As a student learning Italian you will have a tendency to look for grammatical patterns. This is normal. Studying Italian verbs in a regulated fashion is a wise idea. In other words take it in as a computer would accept a new program, without thinking about it or trying to analysis it. Mainly because it is an efficient use of time, plus Italian verbs are grouped in a variety of ways.
When studying Italian you must avoid the temptation of making comparisons in English. They are not even remotely the same and you will only end up frustrating yourself. There may be some similarities between the two languages, but there are so many basic differences they cannot compare to each other. As in the English language there are many exceptions to the rules.
Verbs are a basic part of ever language, so the same is true with Italian. There are three primary groups of verbs in Italian. They are grouped according to the ending of their infinitives. There is the first conjugation (-are verbs), second conjugation (-ere verbs), and third conjugation (-ire verbs).
The majority of the Italian verbs belongs to the first conjugation group and follows a very consistent pattern. Once you have mastered the conjugation of on –are verb, in essence you will have learned hundreds. The second conjugation verbs total about one quarter of the verbs. Many of them have some sort of erratic structure; there are also many regular – ere verbs. The final group of verbs is those that end in –ire.
In Italian there is a difference between tense and moody. Mood refers to the attitude of the speaker to what he or she is saying. The attitude is not directed at the person they are speaking to. There are four finite moods – modi finite in Italian is pinpointing, which is used when pinpointing facts; subjunctive – congiuntivo, which is used to express how the speaker feels or his attitude toward an event; conditional – condizionale, which is used to express what would happen in a certain situation that is hypothetical and imperative – imperative, which is used to give orders. The English language only has three of these finite moods. They are indicative, subjunctive, and imperative.
There are also three indefinite moods in Italian; the forms do not specify the person, such as first, second, or third. They are infinitive – infinito, participle – participio and gerund – gerundio.
Moods are divided into one or more tenses, which tell the time when the action of the verb takes place whether it is present, past or future.
Conjugating Italian Verbs
There are six different verb forms for all of the Italian verb tenses in the four finite moods; each verb form corresponds with each of the six persons used as the subject.
Learning all six of the forms for every verb could be a daunting task. Fortunately most Italian verbs are regular verbs, meaning they are conjugated using a regular pattern. There are only three erratic first conjugation verbs. Once you have the regular verb endings memorized the pattern can be applied to other verbs of the same group. If they are irregular they do not follow a normal pattern.
Even though they are numerous, even the irregular second and third conjugation verbs fall into a few groups, which make it easier to memorize.
You can’t speak Italian without the verbs essere – to be and avere – to have. These two verbs are essential and are used in compound verb formations, along with idiomatic expressions, and many other grammatical constructions. You will want to become the master of these two verbs because it is a giant step toward learning Italian.
Next is the transitive verb. These are the verbs that take a direct object, such as in Luis reads a book. Transitive verbs can also be used in the unconditional sense, which means with an implicit direct object “reads a book”. Intransitive verbs on the other had are those that never take a direct object “Giorgio walks”. Some verbs can be classified as either transitive or intransitive, depending on the context of the sentence.
Italian verbs have two voices. A verb is considered to be in the active voice when the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb, such as Marco ha preparato le valigie – Marco packed the suitcases. A verb is considered to be in the passive voice when the subject is acted on by the verb, such as La scena e stata filmata da un famoso regista – The scene was filmed by a famous director. Only transitive verbs with a clear direct object can be changed from the active voice to the passive voice.
You start everyday with reflexive verbs – verbi riflessivi. These verbs revert the action to the subject such as Mi lavo – I wash myself. In Italian reflexive pronouns – I pronomi reflessivi are needed when conjugating reflexive verbs.
In Italian there are three important verbs known as verbi servili or verbi modali – modal verbs. These verbs are potere – to be able to, can, volere – to want, dovere – to have to, must, can take on their given meaning and stand alone. Functioning to modify the meaning of these verbs, they can follow the infinitive of other verbs.
There are a group of Italian verbs that are conjugated with two different pronoun particles. Included in this group of verbs is meravigliarsene and provarcisi and are called pronominal verbs – verbi pronominali. There are still grouped with either the first conjugation, second conjugation or the third conjugation according to the ending of their infinitives.
To the dismay of students of all levels and abilities there is no hard and fast set of rules governing the grammatical usage of these next verbs with prepositions. There are certain verbs, which are followed by specific prepositions such as a, di, per, and su.
Because of the unspecified rules with these verbs and preposition usage, students must familiarize themselves with tables, which include Italian verbs and expressions followed by specific prepositions as well as verbs followed directly by the infinitive.