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Imperfect subjunctive Italian (congiuntivo imperfetto)

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What is the imperfetto congiuntivo in Italian?

The congiuntivo imperfetto is another important tense of the subjunctive mood.

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Where and how to use the imperfect subjunctive in Italian

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:

  • doubtshypotheseswishes and orders;
  • objective or personal considerations about something.
ExampleTranslation
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.

 

Hypothetical sentence in Italian with imperfect subjunctive

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.

enlightenedIn 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 congiuntivoMain 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)

 

How to conjugate the imperfetto congiuntivo in Italian

Below we will see how the imperfect subjunctive in Italian is formed.

Regular verbs in Italian imperfect subjunctive

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.

Verbs of -are conjugation

Amare (to love)
 RootEndingExampleTranslation
(Che) ioam-assiE se io la amassi?What if I love her?
(Che) tuam-assiE se tu la amassi?What if you love her?
(Che) egli / ellaam-asse*E se ella la amasse?What if she loves her?
(Che) noiam-àssimoE se noi la amassimo?What if we love her?
(Che) voiam-asteE se voi la amaste?What if you love her?
(Che) essi / esseam-àsseroE se esse la amassero?What if they love her?

 

Verbs of -ere conjugation

Premere (to press, to push)
 RootEndingsExampleTranslation
(Che) ioprem-éssiSe io avessi tanti soldi, girerei il mondo.If I had a lot of money, I would go around the world.
(Che) tuprem-éssiNon sapevo che premessi tu il pulsante.I didn't know you were pushing the button.
(Che) egli / ellaprem-ésse*Credevo che lei avesse un cane.I thought she had a dog.
(Che) noiprem-éssimoSe noi premessimo per farlo uscire, lui non verrebbe mai con noi.If we pressed on him, he would never go out with us.
(Che) voiprem-ésteNon credevo che voi russaste così tanto.I didn't think you snored so much.
(Che) essi / esseprem-ésseroQualora Luca e Laura parlassero tedesco, andrebbero in Germania.If Luca and Laura spoke German, they would go in Germany.

 

Verbs of -ire conjugation

Servire (to serve)
 RootEndingsExampleTranslation
(Che) ioserv-issiTu credevi che io servissi i pasti al ristorante.You thought I served meals at the restaurant.
(Che) tuserv-issiLui credeva che tu servissi i pasti al ristorante.He tought you served meals at the restaurant.
(Che) egli / ellaserv-isse*Credevo che egli servisse i pasti al ristorante.I thought he served meals at the restaurant.
(Che) noiserv-ìssimoCredevano che servissimo i pasti al ristoranti.They thought we served meals at the restaurant.
(Che) voiserv-isteCredevano che voi serviste i pasti al ristorante.They thought you served meals at the restaurant.
(Che) essi / esseserv-isseroCredevi che servissero i pasti al ristorante?Did you think they served meals at the restaurant?

 

* enlightenedRemember! The  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.

 

Irregular verbs of perfect subjunctive in Italian

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). 

enlightenedThe 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) iodessi stessibevessiponessitraessitraducessidicessi
(Che) tudessistessibevessiponessitraessitraducessidicessi
(Che) egli / elladessestessebevesseponessetraessetraducessedicesse
(Che) noidessimostessimobevessimoponessimotraessimotraducessimodicessimo
(Che) voidestestestebevesteponestetraestetraducestediceste
(Che) essi / essedesserostesserobevesseroponesserotraesterotraducesserodicessero

 

Auxiliary verbs in Italian imperfect subjunctive: essere / avere

As you know, essere (to be) and avere (to have) are the auxiliary verbs in Italian.

Essere (to be): che io fossi

 Verb formExampleTranslation
(Che) iofossiNon sapevano che io fossi vegano?Didn't they know I was vegan?
(Che) tufossiNon sapevo che tu fossi così fortunato!

I didn't know you were so lucky!

(Che) egli / ellafosseNon sapevamo che lei fosse fidanzata.We didn't know she was engaged.
(Che) noifossimoNon sapevi che noi fossimo italiani?Didn't you know we were italians?
(Che) voifosteEro sicuro che voi foste così giovani!

I was sure you were so young!

(Che) essi / essefosseroNon sapevo che esse fossero così gentili!I didn't know they were so much polite!

 

Avere (to have): che io avessi

 Verb formExampleTranslation
(Che) ioavessiPensavi che io avessi fame?Did you think I was hungry?
(Che) tuavessiPensavo che tu avessi fame!I thought you were hungry!
(Che) egli / ellaavesseNon immaginavo che egli avesse tanta fame.I didn't imagine he was so hungry!
(Che) noiavessimoDubitano ancora che noi avessimo tanta fame quella sera.They still doubt we were so hungry that night.
(Che) voiavesteLei sicuramente non sapeva che voi aveste così tanta fame.She didn't know for sure you were so much hungry!
(Che) essi / esseavesseroIo non sapevo che loro avessero fame.I didn't know they were so hungry.

 

 


Exercises

  1. Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the imperfetto congiuntivo in Italian
  2. Choose the correct form for the imperfetto congiuntivo of the following verbs

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the imperfetto congiuntivo in Italian


Choose the correct form for the imperfetto congiuntivo of the following verbs


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