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Italian grammar is the body of rules describing the properties of the Italian language. Italian words can be divided into the following lexical categories: articles, nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections.
Italian articles vary according to definiteness (definite, indefinite, and partitive), number, gender, and the initial sound of the subsequent word. Partitive articles compound the preposition di with the corresponding definite article, to express uncertain quantity. In the plural, they typically translate into English as "few"; in the singular, typically as "some".
|Masculine||Singular||il||Standard masculine singular definite article, used in all cases other than those detailed below.|
|lo||Used before words with certain initial sounds:
|l'||Used before words that begin with a vowel (l'amico) or ⟨uo⟩ /w?/ (l'uomo).|
|Plural||i||Standard masculine plural definite article, used for plurals that take il in the singular: i cani (plural of il cane).|
|gli||Corresponds to lo and l' in the singular, i.e. before the consonants listed above for lo and before vowels: gli zii (plural of lo zio), gli amici (plural of l'amico).|
|Feminine||Singular||la||Standard form of the feminine singular definite article, used before consonants and before ⟨i⟩ when pronounced as semivowel /j/, e.g. la iarda.|
|l'||As with l', used before any word that begins with a vowel, not including ⟨i⟩ when pronounced as the semivowel /j/.|
|Plural||le||Standard form of the feminine plural definite article, never elided.|
|Masculine||un||Standard masculine singular indefinite article, used before vowels and simple consonants.|
|uno||Used instead of un before "impure s", self-geminating consonants, and complex consonant clusters, following the same rules as lo vs. il above, for example: uno studente.|
|Feminine||una||Standard feminine singular indefinite article.|
|un'||Used before any word that starts with a vowel, not including ⟨i⟩ when used as semivowel /j/.|
|Masculine||Singular||del||di + il|
|dell'||di + l'|
|dello||di + lo|
|Plural||dei||di + i|
|degli||di + gli|
|Feminine||Singular||della||di + la|
|dell'||di + l'|
|Plural||delle||di + le|
Nouns have gender (masculine and feminine) and inflect in number (singular and plural). When a noun refers to people or animals with natural gender, grammatical gender typically corresponds. For all other nouns the gender is essentially arbitrary. As in most other Romance languages, the historical neuter has merged with the masculine. A subgroup of these deriving from Latin's second declension are considered feminine in the plural. Subclauses and infinitives are masculine. Adjectives inflect for gender and number in patterns broadly similar to nouns.
|Masculine||-o||-i||il cappello nero, i cappelli neri ("the black hat(s)")|
|Feminine||-a||-e||la bella macchina, le belle macchine ("the beautiful car(s)")|
|Masculine and feminine||-e||-i||il/la comandante intelligente, i/le comandanti intelligenti ("the smart commander(s)")|
|Mixed (Historically neuter)||-o||-a||il lenzuolo leggero, le lenzuola leggere ("the light bed sheet(s)")|
|Masculine||-a||-i||l'atleta entusiasta, gli atleti entusiasti ("the enthusiastic athlete(s)")|
|Feminine||-ie||-ie||la specie estinta, le specie estinte ("the extinct species")|
|All nouns ending with a stressed vowel||singular = plural||la città, le città ("the city(-ies)")|
|Non-integrated loanwords||il/la manager trendy, i/le manager trendy ("the trendy manager(s)")|
In the last two examples, only the article carries information about gender and number.
Most masculine words that end in -io pronounced as /jo/ drop the -o and thus end in -i in the plural: vecchio / vecchi ("old"), funzionario / funzionari ("functionary(-ies)"), esempio / esempi ("example(s)"), etc.
Most nouns are derived from Latin. Many of these are themselves borrowed from Greek (e.g. poeta below). Although Italian nouns do not inflect for case, they are derived from a mixture of the Latin nominative and accusative cases:
|Latin declension (nominative/accusative)||Italian singular/plural||Masculine||Feminine|
|1st (-a, -ae or -a, -i / -am, -?s)||-a, -e or -a, -i||poeta / poeti "poet(s)"||amica / amiche "female friend(s)"|
|2nd (-us, -? / -um, -?s)||-o, -i||amico / amici "friend(s)"|
|3rd (-is, -?s / -em, -?s)||-e, -i||cane / cani "dog(s)"||parete / pareti "wall(s)"|
|4th (-us, -?s / -um, -?s)||-o, -i||passo / passi "step(s)"||mano / mani "hand(s)"|
|5th (-?s, -?s / -em, -?s)||-e, -i||fede / fedi "faith(s)"|
Nouns ending in any letter other than -a, -e or -o, as well as nouns ending in a stressed vowel, are normally invariable in the plural. Thus:
There are certain words (derived from Latin second-declension neuter nouns) that are masculine in the singular and feminine or masculine in the plural. Examples include:
These nouns' endings derive regularly from the Latin neuter endings of the second declension (sg. -um / pl. -a), but there are some from the third declension as well: e.g. il gregge / le greggi (flock(s), but i greggi works, too); the tradition of calling them "irregular" or "mobile gender" (genere mobile) would come from the paradigm that there are so few nouns of this kind that the existence of neuter can be considered vestigial. The choice of plural is sometimes left to the user, while in some cases there are differences of meaning:
Most noun stems are derived from the accusative: Latin socer/socerum begets Italian suocero, and Latin p?s/p?dem begets Italian piede. There are a few exceptions, however, such as uomo from Latin homo/hominem and moglie from Latin mulier/mulierem. Neuter third-declension nouns may bequeath Italian nouns either from the nominative/accusative case (e.g. capo from caput, cuore from cor) or from the oblique case used for other cases and for the plural (e.g. latte from lac, lact-, giure from ius, iur-).
There are a few genuine irregular plurals in Italian (plurali irregolari). Most of these were introduced in Vulgar Latin, but some derive from irregular Latin plurals. Examples include:
In Italian, altered nouns are nouns with particular shades of meaning. They are divided into diminutives, "vezzeggiativi" (diminutives with kindness and sympathy nuance), augmentatives and pejoratives.
|-ino||tavolo (table)||tavolino (small table)|
|-ello||bambino (child)||bambinello (small child)|
(terms of endearment)
|-olo||figlio (son)||figliolo (also figliuolo)|
|-one||libro (book)||librone (big book)|
|-accio||libro (book)||libraccio (bad book)|
|-astro||medico (medic)||medicastro (quack doctor)|
|-uncolo||uomo (man)||omuncolo (insignificant man)|
Many other alterations can be built, sometimes with more than one suffix: for example, libro (book) can become libretto (diminutive), libricino (double diminutive), libercolo (diminutive + pejorative), libraccio (pejorative), libraccione (pejorative + augmentative). Uomo (man), coming from Latin homo, becomes om- in altered forms: omino/ometto (diminutive), omone (augmentative), omaccio (pejorative), omaccione (augmentative + pejorative).
In Italian, an adjective can be placed before or after the noun. The unmarked placement for most adjectives (e.g. colours, nationalities) is after the noun, but this is reversed for a few common classes of adjective — those denoting beauty, age, goodness, and size are placed before the noun in the unmarked case, and after the noun for emphasis.
Placing the adjective after the noun can alter its meaning or indicate restrictiveness of reference. If a noun has many adjectives, usually no more than one will be before the noun.
Adjectives are inflected for gender and number:
|Gender||Grammatical number||Case 1||Case 2|
The comparative and relative superlative are formed with più ("more", "most"); for instance:
Vice versa, inverting the order of the words[clarification needed], it's required to replace più with meno ("less, fewer"); for instance:
Another comparative form is made with the word come ('as', 'like'); for instance:
The absolute comparative is formed by placing troppo ("too") before the adjective; for instance:
The absolute superlative, derived from the Latin synthetic superlative in -issimus, is formed by adding -issimo to an adjective: intelligente ("intelligent"), intelligentissimo ("very intelligent"); sporco ("dirty") sporchissimo ("very dirty"). If the two letters before the last vowel are pr or br (e.g., aspro, celebre), the r is removed and -errimo is the suffix used (asperrimo, celeberrimo) ("very sour", "very famous"). Another way to form the absolute superlative is to place either molto or assai ("very") before the adjective. For instance sporchissimo and molto sporco ("very dirty") are the same, although the form ending in issimo is usually perceived as more emphatic; that is, sporchissimo is dirtier than molto sporco.
Some adjectives have irregular comparatives (though with regularly-formed variants also in common use), like
With the exception of 3rd person plural loro 'their', possessive adjectives, like articles, must agree with the gender and number of the noun they modify. Hence, mio zio (my uncle), but mia zia (my aunt). So depending on what is being modified, the possessive adjectives are:
In most cases the possessive adjective is used with an article, usually the definite article:
|Ho perso la mia penna.||("I have lost my pen.")|
|Mi piace il mio lavoro.||("I like my job.")|
|Hanno rubato la mia automobile!||("They have stolen my car!")|
And sometimes with the indefinite article:
|Un mio amico mi ha detto che...||("A friend of mine told me that...")|
|Ho visto una sua foto.||("I have seen a photograph of him/her.")|
|Luca è un mio amico.||("Luke is a friend of mine.")|
The only exception is when the possessive refers to an individual family member (unless the family member is described or characterized in some way):
|Laura è mia sorella||("Laura is my sister.")|
|Ieri ho visto mia sorella Diana||("I saw my sister Diana yesterday.")|
|Questa penna è di mia zia.||("This pen is my aunt's.")|
Mamma and papà (or babbo, in Central Italy; "mother" and "father"), however, are usually used with the article.
For emphasis, however, possessive adjectives are sometimes placed after the noun. This is usually after words like 'colpa' (fault, sin); 'casa' (house, home); 'merito' (merit); 'piacere' (pleasure); or in vocative expressions.
|È colpa sua.||("It is his/her fault.")|
|Oh dio mio!||("Oh, my god!")|
|Arrivederci, amico mio!||("Goodbye, my friend!")|
|Vorresti andare a casa mia?||("Would you like to come over to my house?")|
If the antecedent of a third person possessive (being used as an object) is the subject of the sentence, proprio can be used instead of suo, though the usage of proprio is declining in spoken language:
|Marco e Maria hanno discusso di filosofia. Marco ha scelto il proprio punto di vista.||("Marco and Maria discussed philosophy. Marco took his own point of view.")|
|Marco e Maria hanno discusso di filosofia. Marco ha scelto il suo punto di vista.||("Marco and Maria discussed philosophy. Marco took his/her point of view.")|
The first sentence is unambiguous and states that Marco took his own point of view, whereas the second sentence is ambiguous because it may mean that Marco took either his own or Maria's point of view.
Italian originally had three degrees of demonstrative adjectives: questo (for items near or related to the first person speaker: English "this"), quello (for items near or related to an eventual third person: English "that"), and codesto (for items near or related to an eventual second person). The usage has undergone a simplification, including the meaning of codesto in quello, and only Tuscan speakers still use codesto. Its use is very rare in modern language, and the word has acquired a rather pejorative connotation.
Italian features a sizeable set of pronouns. Personal pronouns are inflected for person, number, case, and, in the third person, gender. Literary subject pronouns also have a distinction between animate (egli, ella) and inanimate (esso, essa) antecedents, although this is lost in colloquial usage, where lui, lei and loro are the most used forms for animate subjects, while no specific pronoun is employed for inanimate subjects (if needed, demonstrative pronouns such as "questo" or "quello" may be used). There is also the uninflected pronoun ciò, which is only used with abstract antecedents.
Personal pronouns are normally omitted in the subject, as the conjugation is usually enough to determine the grammatical person. They are used when some emphasis is needed, e.g. sono italiano ("I am Italian") vs. io sono italiano ("I [specifically, as opposed to others] am Italian").
The words ci, vi and ne act both as personal pronouns (respectively instrumental and genitive case) and clitic pro-forms for "there" (ci and vi, with identical meaning - as in c'è, ci sono, v'è, vi sono, ci vengo, etc.) and "from there" (ne - as in è entrato in casa alle 10:00 e ne è uscito alle 11:00).
|Stressed form[a]||Clitic form[b]||Stressed form||Clitic form I.[b][c]||Clitic form II.[d]||Stressed form||Clitic form[b][e]||Stressed form[f]||Clitic form I.[b][g]||Clitic form II.[h]||Stressed form|
|sg.||1st||io||--||di me||mi||me||a me||mi||me||--||--||con me|
|2nd||tu[i]||--||di te||ti||te||a te||ti||te||--||--||con te|
|3rd||m.||egli, esso, lui[j]||ne||di lui, di esso||gli||glie-[k]||a lui, a esso||lo||lui, esso||ci||ce||con lui, con esso|
|f.||ella, essa, lei[j][l]||di lei, di essa||le||a lei, a essa||la||lei, essa||con lei, con essa|
|refl.||--||di sé||si||se||a sé||si||sé||con sé|
|pl.||1st||noi||--||di noi||ci||ce||a noi||ci||noi||--||--||con noi|
|2nd||voi[i]||--||di voi||vi||ve||a voi||vi||voi||--||--||con voi|
|3rd||m.||essi,[l] loro[j]||ne||di loro, di essi[m]||loro[n][o]||a loro, a essi[m]||li||loro, essi[m]||ci||ce||con loro, con essi[m]|
|f.||esse,[l] loro[j]||di loro, di esse[m]||a loro, a esse[m]||le||loro, esse[m]||con loro, con esse[m]|
|refl.||--||di sé||si||se||a sé||si||sé||con sé|
|Clitic form[q]||Clitic form[q]||Stressed form||Clitic form[q]||Stressed form||Stressed form|
|sg./pl.||che||cui[r][s]||di cui||cui[t][s]||a cui||con cui|
|Clitic form I.[b]||Clitic form II.||Stressed form||Clitic form[b]||Stressed form|
|ci, vi||ce, ve||qui, qua / lì, là||ne||da qui, da qua / da lì, da là|
Clitic pronouns are replaced with the stressed form for emphatic reasons. A somewhat similar situation is represented by the dative shift in English ditransitive verbs. Compare, for example, (emphasis in italic) "John gave a book to her" with "John gave her a book". In Italian these two different emphases map respectively to "John diede un libro a lei" (stressed form) and "John le diede un libro" (clitic form). Compared to English, Italian presents a richer set of cases.
Clitic pronouns generally come before the verb, but in certain types of constructions, such as lo devo fare, they can also appear as enclitics (attached to the verb itself) - in this case, devo farlo. In the infinitive, gerund and, except with third-person courtesy forms, imperative moods clitic pronouns must always be compound to the suffix as enclitics (as in confessalo! [2p. sg.]/confessiamolo! [1p. pl.]/confessatelo! [2p. pl.], ricordandolo and mangiarlo).
|Genitive||Non vedo Francesca, ma ne vedo la bicicletta.||I don't see Francesca, but I see her bike (the bike of her).|
|Dative||Gli parlai per un'ora intera.||I spoke to him for a whole hour.|
|Accusative||La vedo.||I see her.|
|Instrumental||Sì! Lo conosco! Una volta ci giocai a pallacanestro!||Yes! I know him! Long ago I played basketball with him!|
|accusative||Davide la lascia in ufficio.||(David leaves it in the office.)|
|dative + accusative + nominative||Davide me la lascia.||(David leaves me it.)|
|Davide te ne lascia una.||(David leaves (to) you one of them.)|
|accusative + nominative + dative||Davide la lascia a me.||(David leaves it to me.)|
|Davide ne lascia una a te.||(David leaves one of them (to) you.)|
|(subjunctive +) infinitive + dative + accusative||Davide potrebbe lasciargliene una.||(David might leave one of them to him/her/it.)|
|dative + accusative + subjunctive (+ infinitive)||Davide gliene potrebbe lasciare una.||(David might leave one of them to him/her/it.)|
Finally, in the imperative mood, the objective pronouns come once again after the verb, but this time as a suffix:
|imperative + accusative||"Lasciala in ufficio!"||("Leave it in the office!")|
|imperative + dative + accusative||"Lasciamela!"||("Leave it to me!"/"Leave me it!")|
|(conditional +) infinitive + dative||"Davide potrebbe lasciarla in ufficio."||(David might leave it in the office.)|
|negative imperative + dative + accusative||"Non lasciargliela!"||("Do not leave it to/for him/her/it/them!")|
|imperative + dative + accusative||"Davide dovrebbe lasciargliela."||("David should leave it to/for him/her/it/them.")|
In Italian it is possible to append more than one clitic to a single verb. In normal usage, two is the usual limit, although clusters of three can occasionally arise for some speakers, especially with impersonal constructs (e.g. Ce la si sente = "One feels up to it", or Nessuno ha ancora visto l'ultimo film di Woody Allen, quindi ce lo si vede tutti insieme! = "Nobody has watched the last Woody Allen movie yet, so we have to watch it together!"). Any two cases can be used together, except for accusative + genitive, and word order is strictly determined according to one of the following two patterns:
|me, te, glie-, se, ce, ve||lo, la, li, le||ne si[a]|
Clitic forms (except "cui") before of a verbal form beginning by vowel (except when they are compound to the suffix) can be apocopated, apocopations are more common before verbal forms "è", "ho", "hai", "ha", "hanno", "abbia", and "abbiano" of verbs "essere" and "avere", then while they are before verbal forms of other verbs, which are more rare, also apocopations of "che" are rare, while apocopation of "cui" is avoided due to phonetic ambiguities with words such as "qua" (homophone to "cu'ha"). Apocopation is not mandatory. Ci is graphically apocopated only in front of "e" and "i" (as in c'è and c'inserisco), but the "i" is graphically kept in front of other vowels (as in mi ci addentro), although in all cases it is pronounced /t/ (without the "i"); similarly gli is graphically apocopated only in front of "i" (as in gl'impongo) but not in front of other vowels (gli è dato sapere), although in all cases the "i" is never pronounced. The apocopated form of che is always pronounced /k/, also when otherwise common phonetic rules switch their pronunciations.
|gli||gli è||gli ho||gli hai||gli ha||gli abbiamo||gli avete||gli hanno|
|ci||c'è||ci ho||ci hai||ci ha||ci abbiamo||ci avete||ci hanno|
Italian makes use of the T-V distinction in second-person address. The second-person nominative pronoun is tu for informal use, and for formal use, the third-person form Lei has been used since the Renaissance. It is used like "Sie" in German, "usted" in Spanish, and "vous" in French. Lei was originally an object form of ella, which in turn referred to an honorific of the feminine gender such as la magnificenza tua/vostra ("Your Magnificence") or Vossignoria ("Your Lordship"), and by analogy, Loro came to be used as the formal plural. Previously, and in some Italian regions today (e.g. Campania), voi was used as the formal singular, like French "vous". The pronouns lei (third-person singular), Lei (formal second-person singular), loro (third-person plural), and Loro (formal second-person plural) are pronounced the same but written as shown, and formal Lei and Loro take third-person conjugations. Formal Lei is invariable for gender (always feminine), but adjectives that modify it are not: one would say to a man La conosco ("I know you") but Lei è alto ("You are tall"). Formal Loro is variable for gender[clarification needed]: Li conosco ("I know you [masc. pl.]") vs. Le conosco ("I know you [fem. pl.]"), etc. The formal plural is very rarely used in modern Italian; the unmarked form is widely used instead. For example: Gino, Lei è un bravo ingegnere. Marco, Lei è un bravo architetto. Insieme, voi sarete una gran bella squadra. ("Gino, you are a good engineer. Marco, you are a good architect. Together, you will make a very good team.").
Based on the ending of their infiniti presenti (-are, -ere, or -ire), all Italian verbs can be assigned to three distinct conjugation patterns. Exceptions are found: fare "to do/make" (from Latin FAC?RE) and dire "to say" (from Latin DIC?RE) were originally 2nd conjugation verbs that reduced the unstressed vowel in the infinitive (and consequentially in the future and conditional, whose stem derives from the infinitive), but still follow the 2nd conjugation for all the other tenses; this behaviour is similarly featured in the verbs ending in -trarre, -porre and -durre, derived respectively from the Latin TRAH?RE (to drag), PON?RE (to put) and DVC?RE (to lead).
Just like many other Romance languages, Italian verbs express distinct verbal aspects by means of analytic structures such as periphrases, rather than synthetic ones; the only aspectual distinction between two synthetic forms is the one between the imperfetto (habitual past tense) and the passato remoto (perfective past tense), although the latter is usually replaced in spoken language by the passato prossimo.
|Tense||Italian name||Example||English equivalent|
|Present||indicativo presente||faccio||I do|
I am doing[verbs 1]
|Imperfect||indicativo imperfetto||facevo||I used to do|
I was doing[verbs 1]
|Preterite[verbs 2]||passato remoto||feci||I did|
|Future||futuro semplice||farò||I will do|
|Present||condizionale presente||farei||I would do|
|Present||congiuntivo presente||(che) io faccia||(that) I do|
|Imperfect||congiuntivo imperfetto||(che) io facessi||(that) I did/do|
Aspects other than the habitual and the perfective, such as the perfective, the progressive and the prospective, are rendered in Italian by a series of periphrastic structures that may or may not be perceived as different tenses by different speakers. Note the difference between:
|Tense||Italian name||Example||English equivalent|
|Present perfect||passato prossimo||ho fatto||I have done|
|Recent pluperfect||trapassato prossimo||avevo fatto||I had done[verbs 3]|
|Remote pluperfect||trapassato remoto||ebbi fatto||I had done[verbs 3]|
|Future perfect||futuro anteriore||avrò fatto||I will have done|
I may have done
|Present continuous||presente progressivo||sto facendo||I am doing[verbs 1]|
|Past continuous||passato progressivo||stavo facendo||I was doing[verbs 1]|
|Future continuous||futuro progressivo||starò facendo||I will be doing|
I may be doing
|Preterite||condizionale passato||avrei fatto||I would have done|
|Present continuous||condizionale progressivo||starei facendo||I would be doing|
|Preterite||congiuntivo passato||(che) io abbia fatto||(that) I have done|
|Pluperfect||congiuntivo trapassato||(che) io avessi fatto||(that) I had done|
|Present continuous||congiuntivo presente progressivo||(che) io stia facendo||(that) I be doing|
|Imperfect continuous||congiuntivo imperfetto progressivo||(che) io stessi facendo||(that) I were doing|
|Tense||Italian name||Example||English equivalent|
|Present||infinito presente||fare||to do|
|Past||infinito passato||aver fatto||to have done|
|Past||gerundio passato||avendo fatto||having done|
In Italian, compound tenses expressing perfect aspect are formed with either auxiliary verb avere ("to have") for transitive verbs and some intransitive verbs and with essere ("to be") for the remaining intransitive verbs, plus the past participle. Progressive aspect is rendered by verb stare plus the gerund. The prospective aspect is formed with stare plus the preposition per and the infinitive.
The passive voice of transitive verbs is formed with essere in the perfective and prospective aspects, with venire in the progressive or habitual aspect, and with either essere or venire in the perfective aspects:
For the perfect tenses of intransitive verbs a reliable rule cannot be given, although a useful rule of thumb is that if a verb's past participle can take on adjectival value, essere is used, otherwise avere. Also, reflexive verbs and unaccusative verbs use essere (typically non-agentive verbs of motion and change of state, i.e. involuntary actions like cadere ("to fall") or morire ("to die")).
The distinction between the two auxiliary verbs is important for the correct formation of the compound tenses and is essential to the agreement of the past participle. Some verbs, like vivere ("to live"), may use both: Io ho vissuto ("I have lived") can alternatively be expressed as, Io sono vissuto.
The past participle is used in Italian as both an adjective and to form many of the compound tenses of the language. There are regular endings for the past participle, based on the conjugation class (see below). There are, however, many irregular forms as not all verbs follow the pattern, particularly the -ere verbs. Some of the more common irregular past participles include: essere (to be) -> stato (same for stare); fare (to do, to make) -> fatto; dire (to say, to tell) -> detto; aprire (to open) -> aperto; chiedere (to ask) -> chiesto; chiudere (to close) -> chiuso; leggere (to read) -> letto; mettere (to put) -> messo; perdere (to lose) -> perso; prendere (to take, to get) -> preso; rispondere (to answer) -> risposto; scrivere (to write) -> scritto; vedere (to see) -> visto.
For the intransitive verbs taking essere, the past participle always agrees with the subject--that is, it follows the usual adjective agreement rules: egli è partito; ella è partita. This is also true for reflexive verbs, the impersonal si construction (which requires any adjectives that refer to it to be in the masculine plural: Si è sempre stanchi alla fine della giornata - One is always tired at the end of the day), and the passive voice, which also use essere (Queste mele sono state comprate da loro - These apples have been bought by them, against Essi hanno comprato queste mele - They bought these apples).
The past participle when used with avere never changes to agree with the subject. It must agree with the object, though, in sentences where this is expressed by a third person clitic pronoun (e.g. Hai mangiato la mela? - Sì, l'ho mangiata (Have you eaten the apple? - Yes, I have eaten it)). When the object is expressed by a first or second person clitic pronoun instead, the agreement is optional: Maria! Ti ha chiamato / chiamata Giovanni? - No, non mi ha chiamato / chiamata (Maria! Has Giovanni called you? - No, he has not).
In all the other cases where the object is not expressed by a clitic pronoun, the agreement with the object is obsolescent in modern Italian (but still correct): La storia che avete raccontata (obsolete) / raccontato non mi convince (The story you told does not convince me); or compare Manzoni's Lucia aveva avute due buone ragioni with the more modern Lucia aveva avuto due buone ragioni (Lucia had had two good reasons).
Italian inherits consecutio temporum, a grammar rule from Latin that governs the relationship between the tenses in principal and subordinate clauses. Consecutio temporum has very rigid rules. These rules require the subjunctive tense in order to express contemporaneity, posteriority and anteriority in relation with the principal clause.
The infinitive of first conjugation verbs ends in -are, that of second conjugation verbs in -ere, and that of third conjugation verbs in -ire. In the following examples for different moods, the first conjugation verb is parlare (meaning to talk/speak), the second conjugation verb is temere (to fear) and the third conjugation verb is partire (to leave/depart.)
Many third conjugation verbs insert an infix -sc- between the stem and the endings in the first, second, and third persons singular and third person plural of the present indicative and subjunctive, e.g., capire > capisco, capisci, capisce, capiamo, capite, capiscono (indicative) and capisca, capisca, capisca, capiamo, capiate, capiscano (subjunctive). This subgroup of third conjugation verbs is usually referred to as incoativi, because in Latin the original function of the suffix -sc- was to denote inchoative verbs, but this meaning is totally lost in modern Italian, where the suffix mostly serves a euphonic function.
The Italian subjunctive mood is used to indicate cases of desire, express doubt, make impersonal emotional statements, and to talk about impeding events.
As the table shows, verbs each take their own root from their class of verb: -are becomes -er-, -ere becomes -er-, and -ire becomes -ir-, the same roots as used in the future indicative tense. All verbs add the same ending to this root.
Some verbs do not follow this pattern, but take irregular roots, these include: Andare (to go) ~ Andr-, Avere (to have) ~ Avr-, Bere (to drink) ~ Berr-, Dare (to give) ~ Dar-, Dovere (to have to) ~ Dovr-, Essere (to be) ~ Sar-, Fare (to make/do) ~ Far-, Godere (to enjoy) ~ Godr-, Potere (to be able to) ~ Potr-, Rimanere (to remain) ~ Rimarr-, Sapere (to know) ~ Sapr-, Sedere (to sit) ~ Sedr-, Stare (to be/feel) ~ Star-, Tenere (to hold) ~ Terr-, Vedere (to see) ~ Vedr-, Venire (to come) ~ Verr-, Vivere (to live) ~ Vivr-, Volere (to want) ~ Vorr- etc.
The Italian conditional mood is a mood that refers to an action that is possible or likely, but is dependent upon a condition. Example:
|Io andrei in spiaggia, ma fa troppo freddo.||("I would go to the beach, but it is too cold.")|
It can be used in two tenses, the present, by conjugation of the appropriate verb, or the past, using the auxiliary conjugated in the conditional, with the past participle of the appropriate noun:
|Mangerei un sacco adesso, se non stessi cercando di fare colpo su queste ragazze.||("I would eat a lot now, if I were not trying to impress these girls")|
|Sarei andato in città, se avessi saputo che ci andavano loro.||("I would have gone to the city, if I had known that they were going.")|
Many Italian speakers often use the imperfect instead of the conditional and subjunctive. Prescriptivists usually view this as incorrect, but it is frequent in colloquial speech and tolerated in all but high registers and in most writing:
|Se lo sapevo, andavo alla spiaggia||("If I had known it, I would have gone to the beach.")|
|Se Lucia non faceva quel segno, la risposta sarebbe probabilmente stata diversa.||("If Lucia had not made that sign, the answer would probably have been different.")|
The conditional can also be used in Italian to express "could", with the conjugated forms of potere ("to be able to"), "should", with the conjugated forms of dovere ("to have to"), or "would like", with the conjugated forms of "volere" (want):
|[Lui] potrebbe leggere un libro.||("He could read a book.")|
|[Loro] dovrebbero andare a letto.||("They should go to bed.")|
|Vorrei un bicchiere d'acqua, per favore.||("I would like a glass of water, please.")|
Verbs like capire insert -isc- in all except the noi and voi forms. Technically, the only real imperative forms are the second-person singular and plural, with the other persons being borrowed from the present subjunctive.
While the majority of Italian verbs are regular, many of the most commonly used are irregular. In particular, the auxiliary verbs essere, stare and avere, and the common modal verbs dovere (expressing necessity or obligation), potere (expressing permission and to a lesser degree ability), sapere (expressing ability) and volere (expressing willingness) are all irregular.
The only irregular verbs of the first conjugation are dare (to give), which follows the same pattern as stare, and andare (to go), which features suppletive forms in the present of the indicative, subjunctive and imperative from the Latin verb VADERE. While apparently a 1st conjugation verb, fare is actually a highly irregular verb of the second conjugation. Even the third conjugation features a small handful of irregular verbs, like morire (to die), whose present is muoio, muori, muore, moriamo, morite, muoiono (indicative) and muoia, muoia, muoia, moriamo, moriate, muoiano (subjunctive).
The second conjugation combines the second and third conjugation of Latin; since the verbs belonging to the third conjugation were athematic, and they behaved less regularly than the ones belonging to the other conjugations (compare AM?RE > AMAVI, AMATVS, first conjugation, and LEG?RE > LEGI, LECTVS, third conjugation), the second conjugation Italian features many irregularities that trace back to the original paradigms of the Latin verbs: amare > amai, amato (first conjugation, regular), but leggere > lessi, letto (second conjugation, irregular).
An adjective can be made into a modal adverb by adding -mente (from Latin "mente", ablative of "mens" (mind), feminine noun) to the ending of the feminine singular form of the adjective. E.g. lenta "slow (feminine)" becomes lentamente "slowly". Adjectives ending in -re or -le lose their e before adding -mente (facile "easy" becomes facilmente "easily", particolare "particular" becomes particolarmente "particularly").
These adverbs can also be derived from the absolute superlative form of adjectives, e.g. lentissimamente ("very slowly"), facilissimamente ("very easily").
There is also a plethora of temporal, local, modal and interrogative adverbs, mostly derived from Latin, e.g. quando ("when"), dove ("where"), come ("how"), perché ("why"/"because"), mai ("never"), sempre ("always"), etc.
In modern Italian the prepositions tra and fra are interchangeable, and often chosen on the basis of euphony: tra fratelli ("among brothers") vs. fra i tralicci ("between the power pylons").
In modern Italian, all the basic prepositions except tra, fra, con and per have to be combined with an article placed next to them. Of these, con and per have optional combining forms: col, collo, colla, coll', coi, cogli, colle; pel, pello, pella, pell', pei, pegli, pelle; except for col and coi, which are occasionally used, however, these are archaic and very rare.
Prepositions normally require the article before the following noun in a similar way as the English language does. However Latin's lack of articles influenced several cases of prepositions used without article in Italian (e.g., "a capo", "da capo", "di colpo", "in bicicletta", "per strada").
|Italian||English||Preposition + article|
|di||of, from||del, dello, della, dell', dei, degli, delle|
|a||to, at||al, allo, alla, all', ai, agli, alle|
|da||from, by, since||dal, dallo, dalla, dall', dai, dagli, dalle|
|in||in||nel, nello, nella, nell', nei, negli, nelle|
|con||with||con il or col, con lo, con la, con l', con i or coi, con gli, con le|
|su||on, about||sul, sullo, sulla, sull', sui, sugli, sulle|
|per||for, through||per il, per lo, per la, per l', per i, per gli, per le|
|tra/fra||between, among||tra il, tra lo, tra la, tra l', tra i, tra gli, tra le|
Italian is an SVO language. Nevertheless, the SVO sequence is sometimes replaced by one of the other arrangements (SOV, VSO, OVS, etc.), especially for reasons of emphasis and, in literature, for reasons of style and metre: Italian has relatively free word order.
The subject is usually omitted when it is a pronoun - distinctive verb conjugations make it redundant. Subject pronouns are considered emphatic when used at all.
Questions are formed by a rising intonation at the end of the sentence (in written form, a question mark). There is usually no other special marker, although wh-movement does usually occur. In general, intonation and context are important to recognize questions from affirmative statements.
|Davide è arrivato in ufficio.||(David has arrived at the office.)|
|Davide è arrivato in ufficio?||("Talking about David... did he arrive at the office?" or "Davide has arrived at the office? Really?" - depending on the intonation)|
|Perché Davide è arrivato in ufficio?||(Why has David arrived at the office?)|
|Perché Davide è arrivato in ufficio.||(Because David has arrived at the office.)|
|È arrivato Davide in ufficio.||("It was David who arrived at the office" or "David arrived at the office" - depending on the intonation)|
|È arrivato Davide in ufficio?||(Has David arrived at the office?)|
|È arrivato in ufficio.||(He has arrived at the office.)|
|(Lui) è arrivato in ufficio.||(He has arrived at the office.)|
|Chi è arrivato in ufficio?||(Who has arrived at the office?)|
In general, adjectives come after the noun they modify, adverbs after the verb. But: as with French, adjectives coming before the noun indicate essential quality of the noun. Demonstratives (e.g. questo this, quello that) come before the noun, and a few particular adjectives (e.g. bello) may be inflected like demonstratives and placed before the noun.
Among sometimes proscribed Italian forms are:
The first Italian grammar was printed by Giovanni Francesco Fortunio in 1516 with the title Regole grammaticali della volgar lingua. Ever since, several Italian and foreign scholars have published works devoted to its description. Among others may be mentioned the famous Grammatica storica della lingua italiana e dei suoi dialetti written by the philologist Gerhard Rohlfs, published at the end of the 1960s.
Among the most modern publications are those by Luca Serianni, in collaboration with Alberto Castelvecchi, Grammatica italiana. Suoni, forme, costrutti (Utet, Torino, 1998); and by Lorenzo Renzi, Giampaolo Salvi and Anna Cardinaletti, Grande grammatica italiana di consultazione (3 vol., Bologna, Il Mulino, 1988-1995). The most complete and accurate grammar in English is A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian by Martin Maiden and Cecilia Robustelli (McGraw-Hill, Chicago, 2000; 2nd edition Routledge, New York, 2013).