Remember that in Italian the subject pronoun (io, tu, egli, etc.) is usually omitted, since the verb form reveals the person, that is, it is normal to say: Cosa studi? Studio matematica. (=What are you studying? I'm studying Maths), omitting the pronouns.
Verbs in Italian: Modes and Conjugations
Italian is a neo-Latin language, and from Latin has maintained the verb conjugations and endings, which make Italian verbs more complex than in English.
The verbal system comprises seven Modi, which include number of Tempi (=tenses). Moreover, as to endings, each verb follows one of the three Coniugazioni ( -are, -ere, -ire) and can be in either of the three Forme (active, passive, reflexive).
The Modes / I modi
Italian regular verbs have seven "Modi", 4 are conjugated according to the person, 3 have a fixed form for all persons, but the participle can change as an adjecive (masculine, feminine, singular, plural) with intransitive verbs and with transitive passive. In both cases the auxiliary is "essere" (= to be).
- Conjugated modes: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative.
- Non-conjugated modes: infinitive, participle, gerund.
The Conjugations of Regular Verbs - Present Tense
Four model verbs appear in the table; in block letters are the endings, the same for all the conjugation; a Capital vowel shows the stressed syllable, which changes usually in the first and second person plural (we, and you). The verbs of the Third Conjugation are of two types, the first type usually has 2 consonants before the infinitive suffix -ire: an easy (but not always true) rule of thumb is that if the 5th letter from the end of the verb infinitive is a consonant, the verb will NOT use the -isc suffix.
1st conj. -are
2nd conj. -ere
3rd conj -ire (1)
3rd conj. -ire (2)
More on the Italian Present Tense
Practice on Some Common Verbs
Try to say these verbs in the present following the declensions above; the CAPITAL vowel shows the stressed syllable.
- verbs in -are: lavorAre (work), mangiAre (eat), comprAre (buy), studiAre (study), viaggiAre (travel), cercAre (search), lavAre (wash), guidAre (drive), camminAre (walk)
- verbs in -ere: scrIvere (write), vEndere (sell), lEggere (read), prEndere (take), chiUdere (shut), pErdere (lose), spEndere (spend)
- verbs in -ire: dormIre (sleep), partIre (leave), sentIre (feel, hear), seguIre (follow), aprIre (open), vestIre (dress)
- verbs in -ire (using suffix -isc): finIre (finish), capIre (understand), preferIre (prefer), costruIre (build), spedIre (ship), trasferIre (transfer, move)
The "Continuous" Tense in Italian
In the English language "continuous" forms are possible in many tenses. In the Italian language corresponding expressions can be created with the verb stare followed by the gerund (-ando or -endo). This is used only in the present (sto, stai, sta, stiAmo, stAte, stAnno) and in the past (stavo, stavi, stava, stavAmo, stavAte, stAvano), but the normal "simple" tenses can also be used often with no change of meaning.
- Example 1: What are you doing? I am sending an email. ⇒ Che stai facendo? Sto mandando un'email - but also: Che fai? Mando un'email.
- Example 2: What were they doing when you saw them? They were leaving. ⇒ Che stavano facendo quando li vedesti? Stavano partendo. But also: Che facevano quando li vedesti? Partivano.
Use of the Present Tense in Italian
- English Simple Present: In the evenings I usually watch TV ⇒ La sera di solito guardo la TV (pronounced tee-voo)
- English Continuous Present: He is reading a novel. ⇒ Legge un romanzo (but also: sta leggendo un romanzo)
- English Future, English Present used as Future, when a time expression is present: I'll leave (I'm leaving, will be leaving) next month. ⇒ Parto il mese prossimo (but also: partirò)
Examples of Verb Forms
- Io* amo (I love): 1st conjugation, mode indicative, present tense, active;
- Essi* sono amati (they are loved): 1st conjugation, mode indicative, present tense, passive;
- Egli* si ama (he loves himself): 1st conjugation, mode indicative, present tense, reflexive.
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