Italian verbs have four main moods:
the infinitive is the unconjugated verb expressing the action itself, with no reference to time or person. This is the form found in a dictionary.
The indicative expresses something as a fact. It is the most commonly used mood.
The imperative is the command form, used to give orders.
The subjunctive expresses possibility, hope, feelings, and wishes and is almost always preceded by che, such as
- Lui vuole che io dorma (He wants me to sleep).
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1. MODO INDICATIVO PRESENTE
The present indicative expresses a fact, tells what usually happens, what is happening now, and general truths.
In addition, the Italian present tense is often used to refer to the immediate future and also refers to the past, which is called the historic present.
- Lava i piatti. (He/She washes the dishes. He/She is washing the dishes.)
- Mangio la pizza (I eat a pizza/I’m eating a pizza)
- Non guardo la televisione (I don’t watch TV.)
When the verb is showing the action taking place at the moment, it is possible to use the
present tense of stare + the gerund of the verb.
One can say:
⇒ Io ascolto la radio. (I am listening to the radio.)
⇒ Io sto ascoltando la radio. (I am listening to the radio)
- Sto mangiando la pizza (I am eating a pizza)
- Sto guardando la televisione (I am watching TV)
2. MODO INDICATIVO PASSATO PROSSIMO
The passato prossimo is one of the two most used past tenses of the indicative in Italian (the other is the imperfetto).
The passato prossimo (present perfect) is the past tense of a verb used to express an action developed and completed in the past.
It is made of the present tense of the auxiliary verbs avere (to have) or essere (to be) + the past participle of the main verb representing the action.
- Ieri sera ho mangiato la pizza (Last night I ate pizza)
- Ieri Anna è andata al supermercato (Yesterday Anna went to the supermarket)
- L’estate scorsa siamo andati in vacanza sul lago di Garda. (Last summer we went to Lake Garda for our/a holiday.)
3. MODO INDICATIVO FUTURO SEMPLICE
In Italian as in English, the future tense is used to indicate an action which will take place at a future time.
In Italian the future is a simple tense, you do not need an auxiliary as in English (will-shall).
To form the regular futuro semplice add to the stem of the verbs the appropriate endings.
In Italian, the future tense is used to make promises, to forecast events, to make plans.
In Italian the future can also be used to express a probable fact, something that the person speaking feels is probably true. This is called the future of probability.
- Domani mangerò la pizza (Tomorrow I’ll eat pizza)
- Domani andrò a Venezia (Tomorrow I’ll go to Venice)
4. MODO INDICATIVO FUTURO COMPOSTO (ANTERIORE)
The futuro composto/anteriore (future perfect) is used to express an action that will take place before another one in the future.
As in English, it is a compound tense formed by the future of the verbs avere or essere + the past participle of the main verb.
- Mangerò la pizza dopo che avrò mangiato le verdure (I’ll eat pizza after I have eaten vegetables)
- Tornerò al mio paese quando avrò dato l’esame di italiano (I’ll return after I have taken the Italian exam)
5. MODO INDICATIVO IMPERFETTO
The imperfetto (imperfect) is one of the most used past tenses in Italian.
It is called ‘imperfetto’ because there is no reference to the beginning or end of the action it expresses.
In Italian, the imperfetto is a simple tense.
The imperfetto is used to express:
⇒ past contemporary actions
⇒ past action interrupted by another
⇒ past routines and habits
⇒ description of persons, animals, situations and places
- Mentre mangiavo la pizza, guardavo la TV (While I was eating pizza I was watching TV)
- Mentre mangiavo, ha suonato il telefono (While I was eating the telephone rang)
- Quando è arrivato Gianni, studiavo. (When Gianni arrived, I was studying)
- Da ragazzo (quando ero ragazzo) andavo al mare tutte le domeniche (When I was a boy I used to go to the seaside every Sunday)
- Quando sono andata al mare il cielo era sereno e il mare era calmo (When I went to the seaside, the sky was clear and the sea was calm)
6. MODO INDICATIVO TRAPASSATO PROSSIMO
The trapassato prossimo is the equivalent of the English past perfect (I had seen).
It is used to express a completed action in the past that occurred before another past event.
The other past event can be in the passato prossimo, in the imperfetto.
The trapassato prossimo is formed with the imperfect form of the auxiliary verbs avere or essere + past participle (with essere the past participle always agrees with the subject in gender and number).
- Quando Marco è arrivato io avevo già mangiato la pizza (When Marco arrived I had already eaten pizza)
- Oggi (in libreria) è arrivato il libro che avevo ordinato un mese fa (Today, the book I had ordered one month ago, arrived)
7. MODO INDICATIVO PASSATO REMOTO
The passato remoto (simple past) is a simple tense.
Verbs with an irregular conjugation (mostly second conjugation verbs) have irregular forms only in the first and third singular and in the third plural forms.
There is also a group of verbs completely irregular as the verb essere or the verb avere.
The passato remoto expresses an action developed and completed in the past (as the passato prossimo), but here the action has no continuing effect in the present (for the person speaking).
It is used:
⇒ to tell about very past actions
Dante scrisse la Divina Commedia
⇒ to tell about historical events
Leonardo dipinse la Gioconda
8. MODO CONDIZIONALE SEMPLICE
The condizionale semplice (present conditional) expresses an action which depends on a condition.
This tense is often used even when the condition is not actually mentioned.
The condizionale semplice is a simple tense, you do not need an auxiliary verb like in English.
In Italian the conditional is mainly used to express wishes, to formulate polite requests and to give advice.
- Mangerei volentieri una pizza (I would like to eat a pizza)
- Ti dispiacerebbe prestarmi i soldi? (Would you mind lending me some money?)
9. MODO CONDIZIONALE COMPOSTO
The condizionale composto (conditional perfect) is a compound tense and is formed by the condizionale semplice of the verbs avere or essere + the past participle of the main verb.
It is used:
⇒ to express a wish or intention which could not be realized in the past, now or in the future.
- sarei andato volenitieri al cinema
- Ieri avrei mangiato una pizza (Yesterday I would have eaten a pizza)
⇒ to give some information about what was supposed to happen in the past
- La polizia avrebbe preso i criminali
⇒ to express the future in the past, that is to express a future action from a point of view in the past.
- Pensavo che sarei tornato in aprile invece sono tornato dopo un anno.
- La settimana scorsa Andrea sarebbe andato a Firenze, ma ha dovuto lavorare (Last week Andrea would have gone to Florence, but she had to work)
10. MODO IMPERATIVO
The imperativo (imperative) is the command form of the verb and is used to give orders, directions, instructions, advice, permission.
- Mangia la pizza! (Eat your pizza!)
- Paolo, va subito in camera tua e studia! (Paolo go to your room and study!)
- Prenda la prima strada a sinistra e poi vada dritto (Take the first street on the left and then go straight on)
11. MODO CONGIUNTIVO
The congiuntivo (subjunctive mood) expresses uncertainty, doubt, possibility or personal feelings rather than facts.
It conveys the opinions and the attitudes of the speaker.
With few exceptions, the congiuntivo occurs only in subordinate clauses usually preceded by the conjunction che.
Since the singular endings are the same, it is used singular subject pronouns to avoid confusion.
The congiuntivo mood can be: presente, passato, imperfetto, trapassato
- Spero che Marco mangi la pizza (I hope that Marco eats pizza)
- Vado a trovare Michele prima che parta (I am going to visit Michele before he leaves)