As mentioned previously, every Italian verb has an infinitive form (i.e. the version of the verb found in a dictionary) which ends in -ARE, -ERE, or -IRE. The Italian present tense is used to state that an action is occurring at the present time and each conjugation of the present form of the infinitive has its own sets of stems or roots that are added to the endings.
- cantare (to sing) = cant_ (verb stem) -are (infinitive ending)
- vedere (to see) = ved_ (verb stem) -ere (infinitive ending)
- venire (to come) = ven_ (verb stem) -ire (infinitive ending)
The Italian present tense is the equivalent of the English simple present and is often used similarly to the English present continuous tense.
- Lei canta una bella canzone. (She sings a beautiful song. –or– She is singing a beautiful song.)
It can additionally be used to express a future happening if an adverbial expression of the future is included.
- Lui canta a Roma domani. (He sings in Rome tomorrow.)
Conjugation examples are shown below using amare (to love), credere (to believe), aprire (to open), and capire (to understand).
CONOSCERE vs SAPERE
Both of these commonly used Italian verbs translate to the English “to know”, but are used in different manners.
Sapere followed by a verb, means “to know HOW” to do something. It is often followed by che, dove, quando, perché plus a verb, meaning “to know a FACT or INFORMATION”.
- Antonio sa nuotare molto bene. (Antonio knows how to swim very well.)
- Non so dove abita Maria. (I don’t know where Maria lives.)
Conoscere is usually followed by a noun and means “to know or BE ACQUAINTED” with someone or something.
- Non conosciamo molto bene Roma. (We don’t know Rome very well.)
- Sì, conosco Giovanni, siamo buoni amici. (Yes, I know Johnny, we are good friends.)
- Lui non conosce quella parte del paese. (He does not know that part of the country.)
Literally translated “to like” or “to please”, piacere is an irregular verb most often used in the third person singular (piace) and plural (piacciono). It is one of the first Italian verbs you’ll learn that is structured in a manner (indirect object + verb + subject) very different from English. For example, the simple phrase “I like beer” translates in Italian to “mi piace la birra”.
To say you like something, you just say “mi piace” and add a singular definite article (of the appropriate gender) of what you like (“beer” in the example above).
If what you like is plural, you say “mi piacciono” plus the things you like (along with a plural definite article). An easy example being “mi piacciono le barche”, which translates in English to “I like boats.”
- Ti piace ballare? (Do you like to dance?)
- Sì, mi piace ballare. (Yes, I like dancing.)
- Ci piacciono i cani. (We like dogs.)
- Le piacciono i gatti. (She likes cats.)
The Italian verb abitare (to live) is used when referring to the dwelling one inhabits, while vivere (to live) is used to refer to a country, city, or town one lives in.
The Italian verb leggere (to read) changes from soft to hard sound according to the vowel following the -g-. Therefore leggo (I read) has the hard sound because it ends with -o, whereas leggi (you read) has a soft sound because it ends with -i.
Verbs whose infinitives end in -care or -gare need to add an “h” before the endings of the tu and noi forms.
- cercare (to search for) → tu cerchi, noi cerchiamo
- pagare (to pay) → tu paghi, noi paghiamo
|fare||to do, make|
|stare||to be, to stay|
|potere||to be able to, can|
|dovere||to have to|
|conoscere||to know someone|
|sapere||to know something|
|chiedere||to ask for|
|portare||to carry, wear|
|lasciare||to leave behind|
|sentire||to hear, feel|
|tenere||to hold, keep|
|abitare||to live, dwell|
|guardare||to look at|
|aspettare||to wait for|