I sing
Passato
che io abbia cantato
that I have sung
Imperfetto
che io cantassi
that I sang
Trapassato
che io avessi cantato
that I had sung

Infinito

 
Simple tense
Example
Translation
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
cantare
to sing
Passato
avere cantato
to have sung

Gerundio

 
Simple tense
Example
Translation
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
cantando
singing
Passato
avendo cantato
having sung

Participio

 
Simple tense
Example
Translation
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
cantante
singing
Passato
cantato
sung

Practice phrases about simple and compound tenses

Indicativo

 
Simple tense
Compound Tense
Example
Translation
Presente
Passato Prossimo
Esco, dopo che ho mangiato
I go out, after I have eaten
Imperfetto
Trapassato Prossimo
Ero famoso, perché avevo ucciso il re
I was famous, because I had killed the king.
Passato Remoto
Trapassato Remoto
Imparai l’italiano, dopo che ebbi sposato Luisa
I learned Italian, after I married Luisa.
Futuro Semplice
Futuro Anteriore
Io mangerò, dopo che avrò fatto i compiti
I will eat, after I will have done my homework

Anything else important about Italian verbs

The verbs are the core of the Italian language. Any tense has its own meaning and function inside the sentences. This is particularly relevant in the past tense. For example, while the passato prossimo (io ho mangiato - I have eaten) is commonly used instead of the passato remoto (io mangiai - I ate) in the daily language, the two tenses have different meanings: the first indicates the recent past, the second the historic past. Although a compound tense, the passato prossimo, which is the present perfect in English, is also commonly used as a simple tense. Otherwise this form cannot be used when the verb is related to an action repeated more than once. In that case, it is used the imperfetto.

Italian verbs summary

  • Three patterns of conjugation, following the infinitive forms: - ARE, -ERE, -IRE.
  • Regular verbs have one stem, while irregular verbs are built with more stems, following their Latin origin.
  • The tenses can be referred to a noun - personal forms - or not - impersonal forms -.
  • Seven moods: indicative, conditionalsubjunctive, imperative, infinitive, participle, gerund.
  • There are 21 tenses in the Italian language and all of them are commonly and currently used.
  • Simple and compound tenses are strictly connected and related.
  • The auxiliary verbs are avere and essere and they are used in order to build the compound tenses.
  • In the modern Italian language the passato prossimo is commonly used as the past form in substitution of the passato remoto.
  • Don't confuse the passato prossimo/passato remoto (the fact happened once) with the imperfetto (the fact happened more times).
  • The Italian verbs are the core of the Italian language.
For more on Italian grammar check out these lessons! A presto!
Maria Di Lorenzi
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