How To Learn The Italian Present Tense In Detail
What is the present indicative tense in Italian?
The Italian present tense is used to describe what is happening now or to talk about a general truth. It’s also used to talk about what happened in the past up to the present (Studio italiano da due anni – I’ve learned Italian for two years)
English vs. Italian
In Italian, the present tense can translate both the English simple present (‘I speak’) and the English present continuous (‘I am speaking’). So, if the forms appear hard, remember that the one tense will do two jobs for you.
How to form the Italian present tense?
In Italian, unlike in English, there is a concept known as “conjugation.” It is when the ending of a verb changes based on the subject of the action (I, you, she, etc.). Verbs in English are not conjugated since they must always be used with subjects.
The Italian present tense is formed by simply adding an ending to the verb’s stem. The stem of the verb is the chunk of the verb that remains after the ends of the infinitive* are, -ere, and -ire are removed.
English: I speak
Italian : parl-o (the ending in “o” is the first person marker and is automatically making evident the subject of the action, which is “I” in this case).
The Three Conjugations of Italian Verbs
The infinitive form of a verb can be found by looking it up in the dictionary. The infinitive of many Italian verbs will end in the letters –are (the most common), -ere, or -ire. As a result, we may say that Italian has three groups of verbs, each with three conjugations:
- the verbs ending in – ARE (pensare, cucinare, imparare, parlare)
- the verbs ending in – ERE (leggere, scrivere, ripetere)
- the verbs ending – IRE (dormire, aprire, sentire)
Note the first person forms all end in -o. This is the first person marker. The tu form of verbs always end in -i. the noi form of verbs ends in –iamo.
Italian present tense endings
3 Tips for Using the Italian Present Tense Correctly
Understanding the subject object pronouns
IO → I
parlo italiano (I speak Italian)
TU → You or Do you? used to address someone or to ask a question to someone
Parli italiano? (Do you speak Italian?)
LUI / LEI → he or she or it (used with reference to a guy, a woman, animal or object)
Lei parla italiano (She speaks Italian)
NOI→ we (I and someone else, for example, io e mio marito viviamo a Roma)
io e mio marito (implied “noi”) parliamo italiano (My wife and I speak Italian)
VOI → you’ll, used to address two or more people in a question or statement
parlate italiano? (Do you guys speak Italian?)
LORO → they
Maria e Luigi (implied “they”) parlano italiano (Maria and Luigi speak Italian)
How to make a negative sentence in Italian
One way to ask questions in Italian is to add a question mark to the end of the sentence in writing and to raise the pitch of the voice at the end of the sentence. The English helping verb do is not translated.
- non parlo italiano – I don’t speak Italian
- non abito in Italia – I don’t live in Italy
As you can see, the subject pronouns (io, tu, lui, etc..) are still omitted.
How to ask a question in Italian
To ask a question in Italian, add a question mark at the end of the sentence and raise the pitch of your voice at the end of the sentence. The English helping verb do is not translated (Do?, Does?, Did?) can’t be translated)
- Abiti in Italia? (Do you live in Italy?)
- Parli italiano? (Do you speak Italian?)
Italian Irregular Verbs
In Italian, we have the concept of “Irregular verbs”. They are verbs that do not follow the rules of conjugation for regular verbs.
The verbs “essere – to be” and “avere – to have” are the most frequent irregular verbs in the present tense. There are also a number of other irregular verbs that are rather prevalent.
a list of common Italian irregular verbs in the present tense
- dire – to say, to tell
- dare – to give
- venire – to come
- andare – to go
- volere – to want
- potere – can
- dovere – must
The Italian courtesy form
The Italian courtesy form is used to express politeness to the other person in a conversation. Though it’s not a required form of speech, it is considered an important part of the language.
Italian courtesy form is similar to the English “please” and “thank you.” This phrase is used in Italy because it is important to show respect to people you don’t know, older people or people with a title (doctors, professors, etc..)
The Italian courtesy form is made with the subject pronoun “Lei“, the third person singular.
- Parla italiano? – Do you speak Italian, Sir or Madame? [formal setting]
- Parli italiano? – Do you speak Italian? [informal setting]