The congiuntivo imperfetto is another important tense of the subjunctive mood.
The imperfect subjunctive appears in the same contexts in which both present and past subjunctive appear. Indeed, it is used in independent and dependent (final, concessive, conditional, relative and temporal) clauses to convey:
|Nonostante Luca fosse una persona buona, la gente non parlava molto con lui.||Despite that Luca was a good boy, people didn't talk much with him.|
|Temevo che Andrea avesse mangiato troppo.||I was afraid that Andrew just ate too much.|
|Se ci avessero offerto quel lavoro, l'avremmo accettato.||If we were offered that job, we would take it.|
Italian imperfect subjunctive is mainly used to express hypotheses. In English, these clauses are the conditional clauses. In Italian, they are called periodi ipotetici.
The periodo ipotetico obviously follows specific rules, such as the agreement of tenses between the verbs of the sentences.
In Italian, the hypothetical sentences of irreality (with past tenses) must be always expressed by the conditional mood in the main clause and the subjunctive in the dependent clause.
|Dependent clause (protasis): imperfetto congiuntivo||Main clause (apodosis): condizionale presente|
|Se io avessi sete (If I was thirsty)||berrei. (I would drink)|
|Nel caso in cui io avessi bisogno (If I needed something)||ti chiamerei. (I would call you)|
Below we will see how the imperfect subjunctive in Italian is formed.
As we saw for the present subjunctive, regular verbs in the past subjunctive are formed through specific endings. These endings are different according to the conjugations (-are, -ere, -ire).
Let's see them in detail.
|(Che) io||am||-assi||E se io la amassi?||What if I love her?|
|(Che) tu||am||-assi||E se tu la amassi?||What if you love her?|
|(Che) egli / ella||am||-asse*||E se ella la amasse?||What if she loves her?|
|(Che) noi||am||-àssimo||E se noi la amassimo?||What if we love her?|
|(Che) voi||am||-aste||E se voi la amaste?||What if you love her?|
|(Che) essi / esse||am||-àssero||E se esse la amassero?||What if they love her?|
|(Che) io||prem||-éssi||Se io avessi tanti soldi, girerei il mondo.||If I had a lot of money, I would go around the world.|
|(Che) tu||prem||-éssi||Non sapevo che premessi tu il pulsante.||I didn't know you were pushing the button.|
|(Che) egli / ella||prem||-ésse*||Credevo che lei avesse un cane.||I thought she had a dog.|
|(Che) noi||prem||-éssimo||Se noi premessimo per farlo uscire, lui non verrebbe mai con noi.||If we pressed on him, he would never go out with us.|
|(Che) voi||prem||-éste||Non credevo che voi russaste così tanto.||I didn't think you snored so much.|
|(Che) essi / esse||prem||-éssero||Qualora Luca e Laura parlassero tedesco, andrebbero in Germania.||If Luca and Laura spoke German, they would go in Germany.|
|(Che) io||serv||-issi||Tu credevi che io servissi i pasti al ristorante.||You thought I served meals at the restaurant.|
|(Che) tu||serv||-issi||Lui credeva che tu servissi i pasti al ristorante.||He tought you served meals at the restaurant.|
|(Che) egli / ella||serv||-isse*||Credevo che egli servisse i pasti al ristorante.||I thought he served meals at the restaurant.|
|(Che) noi||serv||-ìssimo||Credevano che servissimo i pasti al ristoranti.||They thought we served meals at the restaurant.|
|(Che) voi||serv||-iste||Credevano che voi serviste i pasti al ristorante.||They thought you served meals at the restaurant.|
|(Che) essi / esse||serv||-issero||Credevi che servissero i pasti al ristorante?||Did you think they served meals at the restaurant?|
* Remember! The 3° singular person in the imperfect tense of subjunctive is different from the 1° and the 2° ones; otherwise, present and past subjunctive have the same endings for the singular forms.
As we said before, in Italian there a lot of irregular verb forms. Most of them are verbs from the 2° conjugation (the infinitive ends with -ere).
The peculiarity of these verbs is that they don't follow any inflectional pattern or any grammatical rule, so they must be learned by heart.
|Dare (to give)||Stare (to stay)||Bere (to drink)||Porre (to put, to set)||Trarre (to pull)||Tradurre (to translate)||Dire (to say)|
|(Che) egli / ella||desse||stesse||bevesse||ponesse||traesse||traducesse||dicesse|
|(Che) essi / esse||dessero||stessero||bevessero||ponessero||traestero||traducessero||dicessero|
As you know, essere (to be) and avere (to have) are the auxiliary verbs in Italian.
|(Che) io||fossi||Non sapevano che io fossi vegano?||Didn't they know I was vegan?|
|(Che) tu||fossi||Non sapevo che tu fossi così fortunato!||
I didn't know you were so lucky!
|(Che) egli / ella||fosse||Non sapevamo che lei fosse fidanzata.||We didn't know she was engaged.|
|(Che) noi||fossimo||Non sapevi che noi fossimo italiani?||Didn't you know we were italians?|
|(Che) voi||foste||Ero sicuro che voi foste così giovani!||
I was sure you were so young!
|(Che) essi / esse||fossero||Non sapevo che esse fossero così gentili!||I didn't know they were so much polite!|
|(Che) io||avessi||Pensavi che io avessi fame?||Did you think I was hungry?|
|(Che) tu||avessi||Pensavo che tu avessi fame!||I thought you were hungry!|
|(Che) egli / ella||avesse||Non immaginavo che egli avesse tanta fame.||I didn't imagine he was so hungry!|
|(Che) noi||avessimo||Dubitano ancora che noi avessimo tanta fame quella sera.||They still doubt we were so hungry that night.|
|(Che) voi||aveste||Lei sicuramente non sapeva che voi aveste così tanta fame.||She didn't know for sure you were so much hungry!|
|(Che) essi / esse||avessero||Io non sapevo che loro avessero fame.||I didn't know they were so hungry.|
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