In grammar, the verb is not only one of the parts of speech, but is above all the core of the
sentence around which the other elements are organized.
A verb presupposes the existence of a subject (a person or a thing) that is usually the
thing we are interested in,
and which is responsible for the action of the verb.
(Cases in which this is debatable are discussed in the Section Impersonal
with verbs like “bisognare”, “occorrere” or “piovere”).
The main variables of the Italian verb are the person, number, tense, mode, its
transitivity (transitive or intransitive),
form and voice.
1st sing: io penso = I think
2nd sing: tu pensi = you think
3rd sing: lui pensa = he thinks
1st sing: io mangio = I eat
1st pl: noi mangiamo = we eat
present: io vado = I go
future: io andrò = I will go
indicative: io vado = I go
conditional: io andrei = I would go
transitive: lei mangia la mela = she eats an apple
intransitive: lei parte = she leaves
negative: non sento = I don't hear
interrogative: hai già telefonato? = Have you called yet?
reflexive: io mi lavo = I wash myself
pronominal: mi sono accorto dell'errore = I realized the mistake
active: io scrivo una lettera = I write a letter
passive: la casa è stata costruita in tre mesi = The house was built in three
Verbal forms are made up of a stem that expresses the meaning of the verb (ingrass-are,
and of an ending that changes according to the person, the number, the tense and the verbal
Person and number expressed by the ending are important because the verb has to agree with its
in Italian, personal pronouns are often omitted, for example:
If we look at the full conjugation for comprare (to buy)
the indicative present, this would appear clearer:
Because the ending of the verb changes every time and is specific to each person, the
pronoun is not really necessary.
Instead, in English because there's no difference in the verbal form between “I buy”, “you buy” and
buy” the pronouns are the only indication of who the subject is.
Usually personal pronouns in Italian are used when you want to emphasize the subject of the
action or when there is ambiguity.
There are four finite moods (i.e. having person and number): indicative,
conditional and imperative.
There are three non-finite moods: infinitive (ex. amare),
participle (ex.amato) and gerund
Infinitive and gerund forms don't have person nor number.
The participle instead has four forms: masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural and
(amato, amata, amati, amate).
Except for the conditional and the imperative, each verbal mood can have multiple tenses, simple and
For example, the simple tenses of the indicative are presente,
futuro semplice, passato remoto
while the compound tenses are passato prossimo, trapassato prossimo,
trapassato remoto, futuro anteriore.
The compound tenses are formed with the past participle of the verb preceded by the auxiliary verb
(there are two auxiliary verbs in Italian: essere and avere).
See also the section Auxiliary Verbs.
The indicative present tense is mainly used to talk about real events at the present time. It is
in the follow way for regular verbs:
If we compare it with English, for example, you can say “I speak”, “I'm speaking” or occasionally “I
In Italian, instead, you use the same form “parlo” for all of these.
It is also possible to use another form: sto parlando ( see Progressive
which is the exact equivalent of “I am speaking”, but this form in Italian is used to stress that
something is happening just now:
In Italian as in English you can also use the present tense to talk about something that is going to
happen in the near future.
The indicative imperfect is used to describe real actions or events in the past especially in descriptions,
and to say what used to happen, or was happening.
These are generally actions that occurred at the same time as something else, often because they
repeated or lasted for a long time.
The indicative imperfect is one of the most regular tenses in Italian, for almost all verbs it is
by add the follow endings:
The indicative passato prossimo is mainly used to refer to real actions or events in the recent
It is a compound tense which is conjugated by combining the auxiliaries “avere” or “essere” with the
past participle of the main verb regardless
of its conjugation group.
Most transitive verbs (most verbs in general) take “avere” as their auxiliary, while most
intransitive and all reflexive verbs take “essere”.
(see Auxiliary Verbs).
When “essere” is the auxiliary, the past participle must agree in gender and number with the
so for example “Lui è partit-o” (masc. s.) vs. “Lei è partit-a” (fem. s.) vs. “Loro sono partiti”
By substituting the imperfect forms of “avere” and “essere” for the present forms of these
the passato prossimo becomes the trapassato prossimo or “pluperfect” which indicates a
previous moment in the past,
what had happened or had been true at a point in the past:
The indicative passato remoto is a simple tense, like the imperfect and present, which does not take
It is used to refer to actions or events which have no connection with the present and are therefore
a “remote” past.
The past historic is equivalent to the English simple past, except that it is mainly used in
*The verb “perdere”, like many -ere verbs, also has irregular forms. See Irregular
By substituting the past historic forms of “avere” and “essere” for the imperfect forms of these
the trapassato prossimo becomes the trapassato remoto.
This tense is rarely used in conversation, just like the passato remoto, and you’ll see it mostly in
It is used to express something like: “After Pocahontas had finished talking, John Smith
It is only used after words that talk about time, like:
Important: you only need to use the trapassato remoto when you’re already using the passato
remoto (Consecutio temporum):
supporting sentence (trapassato remoto) + most important part of your sentence (passato remoto).
The future tense is used to talk about something that will happen or will be true.
If in English there are several ways to express the future tense: will, ing form and ing +
you can use the future tense or the present tense.
The future in Italian has two tenses: futuro semplice and anteriore. Let’s see some
examples of futuro semplice:
The futuro anteriore is created when you combine a future tense conjugation
(like “sarò”) with a past participle (like “riuscito”),
which makes it a compound tense.
In general, you’ll use this verb tense when you’re talking about an action in the future before
something else happens.
You can also use it when you’re not sure about something that’s happening in the future or that
in the past.
In this case, other words that you could use instead of forming the futuro anteriore would be
“forse - maybe”,
“magari - maybe” or “probabilmente - probably” (in English you would probably use
The conditional mood refers to hypothetical events, especially those which depend on a
for instance, 'I would help you if I could'.
It is generally used in the main clause, in connection with a second clause in the subjunctive
that expresses the “if” condition necessary for the conditional to take place:
It is also used to express wishes and desires, even for something as basic as, 'I
like a coffee'.
It is often used with the verbs: volere (to want),
potere (to be able) and dovere
(to have to – 'should' in the conditional).
The subjunctive is used in unreal or hypothetical situations, often after certain impersonal
and after verbs expressing desire, will, preference, opinions and feelings
(when the subject of the desire, wish, etc, is different to the subject of the verb).
Usually there will be che ('that') between the expressions and the
The subjunctive mood has two tenses, present and imperfect. Let’s see some examples:
Remember: Notice that unlike the English past tense,
the indicative imperfect
is not used to make hypothetical conjectures
(e.g. “If I had a million dollars, I'd quit this lousy job.”),
for this the subjunctive is used in Italian (see the example below).
This is the expression of the “if” condition in Italian: the conditional mood is generally used in
main clause (the one without “if”),
in connection with a second clause in the subjunctive.
Sometimes the Subjunctive Present can be very ambiguous:
We don’t know who should win.
Because the subjunctive is the only mood which doesn't have a specific form for each person in
So, unless the subject of the verb "win" can be inferred from the context, it must be specified
Spero che tu vinca or Spero che lei vinca. = I hope you win or I hope
The verb is transitive when it can have a direct object complement:
It is intransitive when it does not have the direct object.
The active voice of Italian verbs presents the following structure: Subject + Verb +
The main function of the active voice is to point out who is acting and which is the direct object
Remember! The verbs with the active voice have the auxiliary avere (to have) for the compound
The passive voice aims to focus on the action conveyed by the verb and it is used when the
subject of the verb is the person or thing
that is affected by the action.
Usually, the structure of the passive voice follows the same rules: - the subject of the active
becomes the agent of the passive one;
- the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive one.
The passive voice in Italian is formed essentially in the same way as in English,
by adding the past participle to the auxiliary “essere” (although “venire” can also be
Notice that with “essere” (or “venire”) as the auxiliary,
the past participle must always agree with the subject in gender and number.
Transitive verbs (those which take a direct object like “costruire”) can be active or
In the active form the subject performs the action, in the passive voice the subject undergoes it.
Often in passive sentences (as for example in the one above) the person performing the action is
expressed by the preposition "da = by"
followed by a noun, i.e. by an agent complement. The agent complement, however, is not necessarily
Attention: intransitive verbs do not have a passive form.
BUT they look like passives in compound forms because they also take “essere” as their auxiliary
by a past participle:
All verbs can have the negative form: in order to conjugate verbs with this form we use the
negative adverb non,
or the double negation with mai and/or nessuno.
An interesting case to discuss
is the imperative mood at the negative form.
How to tell someone NOT to do something?
For TU use non with the infinitive (the –are, –ere, –ire form) of the verb:
If there is also a pronoun (see below for more details), join it onto the infinitive, or put
In all other cases, for VOI, NOI use non with the imperative:
For polite forms LEI, LORO of the imperative put pronouns before the verb and take the
NB: Notice that the Imperative combines, “borrows”
forms form the Subjunctive (polite imperatives) and Infinitive (negative imperatives).
Interrogative form: for this form the order of words in Italian does not change: what changes,
compared to the same affirmative sentence,
is only the intonation of the voice.
Since we have mentioned the Italian double and contracted pronouns
in the previous examples, here we’ll make this topic clearer.
These pronouns are commonly used by Italian speakers.
1. When we use two pronouns together, some pronouns of indirect object change:
2. When you want to use gli (meaning to him or to them) and le
(meaning to her)
with lo, la, li or le, you add an –e to gli and join it to lo, la,
3. When using two pronouns together to give an order or when using the infinitive, the two pronouns
join together and are added on to the verb.
4. Notice that when using two pronouns together the indirect object comes first and that the
final e of the infinitive is dropped:
Remember! If you are searching for these verb forms,
with double and simple pronouns, you will not find them in our Conjugator,
since they follow the same rules of normal forms + the pronouns.
In order to see the conjugation of the verb you are interested in, for example
In Italian we can find a lot of reflexive verbs.
These verbs are called reflexive because they "reflect" the action of the verb on the subject of the
When a verb is reflexive, the pronoun (mi, ti, si, ci, vi, si) has the
or indirect object (Mi sono detto che = I said to myself that).
Here are some important Italian reflexive verbs:
accomodarsi (to sit down; to take a seat),
addormentarsi (to go to sleep),
alzarsi (to get up),
annoiarsi (to get bored; to be bored),
arrabbiarsi (to get angry),
chiamarsi (to be named),
chiedersi (to wonder),
divertirsi (to enjoy oneself; to have fun),
farsi male (to hurt oneself),
fermarsi (to stop),
lavarsi (to wash; to get washed),
perdersi (to get lost),
pettinarsi (to comb one’s hair),
preoccuparsi (to worry),
prepararsi (to get ready),
ricordarsi (to remember),
sbrigarsi (to hurry),
svegliarsi (to wake up),
vestirsi (to dress; to get dressed).
In Italian there are different types of reflexive verbs, known as reciprocal, apparent,
Not all will be listed here but only some interesting cases useful for non-native speakers will be
Infinitive forms of reflexive and pronominal verbs are recognizable because they end in -si:
abbracciarsi, scurirsi, invidiarsi.
Conjugated forms of such verbs are preceded by pronominal particles (mi, ti, si,
and the auxiliary is always “essere” (even if the verb takes “avere”
when it's not used reflexively)!
In order to make this clearer, here we will see how the pronominal particles of the infinitive
of the reflexive verb abbracciarsi change according
the person used:
NB: Some pronominal verbs in Italian add the
ne after the reflexive pronoun.
The most important of these verbs is andarsene (to go away, to leave).
It is important to retain, as well, the verb prendersela (to blame, go after),
is very commonly used nowadays:
Italian has a progressive construction, similar to English “I am doing”,
which is formed by combining the auxiliary “stare ” in the present or
with the gerundive form
of any verb:
The gerundive expresses a verbal action which is connected in some way to another action,
for example “by stretching”, “while reading” etc.
The exact interpretation of the relationship between the two verbs depends largely on context.
It is a non-finite form of the verb and therefore does not vary according to a grammatical subject.
The gerund therefore has only one form: “-ando” for 1st group verbs, and “-endo” for all others.
IMPORTANT to retain: Where to put pronouns used with the
Pronouns are usually joined onto the end of the gerund.
When the gerund is part of a continuous tense the pronoun come before stare.