How to Conjugate Verbs in Italian: A Beginner’s Guide

Learning how to conjugate verbs is indispensable for anyone who wants to communicate effectively in Italian; conjugation is the backbone of Italian phrases, supporting and giving shape to every sentence you construct. 

What is a verb? 

A verb is the most important part of any sentence, and that’s why it’s important to get it right. Technically, a verb is a word that indicates mental or physical activity or a state of being. In both Italian and English, verbs can appear in two forms: the infinitive form and the conjugated form

  • Infinitive verbs are verbs in their most basic forms, such as “mangiare” (to eat), “studiare” (to study), and “viaggiare” (to travel). This is how verbs are typically listed in a dictionary. 
  • Conjugated verbs are verbs whose forms have been changed according to their subject, for example, “viaggio” means “I travel,” and “studi” means “you study.”

What is conjugation? 

Conjugation involves adapting the form of a verb to fit its subject, for example, changing the basic infinitive verb “mangiare / to eat” to “mangio / I eat”. Conjugation is important because in Italian, we must change the form of a verb, typically by changing its ending, to reflect the subject (I, you, she, etc.), the tense (present or past, for example), and the mood (conditional or imperfect, for example).

English vs. Italian 

Every verb has a subject.

In English, the subject is usually a separate word, but in Italian the subject is “part of” the verb.

Most of the time, and with most Italian verbs, you don’t need to use a separate word for the subject. In fact, it’s weird: Saying “noi parliamo” is like saying “we we speak.”  

So if we don’t use a separate word, how do we know who does the “speaking” in the sentence above? 

By the form of the verb!

This is why you must learn how to adapt the form of a verb (i.e. conjugate it) to indicate the subject (and also the tense and mood, but we can talk about those later). 

If you want to say “I speak,” and you use the form “parlano” instead of “parlo”, you will be saying “they speak,” which is not what you want to say. 

English verbsItalian verbs
I speak ItalianWe speak ItalianThey speak ItalianParlo italianoParliamo italianoParlano italiano

In the above chart, the form of the verb “speak” remains constant, but the subjects vary and are indicated by the use of different subject pronouns (I, we, and they). In English, we usually rely on a noun or a pronoun to tell us who or what the subject is. 

In contrast, Italian verbs are often used without subject pronoun, and their form is almost always different depending on the subject. This means that in Italian, there are many more forms of each verb than there are in English, and it is the form (typically the end) of the verb that tells us who or what the subject of an Italian sentence is.  An Italian verb’s form also tells us the time frame it refers to (the past, the present , or the future).

In order to say what you want to say in Italian, you need to learn and practice using different verb forms.  This workbook is designed to help you do that!

Subject Pronouns 

Before you can learn how to conjugate verbs in Italian, you must first learn how to use Italian subject pronouns. Although we often omit subject pronouns in Italian, we make heavy use of them when we are learning how to conjugate verbs. This is because subject pronouns provide important reference points as we learn the various forms of a verb, helping us to associate each form with its respective subject. 

Both Italian and English share six basic subject forms: first, second, and third person in both singular and plural. 

ioIfirst person singular
tuyou second person singular
lui, leihe/she/itthird person singular
noiwefirst person plural
voiyou all second person plural
lorotheythird person plural
Italian subject pronouns

Understanding Subject Pronouns: Italian vs. English

The single subject pronouns, io, tu, lui, and lei are pretty easy to grasp.

Io is “I”

Tu is “you” (singular, familiar).

Lei is “she” or “you” (singular, formal).

Lui is “he”

The plural subject pronouns, noi, voi, and loro can be a little tricker. 

When two or more subjects are mentioned, the verb always takes a plural form, and we use the subject pronouns noi, voi, and loro.

Be careful not to mix them up:

Noi = “we” or “I and someone else / I and other people”

Io e mio marito parliamo italiano. / (Noi) parliamo italiano. (My husband and I speak Italian.  / We speak Italian.)

Voi = “you” (plural) or “you and someone else / you and other people” (used when addressing two or more people. Voi functions very similarly to English “y’all,” and many students find it helpful to translate voi as “y’all.” The main difference is that voi is considered to be perfectly standard and correct, and suffers none of the stigma that “y’all” does in some English-speaking contexts.)

Tu e Serena parlate italiano? / (Voi) parlate italiano?  (Do you and Serena speak Italian?  / Do you speak Italian?)

Loro = “they”

Heather e Serena parlano italiano. / (Loro) parlano italiano. (Heather and Serena speak Italian.  / They speak Italian.)

It and they (important!) 

The above-stated guidelines apply even when the subject is a thing or idea that we would refer to as “it” in English, or multiple things or ideas that we would refer to as “they” in English. Since Italian usually omits subject pronouns, ‘it’ and ‘they’ are not directly translated. Rather, they (like other subject pronouns) are implied by the form of the verb. 

Single thing or ideait (is)è
Multiple things or ideasthey (are)sono

For example:

It is beautiful. = È bello (referring to a single thing or idea)⇨ They are new.  = Sono nuovi. (referring to multiple things or ideas.)

How to conjugate verbs in the Present Tense

Conjugating a verb in Italian is actually quite easy. All it takes is finding the root of the verb, which is the part of the infinitive verb without ‘are’, ‘ere’, or ‘ire’, and then adding the appropriate endings for the tense or mood. The specific endings vary depending on the conjugation group to which the verb belongs.

Subject*Parlare (to speak)Scrivere (to write)Dormire (to sleep)
Io (I)parl-oscriv-odorm-o
Tu (You)parl-iscriv-idorm-i
Lui/Lei (He/She)parl-ascriv-edorm-e
Noi (We)parl-iamoscriv-iamodorm-iamo
Voi (You Plural)parl-atescriv-etedorm-ite
Loro (They)parl-anoscriv-onodorm-ono
present tense conjugation – Italian

*Remember that it is common to omit the subjects when conjugating verbs in Italian!

Italian vs. English 


The present tense in Italian translates to both the present simple and present progressive in English. 

For example:

  • Parlo can mean I speak Italian or ‘I am speaking Italian.
  • Scrivo can mean I write or I am writing.
  • Dormo can mean I sleep or I am sleeping.

Questions and negatives 

Questions and negatives are much simpler in Italian!


In English, to ask a question in the simple present tense, with any verb other than “be,” we use the auxiliary “Do/Does” and the base form of the main verb, for example, “Does he speak English?” In Italian, however, you only need to use the conjugated verb and raise the pitch of your voice at the end of the sentence. 

For example, 

  • Do you speak English? = Parli inglese?
  • Does she travel often? = Viaggi spesso?

Negative Sentences

In English, to make a negative statement in the simple present tense, with any verb other than “be,” we use the negative auxiliary “don’t/doesn’t” and the base form of the main verb, for example, “He doesn’t speak English.” To form a negative sentence in Italian, simply add “non” before the conjugated verb.

 For example, 

  • He doesn’t speak English. = Non parla inglese.⇨ We don’t travel often. = Non viaggiamo spesso

Serena Capilli

I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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Ciao, I’m Serena! I’m the creative force behind both this blog and my collection of short stories in simple Italian for language learners, available on Amazon.

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