Conjugate Italian Verbs: 2 Steps and 3 Simple Tenses

conjugate italian verbsIf you’re curious about the Italian language and would like to learn one of the more basic, yet important, aspects of this romantic language, you’ve come to the right place. Verb conjugation is one of the most important parts of learning any new language, coming in second, perhaps, only to the learning of vocabulary, and the actual verbs themselves, before mastering their conjugations. Even if you familiarize yourself with the process of conjugating the simplest of Italian verbs, you could get by if you were traveling in Italy.

If you haven’t guessed by now, today our discussion revolves around the conjugation of Italian verbs. If you’re already familiar with verb conjugations in other Latin-based languages, like Spanish, then you have a leg up on learning Italian. The process is similar, with a few exceptions. If you would like to learn more Italian after mastering these conjugations, this course on speaking Italian like a native will teach you the basics in three hours.

Verb Conjugation in Two Steps

Step 1

The first step in conjugating a verb in Italian, regardless of the tense, is to remove the suffix. The infinitive form (in English, “to ___”) of all Italian verbs have one of three endings: -are, -ere, and -ire. Infinitives ending in -are are referred to as first conjugation verbs, those with the -ere ending are second conjugation verbs, and -ire verbs are third conjugation. This ending must be taken off of the infinitive, leaving just the root of the verb. For example: amàre (to love), ripétere (to repeat), and dormìre (to sleep), become am-, ripé-, and dorm-.

Step 2

Now that you have root of the verb, you simply add the appropriate ending to it, depending on what tense is appropriate, as well as the person speaking.

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Adding the Ending

The easy part is over. Now that you know how to prepare an Italian verb for conjugation, the next step is to add the appropriate ending to the root, because without the ending, the root alone won’t make much sense, and you’ll probably get some weird looks. Going over all of the various tenses of Italian would take a while, so we will just discuss some of the simpler, more widely used of the tenses. The following endings (in bold) must be added to the root, and we will use the three verbs introduced in the previous section as a guide at first. If you enjoy the idea of learning a language independently, this course on teaching yourself a foreign language will help you save time and money in the long run.

Present Indicitive (-are/-ere/-ire)

  • lo (I) àmo/ripéto/dòrmo
  • tu (you) àmi/ripéti/dòrmi
  • lui/lei/Lei (he, she, you (formal/singular)) àma/ripéte/dòrme
  • noi (we) amiàmo/ripetiàmo/dormiàmo
  • voi (you (plural/informal)) amàte/ripetéte/dormìte
  • Essi/loro (them, you (plural/formal)) àmano/ripétono/dòrmono

Past Absolute (-are/-ere/-ire)

  • lo -ai/-ei (-etti)/-ii
  • tu -asti/-esti/-isti
  • lui/lei/Lei -ò/-é(-ette)/-ì
  • noi -ammo/-emmo/-immo
  • voi -aste/-este/-iste
  • Essi/loro -arono/-erono(-ettero)/-irono

Future Simple

  • lo -erò/-erò/-irò
  • tu -erai/-erai/-irai
  • lui/lei/Lei -erà/-erà/-irà
  • noi -eremo/-eremo/-iremo
  • voi -erete/-erete/-irete
  • Essi/loro -eranno/-eranno/-iranno

The following conjugations apply only to the regular verbs in Italian, and as you well know, there are always a group of irregular verbs that tend to confuse matters. We won’t get into the conjugations of these linguistic troublemakers, but we will provide for you a list of the most commonly used irregular Italian verbs that you should be wary of when speaking.

Irregular Verbs

  • dire (to say)
  • dare (to give)
  • fare (to do/to make)
  • venire (to come)
  • vivere (to live)
  • andare (to go)
  • cercare (to look for)
  • uscire (to leave)
  • piacere (to like)
  • stare (to stay)

Characteristics of the Conjugations

So far, we’ve been discussing the basics of Italian verb conjugation, but there are few things to be aware of. Sometimes these verbs will change pronunciation after conjugation, and there needs to be a few changes made to their spelling in order to be pronounced correctly. The following rules explain the changes that need to be made to the spelling of certain verbs.

First Conjugation Verbs (-are)

  • For verbs ending in -care or -gare, once the ending is removed, an “h” must be added to the end of the root before conjugation if the new ending begins with an “e” or an “i”. This is done in order to maintain the hard “c” or “g” sound. Example: legare (to tie) becomes tu leghi.
  • Verbs with the ending -ciare, -giare, and -sciare must drop the “i” in the root when the new ending begins with an “e” or an “i”. Example: mangiare (to eat) becomes tu mangi.

Second Conjugation Verbs (-ere)

  • Verbs ending in -cere, -gere, and -scere can be a bit confusing. When the new ending begins with an “e” or an “i”, the root keeps the soft sound the infinitive had originally, and with “a” or “o” endings, the new pronunciation is hard.

Third Conjugation Verbs (-ire)

  • A lot of -ire verbs will add the suffix -isc between the root and the new ending for the first, second, and third person singular, as well as third person plural, of the indicative and subjunctive present tenses. For example, finire (to end) becomes tu finisci in the present indicative.

Hopefully this article was helpful, and maybe you can get some actual use out of this intro to conjugating Italian verbs, especially if you plan on visiting Italy sometime in the future. It’s a lot to take in, and it requires years to learn how to speak a language well, but making an attempt will surely impress any native speakers you might come across in your travels. If you feel like you’ve got the conjugation part down, this course on learning and memorizing any language’s vocabulary will come in handy, as will this article on Italy travel tips.