(from Duolingo)

The Subjunctive Imperfect is used in similar situations to the present subjunctive (wishes, hopes, emotions, doubts, orders, etc.), but is set off by a verb in the past.

When preceded by a past tense verb, the imperfect subjunctive indicates an action occurring at the same time or after the main verb.

  • Volevo che fosse vero. (I wanted it to be true.)
  • Non credevamo che Anna avesse paura. (We didn’t believe that Anna was afraid.)

Occasionally you will see the imperfect subjunctive following a present tense verb to show an action occurring before the main verb:

  • Non credo che ci fosse. (I don’t think he was there.)

Another use of the imperfect subjunctive is in “if” statements. You use the imperfect subjunctive after se when referring to a hypothetical situation. Sometimes these are called “contrary-to-fact” statements, because they describe something different from reality. In these cases, the imperfect subjunctive is paired with the conditional.

  • Se fossi miliardaria, comprerei un castello. (If I were a billionaire, I would buy a castle.)
  • Se i cani parlassero, cosa direbbero di noi? (If dogs talked, what would they say about us?)

TIP: We may notice that in English we also use a past tense for these hypothetical statements. We just have to remember to use the past subjunctive in Italian.

io -assi -essi -issi
tu -assi -essi -issi
lui,lei -asse -esse -isse
noi -assimo -essimo -issimo
voi -aste -este -iste
loro -assero -essero -issero

(che) io parlassi vedessi capissi
(che) tu parlassi vedessi capissi
(che) lui,lei parlasse vedesse capisse
(che) noi parlassimo vedessimo capissimo
(che) voi parlaste vedeste capiste
(che) loro parlassero vedessero capissero

(by DuoItalian)
facessi(I/you) did, made
facessehe did, made
avessi(I/you) had
avessehe had
venissi(I/you) came
venissehe came
volessi(I/you) wanted
volessehe wanted
volessimowe wanted
fossimowe were
potessehe could
stesserothey stayed
dessehe gave
vedessi(I/you) saw
vedessehe saw
vedesteyou (all) saw
trovassehe found
trovassimowe found
dicessimowe said
dicesserothey said
sapesserothey knew (something)
andassi(I/you) went
andassehe went
parlassi(I/you) talked
parlassehe talked
portassimowe brought
arrivassehe arrived
prendessi(I/you) took
mettesserothey put
chiedessehe asked
diventassi(I/you) became
tenessehe kept
credessehe believed
capissi(I/you) understood
usassehe used
chiamassehe called
entrassehe entered
parlasteyou (all) liked
ricordassehe remembered
capisteyou (all) understood
vivessehe lived
lavorassehe worked
seguisserothey followed
guardassehe watched
aprissi(I/you) opened
aspettassehe waited
morissi(I/you) died
decidessehe decided
leggesserothey read
scrivessehe wrote
cambiassehe changed
finisserothey finished
unissehe joined
giocassehe played
offrissi(I/you) offered
succedesseit happened
costruisserothey built
perdessimowe lost
provassimowe tired


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