Conjugate verbs in Italian – the present, past and future tenses

Conjugate verbs in Italian – the present, past and future tenses

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Italian verbs can be divided into three groups: ending in “-are” (cantare, mangiare), “-ere” (leggere, vedere), “-ire” (dormire, partire).

PRESENTE (PRESENT TENSE)

Parlare (to talk)

Prima coniugazione

(1st conjugation)

Vendere (to sell)

Seconda coniugazione

(2nd conjugation)

Dormire (to sleep)

Terza coniugazione

(3rd conjugation)

Io (I)

parl-o

vend-o

dorm-o

Tu (you)

parl-i

vend-i

dorm-i

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

parl-a

vend-e

dorm-e

Noi (we)

parl-iamo

vend-iamo

dorm-iamo

Voi (you)

parl-ate 

vend-ete

dorm-ite

Loro (they)

parl-ano

vend-ono

dorm-ono 

There are also two auxiliares: “essere” (to be) and “avere” (to have).

 

Essere (to be)

Avere (to have)

Io (I)

sono

ho

Tu (you)

sei

hai

Lui / lei (he / she / it) 

è

ha

Noi (we)

siamo

abbiamo

Voi (you)

siete

avete

Loro (they)

sono

hanno

This concerns regular verbs, but in Italian we also have irregular verbs, they do not follow the typical rules of the conjugation to which they belong. The only possible solution is to memorize them.

 

Andare (to go)

Fare (to do)

Dare (to give)

Io (I)

vado

faccio

do

Tu (you)

vai

fai

dai

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

va

fa

dà

Noi (we)

andiamo

facciamo

diamo

Voi (you)

andate

fate

date

Loro (they)

vanno

fanno

danno

 

Tenere (to keep)

Scegliere (to choose)

Bere (to drink)

Io (I)

tengo

scelgo

bevo

Tu (you)

tieni

scegli

bevi

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

tiene

sceglie

beve

Noi (we)

teniamo

scegliamo

beviamo

Voi (you)

tenete

scegliete

bevete

Loro (they)

tengono

scelgono

bevono

 

Venire (to come)

Sedere (to sit)

Uscire (to go out)

Io (I)

vengo

siedo

esco

Tu (you)

vieni

siedi

esci

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

viene

siede

esce

Noi (we)

vengono

sediamo

usciamo

Voi (you)

venite

sedete

uscite

Loro (they)

vengono

siedono

escono

The most commonly used past tenses in Italian are: Passato prossimo (Present perfect) and Imperfetto (Imperfect tense).

Passato prossimo is used to express:

  • Actions that took place in the recent past.

    For example: “Ieri sono andata al compleanno della mia amica.” = “Yesterday I went to my friend’s birthday party.”

  • Actions that took place in the past but have consequences in the present.

    For example: “Sono stata in Francia 5 volte.” = “I have been in France 5 times.”

Passato prossimo is formed by the present of the auxiliary verb: “essere” (to be) or “avere” (to have) and the past participle.

The regular verbs form the past participle by adding the endings to the root: -ato for the 1st conjugation, -uto for the 2nd conjugation and -ito for the 3rd conjugation.

 

Root

Ending

1st conjugation

parl 

ato

2nd conjugation

vend

uto

3rd conjugation 

dorm

ito

The irregular verbs do not follow the grammatical rules to form the past participle. The main irregular forms are:

Essere (to be) 

Stato

Avere (to have)

Avuto

Dire (to speak)

Detto

Chiedere (to ask) 

Chiesto

Fare (to do)

Fatto

Chiudere (to close)

Chiuso

Mettere (to put)

Messo

Leggere (to read)

Letto

Aprire (to open)

Aperto

Venire (to come) 

Venuto

Imperfetto is used to express:

  • Habits of the past.

    For example: “Da piccola andavo al mare con i miei genitori.” = “When I was a child, I used to go to the beach with my parents.”

  • Descriptions in the past.

    For example: “Il ragazzo aveva i capelli neri e gli occhi azzurri e indossava una maglietta nera.” = “The boy had black hair and blue eyes and wore a black shirt.”

  • Contemporaneity in the past.

    For example: “Mentre guardavo la televisione, mia mamma cucinava il pranzo.” = “While I was watching television, my mom cooked lunch.”

  • Actions in progress in the past interrupted by others.

    For example: “Mentre andavo all’università ho incontrato la mia amica Giulia.” = “While I was going to university I met my friend Giulia.”

 

Parlare (to talk)

Vendere (to sell)

Dormire (to sleep)

Io (I)

parl-avo

vend-evo

dorm-ivo

Tu (you)

parl-avi

vend-evi

dorm-ivi

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

parl-ava

vend-eva

dorm-iva

Noi (we)

parl-avamo

vend-evamo

dorm-ivamo

Voi (you)

parl-avate

vend-evate

dorm-ivate

Loro (they)

parl-avano

ven-evano

dorm-ivano 

Many verbs that are irregular in the present tense, are regular in the imperfect tense. However some of them remain irregular:

 

Bere (to drink)

Fare (to do)

Dire (to say)

Essere (to be)

Io (I)

bev-evo

fac-evo

dic-evo

ero

Tu (you)

bev-evi

fac-evi

dic-evi

eri

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

bev-eva

fac-eva

dic-eva

era

Noi (we)

bev-evamo

fac-evamo

dic-evamo

eravamo

Voi (you)

bev-evate

fac-evate

dic-evate

eravate

Loro (they)

bev-evano

fac-evano

dic-evano

erano

In Italian, the future tense is used to talk about an action that will happen in the future. However, Italians often use the present instead of the future, especially when it comes to a near future. For example: “Domani vado al mare con i miei amici.” = “Tomorrow I’m going to the sea with my friends.”

However, when we want to say “I’m going to have dinner at 9 p.m”, we will use the future in Italian: “cenerò alle 9”; because if we use the present tense: “ceno alle 9”, it sounds like a habit.

It can also express a subjective deduction from the speaker about the present situation: “La casa non è lontano dalla spiaggia, saranno 2 km.” = “The house it’s not far from the beach, it will be 2 km.”

The endings in the future are added to the whole verb excluding the last vowel: -e and the good news is that the endings are the same for all groups of verbs.

 

Parlare (to talk)

Vendere (to sell)

Dormire (to sleep)

Io (I)

parler-ò

vender-ò

dormir-ò

Tu (you)

parler-ai

vender-ai

dormir-ai

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

parler-à

vender-à

dormir-à

Noi (we)

parler-eremo

vender-eremo

dormir-eremo

Voi (you)

parler-erete

vender-erete

dormir-erete

Loro (they)

parler-aranno

vender-anno

dormir-aranno 

There are some irregular verbs, first of all the auxiliares ”essere” (to be) and ”avere” (to have)

 

Essere (to be)

Avere (to have)

Io (I)

sarò

avrò

Tu (you)

sarai

avrai

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

sarà

avrà

Noi (we)

saremo

avremo

Voi (you)

sarete

avrete

Loro (they)

saranno

avranno

Some verbs change the root, but they still follow the regular future tense endings.

Dovere (must)

dovr-

Sapere (to know)

sapr-

Vivere (to live)

vivr-

Potere (can)

potr-

Vedere (to see)

vedr- 

Cadere (to fall)

cadr-

Andare (to go)

andr-

Other verbs lose not only the ending but also a part of the base of the word and acquire the suffix ”-rr”:

 

Tenere (to keep)

Volere (to want)

Bere (to drink)

Io (I)

terr

vorr

berr

Tu (you)

terr-ai

vorr-ai

berr-ai

Lui / lei (he / she / it)

terr

vorr

berr

Noi (we)

terr-emo

vorr-emo

berr-emo

Voi (you)

terr-ete

vorr-ete

berr-ete

Loro (they)

terr-anno

vorr-anno

berr-anno

Now that you know so many of the rules of the basic tenses of the Italian verbs, it’s time to enrich your Italian vocabulary and practice. It can be easily done with the use of flashcards because they include all that is needed for effective language learning. The best resource to help you is our Italian Words: Top 500 Verbs course. Created by professional linguists, it includes the most important Italian verbs you need to learn to communicate more freely. Start the course now to see how easy it is to learn Italian verbs and practice their conjugation with flashcards!

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