Lesson 3

How to conjugate verbs / Come coniugare i verbi

Auxiliary verbs / Verbi ausiliari

The two most important verbs in Italian, by far, are avere (to have) and essere (to be). They are called verbi ausiliari (auxiliary verbs), and they are irregular in nearly every tense, including the present indicative, sometimes extremely so. Here are their conjugations.
Avere (to have):

(Io) hoI have
(tu) haiyou (singular) have
(lui/lei/Lei) hahe/she/you (singular formal) has
(noi) abbiamowe have
(voi) aveteyou (plural) have
(loro) hannothey have

Essere (to be):

(Io) sonoI am
(tu) seiyou (singular) are
(egli(lui)/ella(lei)/Lei) èhe/she/you (singular formal) is
(noi) siamowe are
(voi) sieteyou (plural) are
(loro) sonothey are

Regular verbs / Verbi regolari

In Italian, regular verbs are the most common ones. They always end with -are, -ere, and -ire, are the same in the first person (singular and plural) and second person singular. They are different in the third person (singular and plural) and second person plural. According to the different suffix, verbs are assigned to one of the three regular conjugation of verbs in Italian. For instance:

  • amare (to love): is a first conjugation verb (prima coniugazione);
  • ripetere (to repeat): is a second conjugation verb (seconda coniugazione);
  • dormire (to sleep): is a third conjugation verb (terza coniugazione).

Here is a table of the regular present indicative for -are, -ere, and -ire verbs.

Whoamàre (to love)ripétere (to repeat)dormìre (to sleep)

It is important to note the change of stress position in different person forms. Regular verbs follow the same position change. Stress is shown in table above to help learning, it is not written in real texts (see Pronunciation for details on stress).

Irregular verbs / Verbi irregolari

In Italian, there are also several irregular verbs. A very few of them do not even apply to the conjugation previously seen, such as porre (to put down, to place) and tradurre (to translate); actually they derive from second conjugation (ponere,traducere). This is a list of common usage verbs which are known to be irregular, and do not apply to the conjugation rules seen before:

  • andare (to go)
  • bere (to drink)
  • cercare (to seek, to look for)
  • dare (to give)
  • dire (to say)
  • fare (to do, to make)
  • piacere (to like)
  • stare (to stay, to remain)
  • uscire (to leave, to go out)
  • venire (to come)
  • vivere (to live)

Modal verbs / Verbi servili

Three other important verbs, dovere, potere and volere, are irregular too; these three particular verbs are known as verbi servili (modal verbs), as they have the function to “serve” and “support” other infinite verbs. In particular:

  • dovere is equivalent to the English modal verb must, but also the have to form: for instance, devo studiare (I have to study, I must study).
  • potere is equivalent to the English modal verbs can and may: for instance, puoi andare (You can go, you may go).
  • volere expresses willingness to do something, and is actually equivalent to the English verbs to want, to wish and to will; for instance, voglio mangiare (I want to eat). The verb volere can be also used in non-modal forms, that is not in support of an infinite verb.
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