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The Most Wondrous Deconstruction of the Italian

Language That You Ever Saw


Salve!
This mini-guide is to help you understand how Italian grammar works overall.
Its not extensive into each tense, but it does give you an idea of how you would express yourself in
different ways and which tense to use to do so.
I dont go over the basics like how to conjugate verbs, what it means if a verb is regular or irregular, or
pronunciation here.
If youre looking for those, youll nd them all here: The Mini Road Map for the Absolute Beginner
in Italian
Below youll see an example sentence of what you would want to express and then the topic of
grammar below it.
Buon divertimento
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The apple is red.
How to describe something
La mela rossa. - The apple is red.
Notice that this sentence structure is the same as in English.
--> Subject (la mela) + verb () + adjective (rossa).
Also since la mela is a feminine noun and singular, the adjective (rosso) matches its ending and
becomes feminine and singular with (rossa).
Lui un uomo intelligente. - He is a smart guy.
Notice here that there is a slight shift in structure.
--> Subject (lui) + verb () + indefinite article (un) + noun (uomo) + adjective (intelligente)
Just like in the first example, since uomo is a masculine noun and singular, the adjective (intelligente)
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matches it and becomes masculine and singular.
Compare that to the English sentence structure where the adjective would go before the noun.
Literally theyre saying here He is a man intelligent.
This is common in Italian although there are adjectives that have exceptions and will go before the
noun.
Just cant wait to nd out what those adjectives are? Go here: How to Make Your Verbs, Adjectives,
and Objects Agree in Italian
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My husband, your sister, my car
How to talk about what someone owns or all about
possession
Ogni tanto mio marito maleducato. - Sometimes my husband is rude.
--> mio + marito = my husband
Pensi che tua sorella vada alluniversit a Parigi? - Do you think that your sister is going to
university in Paris?
--> tua + sorella = your sister
La mia macchina rotta. - My car is broken.
--> la + mia + macchina = my car
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Give it to him.
How to talk about indirect object pronouns
Parlo a Lucia. > Le parlo.
Im talking to Lucia. --> Im talking to her.
Offriamo un caff ad Alessandro. > Gli offriamo un caff.
We are offering a caff to Alessandro. --> We are offering a caff to him.
- Quando rispondi a Lucia? - When will you respond to Lucia?
- Le rispondo domani. - I will respond to her tomorrow.
Soak up more grammar goodness here: The Grand Difference Between Direct &
Indirect Object Pronouns (& Yes. You have to know them)
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Are you inviting Alessandro? Yes I am inviting
Alessandro.
How to avoid repetition with direct object pronouns
- Inviti Alessandro? - Are you inviting Alessandro?
- S, lo invito. - Yes. Im inviting him.
Prendo le fragole dal frigo > Le prendo dal frigo.
Im taking the strawberries from the fridge. --> Im taking them from the fridge.
Dovremmo chiamare Leonardo? (Should we call Leonardo?)
- S, dovremmo chiamarlo. (Yes, we should call him.)
Soak up more grammar goodness here: The Grand Difference Between Direct & Indirect Object
Pronouns (& Yes. You have to know them)
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Im (right now) singing a song by Mina.
How to talk about something thats happening in the
moment
There are a handful of ways to talk about whats happening in the present, and one of the most precise
ones is the gerund thats used to talk about whats happening right now in this exact moment.
Sto cantando una canzone di Mina. Im singing a song by Mina (in this moment).
Stai mangiando un cannolo. You are eating a cannoli (in this moment).
Sta uscendo. He/she is going out (in this moment).
See more gerund tense action here: The Present Tense Gerund in Italian (or how Italians
express the -ing tense)
If you are just talking about something less specific, then you would use the present indicative tense.
For the most part youll use the present indicative tense.
Oggi vado al supermercato a comprare delle uova ed il burro. Cosa ti serve? - Today Im going to
the supermarket to buy eggs and butter. What do you need?
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Stasera rimango a casa, perch sono troppo stanca. - Tonight Im staying at home because Im too
tired.
Want to bask in all that is the present tense? Read this: The Present Indicative Tense in Italian
When do you use the gerund tense and when do you use the present
indicative tense?
You use the present indicative to express: actions that you do or an action that will happen in the near
future, expressing facts, and talking about things that are certain
You use the gerund tense when talking about something thats happening right in the moment
So what do you use to talk about everything else - like your opinions, emotions, thoughts, doubts,
fears?
Pssssst. Scroll down!
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I am glad that you made breakfast!
How to talk about your opinions, thoughts, emotions,
doubts, and fears
The third way you can talk about whats happening in the present is with something called the
subjunctive mood (il congiuntivo).
This is the tense you use when talking about your opinions, thoughts, emotions, doubts and fears. A lot
of stuff, right?
Youll most often see certain verbs that trigger it like pensare - to think, dubitare - to doubt, etc.,
followed by che.
Mi fa piacere che facciate colazione. - I am glad that you all made breakfast.
Penso che io debba comprare qualcosa qui.. - I think that I should buy something here.
Sono triste che tu non venga stasera. - I am sad that you are not going out tonight.
Want to wrap yourself up in the beauty of the
subjunctive mood? Go right ahead: The Present Subjunctive Mood in Italian (or the mood that even
Italians are confused about)
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I wash myself.
How to talk about the things you do to yourself
When you do actions that affect yourself, you tend to use the reflexive tense in Italian.
These verbs typically end in si like lavarsi - to wash oneself.
Mi lavo. - I wash myself.
Bella e Edward si baciano. Bella and Edward kiss each other.
Katniss si sente male. Katniss feels sick. (The Hunger Games will do that to you).
To nd out more about this mysterious tense, go here: Present Tense Reflexive Verbs in
Italian (or the tense thats all about you)
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Weve been living here for seven years.
How to talk about something that happened in the past
There are lots of ways to talk about things that happened in the past, but the three most prominent
ones are the imperfect tense (imperfetto), the past tense (passato prossimo), and the past reflexive
tense.
IMPERFECT
This is the one you use when talking about actions that happened over and over again in the past. You
also use it to describe emotions, weather, and the time in the past.
Ci abitavamo da sette anni. - We have been living there for 7 years.
Da bambina, leggevo tutti i giorni. - When I was a kid, I read everyday.
Ero stanca. - I was tired.
Mentre mangiava, Justin Bieber cantava. - While she was eating, Justin Bieber was singing.
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Want to dive into the imperfect tense? Start here: The Imperfect Tense in Italian (or the tense
that lets you sweetly reminisce on the old days)
PASSATO PROSSIMO
This is the one that you would use to describe things in the past that happened and are now over. As
you can see with the example, you use the passato prossimo with the verb nascere - to be born
because it only happens once for one moment in time and doesnt keep happening. (This is
considering that philosophy is off the table.)
Dove sei nata? Where were you born?
Sono nata a Parigi. - I was born in Paris.
Want to show some loving to the passato prossimo? Go here: The Past Tense in
Italian (Because even though we shouldnt live in it we need to talk about it)
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PAST REFLEXIVE TENSE
Mi sono lavato/a. - I washed myself.
Notice here that you use essere (sono) to support the reflexive verb and that means that the past
participle (lavato) needs to match in gender and number.
Since Im just one girl, it ends in an -a.
Ci siamo vestiti/e. - We dressed ourselves.
Notice here that the pronoun changes to to ci for us.
The form of essere changes to reflect the we form (siamo).
The past participle (vestito) changes to match in gender and number.
If its all men or a mix of men and women, it would end in an -i.
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I will give it to you.
How to talk about the future
Te lo dar. - I will give it to you.
Partiranno per Milano dopo che Maria avr nito la scuola. - They will leave for Milan after Maria
has finished school.
Frodo comincer a camminare verso Mordor. - Frodo will start walking to Mordor.
To learn about all that is the future tense, dive in here: The Future Tense in Italian (or how to fall
head over heels in love with the future)
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If I was in your place, I would look for a job.
How to talk about possibility
This is where the conditional tense comes in, and its such a useful one to master.
Its what I call the would, could, should tense.
Io al tuo posto cercherei un lavoro. If I was in your place, I would look for a job.
Want to master it? Start here: The Present Conditional Tense in Italian (or the tense that
finally lets you express yourself in Italian)
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If I were a giraffe, I would eat leaves.
How to talk about possibility, part II
This is called the imperfect subjunctive mood. So like I mentioned with the subjunctive mood, you use it
to express desires, wishes, opinions, thoughts, doubts, fears....but in the hypothetical sense.
Se fossi una giraffa, mangerei le foglie. If I were a giraffe, I would eat leaves.
Se avessero tempo, imparerebbero a ballare. If they had time, they would learn to dance.
Magari fosse vero. If only it were true.
Want to be enamored by this mood? Go here: The Imperfect Subjunctive Mood in Italian (or how to
let go of reality and dream big in Italian)
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Dont go up!
How to give commands
When giving commands, you use the imperative mood.
Non salire! Dont go up!
Non mangiare! Dont eat!
Non leggere! Dont read!
If you were using an -are verb and talking to someone informally with a verb like mangiare -
to eat, you would say:
Mangia! - Eat!
With verbs that end in -ire, like partire (to leave), the conjugation looks like this:
Lei > Parta!
Loro > Partano!
Savor the imperative mood here: The Imperative Mood in Italian (or how to be
demanding and give advice in Italian)
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How to talk about what you do or dont like
The first one you would use for nouns that are singular, like one purse, Italy, or cake.
Mi piace lItalia. - I like Italy.
This one below is the one you would use for nouns that are plural, like strawberries, cakes, or shoes.
Mi piacciono le fragole. - I like strawberries.
Ti piacciono le fragole? - Do you like strawberries?
Gli piacciono le fragole? - Does he like strawberries?
Le piacciono le fragole? - Does she like strawberries?
Ci piacciono le fragole. - We like strawberries.
Vi piacciono le fragole? - Do you all like strawberries?
A loro piacciono le fragole? - Do they like strawberries?
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How to talk about what you do or dont want
Vorrei un caff. - I would like an espresso.
Non vorrei andarci. - I would not like to go there.
Vorrei - I would like comes from the conditional tense.
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I had already visited the Colosseum before she arrived in
Rome.
How to talk about what youve already done
To form these kinds of sentences, you would use the trapassato prossimo.
Prima che lei fosse arrivato, avevo gi visitato il colosseo. - Before she arrived, I had already
visited the Colosseum.
Non volevo portare lanello che il mio ex mi aveva regalato. - I didnt want to wear the ring that my
ex had given me.
You could also use it to talk about hypothetical situations.
Se fossi andato/a a Roma il mese scorso, sarei stato/a triste, perch faceva brutto tempo. - If I
had gone to Rome last month, I would have been sad because it was really bad weather.
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How to talk about the distant (historical) past
To talk about the distant past (particularly with historical events), you would use the passato remoto.
Parigi divent la capitale della Francia nel 508 AD. Paris became the capital of France in 508 AD.
Yoko e John partirono per gli Stati Uniti nel 1971. Yoko and John traveled to the United States in
1971.
Dont just admire the passato remoto from a distance! Get to know it better
here: The Passato Remoto Tense in Italian (or how to relax in the midst of grammatical
chaos)
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There is also the trapassato remoto for sentences like the ones below.
Coco Chanel arriv non appena Captain Caput fu partito. Coco Chanel came just as Captain
Caput had left.
Il mondo ascolt i Beatles solo dopo che John Lennon ebbe cantato All You Need is Love.
The world heard the Beatles only after John Lennon had sung the song All You Need is Love.
Come on. You know you want to know more: The Trapassato Remoto Tense in Italian
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About the Author
My name is Cher Hale, and I am the creator of the site The Iceberg
Project.
I want to live in a world where people use each day as another adventure
in their lives. A world where people develop friendships across borders
and deepen their understanding and compassion for the human race.
Im a total nerd (I adore Lord of the Rings and geek out over anything
remotely related to magic) and an absolute lover of all foreign
languages. My goal is to learn 25 languages in 25 years and to take the
world along for the ride.
At the end of my life, I want to be known for being kind to everyone, for
spreading smiles like wildfire, and for loving deeply.
Want to email me to say hi, offer some loving criticism or ask me to add some phrases? Do so at
cher@cherhale.com.
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