Introduction to Italian/Lesson 5

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As in most languages, in Italian verbs are conjugated to agree with their tense.

Tenses[edit | edit source]

Tenses are something that people often have trouble with. In reality, they aren't that hard.

First person: referring to yourself (I am a man, I don't like spinach).
Second person: addressing someone directly (you are a woman, you don't like cabbage).
Third person: referring to someone else (he is a man, she is a woman).
First person plural: referring to a group of people including you (we are all men, we don't like asparagus).
Second person plural: Addressing a group of people directly (you all are women, none of you like artichokes).
Third person plural: Referring to a group of people (they are all men, they don't like broccoli).

Tenses also include past, present, and future. As in, "I ate a burger," "I'm eating a burger," and, "I will eat a burger." Those are complicated and won't be discussed until later.

Regular Verbs[edit | edit source]

In Italian, verbs have an infinitive form and a conjugated form for every tense. An infinitive is basically like saying "to be", which conjugates to am, are, and is. Infinitives in Italian are only one word (instead of to be, to eat, etc.) and most end in -are, as in andare (to go), mangiare (to eat), passare (to pass), and many more. Infinitives that end in -are are considered regular verbs. Infinitives can also end in -ere and -ire, and most of those that do are irregular (meaning they don't follow a pattern when you conjugate them).

Conjugating Regular Verbs[edit | edit source]

There's a simple pattern to conjugating regular verbs. Basically, you just replace the -are suffix with another one according to the tense. This chart will show which suffixes are added for which tense:

Michelangelo's David.
Hills in Toscana (Tuscany).
Infinitive -are
First Person -o
Second Person -i
Third Person -a
First Person
Second Person
Third Person

Now let's apply that to a word. Here are all the conjugations of mangiare (to eat).

Complete Word
Infinitive mangiare
First Person mangio
Second Person mangi
Third Person mangia
First Person
Second Person
Third Person

Important: Notice that for the second person conjugation the g is soft. This is only because it is soft in the root word, mangi-. If the root were mang (making the infinitive mangare) the second person conjugation would be manghi so as to preserve the hard g.

Some Basic Verbs[edit | edit source]

Here are some basic verbs in their infinitive form. Practice conjugating them.
abitare – to live (to reside)
arrivare – to arrive
ascoltare – to listen (to)
aspettare – to wait (for)
ballare – to dance
cantare – to sing
cercare – to look (for)
chiamare – to call
comprare – to buy
desiderare – to want, to wish
dimenticare – to forget
entrare – to enter
frequentare – to attend, to frequent
giocare – to play (a game)
guardare – to watch, to look (at)
guidare – to drive
imparare – to learn
incontrare – to meet
insegnare – to teach
lavorare – to work
mandare – to send
mangiare – to eat
pagare – to pay (for)
parlare – to speak
passare – to pass (by); to spend time
pensare (di) – to think (of)
portare – to wear, to bring
ricordare – to remember
studiare – to study
telefonare – to telephone (to call on a phone)
tornare – to return
trovare – to find
usare – to use
viaggiare – to travel
visitare – to visit

Irregular Verbs to Memorize[edit | edit source]

Most irregular verbs will come later because they are more difficult to conjugate than regular ones. However, there are two in particular that you need to just memorize.

Essere[edit | edit source]

Essere is an infinitive meaning to be. You pretty much can't get by without knowing it. So here are it's conjugations. Memorize them.

St. Andrew's Basilica in Vercelli, Italy.
Complete Word
Infinitive essere
First Person sono
Second Person sei
Third Person è
First Person
Second Person
Third Person

There are a few important notes on essere:
1. Sono is, in fact, the correct conjugation for both the first person and the third person plural. That's not a typo.
2. È is a very important word. It translates to is, which, of course, is used much more than am or are.

Avere[edit | edit source]

Avere is an infinitive meaning to have. It is also irregular and also needs to be memorized.

Complete Word
Infinitive avere
First Person ho
Second Person hai
Third Person ha
First Person
Second Person
Third Person

Remember that the h is silent. h is made ​​to distinguish the written form from the different meaning that may otherwise have
o - conjunction
ai - preposition
a - preposition
anno - year

Idiomatic expressions using avere[edit | edit source]

In Italian there are many idiomatic expressions that use avere in its various conjugations:

Espressione Significato
avere caldo to be hot (literally to have heat)
avere freddo to be cold (literally to have cold)
avere fame to be hungry (literally to have hunger)
avere sete to be thirsty (literally to have thirst)
avere ragione to be right (literally to have reason)
avere torto to be wrong (literally to have wrong)
avere sonno to be sleepy (literally to have sleep)
avere bisogno di to need (literally to have need of)
avere paura di to be afraid of (literally to have fear of)
avere voglia di to feel like (literally to have want of)

These are just things that they say. Have need of is sometimes used in English, as you may know, but not much recently. Don't forget to conjugate avere, too - it's not "io avere freddo" (if you hear it on TV or read it in books, it usually is how stereotypized foreigners speak), it's "io ho freddo".