Unità 1

Cosa ti sta a cuore?

Obiettivi per il capitolo

At the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • describe their routines at home and at school
  • talk about their likes and dislikes, needs and preferences
  • discuss their hobbies and interests
  • engage others in conversations about their daily lives
  • compare superstitions and cultural traditions in Italy to their own cultures
Vocabolario: la cultura popolare. Le superstizioni e le tradizioni

Here are some words that will help you participate in the conversations in this chapter. Of course, there are also many more! Creating your own course dictionary is a good way to keep track of new words.

l’oroscopo horoscope
toccare ferro knock on wood (literally, to touch iron)
la sfiga bad luck
il malocchio evil eye
la coccinella ladybug
il corno, il cornicello, il cornetto lucky charm, talisman (horn-shaped)
fare le corna gesture to ward off evil
il quadrifoglio four leaf clover
il numero sfortunato unlucky number
venerdì 17 Friday the 17th (unlucky day in Italy–not the 13th!)
il fantasma ghost
stregato/a haunted
la superstizione superstition
la scaramanzia superstition, “for luck”
superstizioso/a; scaramantico/a superstitious
lo scongiuro exorcism, spell (to ward off bad luck)

Struttura 1.1 Ripasso dei verbi regolari al presente indicativo

Welcome to intermediate Italian! You learned SO MANY verb forms at the elementary level. In this course we will review some of those forms, as well as look at them more in depth and discover more of their irregularities and usages. Plus you’ll learn some brand new forms, too (did you think you learned them all in 120?!)

Let’s start with a review of regular verbs in the present tense.

First of all, a reminder that the present tense is actually incredibly useful in Italian. It is used far more than it is in English. For example, Io ballo in Italian can mean:

-I dance (as in a routine activity)

-I am dancing (at this moment)

-I will dance / I’m going to dance (in the future)

So knowing how to use the present tense means that you can communicate a LOT of things in Italian! So let’s review the forms…

Remember that there are three primary categories of verbs in Italian: those ending in –are, -ere, and -ire.

To conjugate verbs in the present tense, the first step is to remove the ending (the -are, the -ere, and the -ire). You are then left with what is called the “root” of the verb. In the case of the verb ballare, we would remove the -are and the remaining ball- is the root of the verb, to which we attach the endings. In the case of a regular -are verb, those endings are as follows:

io ballo noi balliamo
tu balli voi ballate
lui/lei/Lei balla loro ballano

We do the same thing for -ere and -ire verbs, which differ only in the lui/lei, voi and loro forms from -are conjugations. -Ere and -ire verbs are nearly identical in their conjugated forms, with the exception of the voi form.

io scrivo dormo
tu scrivi dormi
lui/lei/Lei scrive dorme
noi scriviamo dormiamo
voi scrivete dormite
loro scrivono dormono
Remember, too, that -ire verbs actually have two regular conjugations in the present–those that conjugate like dormire, and those that add an -isc in between the root and the ending (with the exception of the noi and voi forms, like other shoe verbs).
io dormo capisco
tu dormi capisci
lui/lei/Lei dorme capisce
noi dormiamo capiamo
voi dormite capite
loro dormono capiscono

Common verbs that conjugate like capire are , , , and .

This is all familiar, right?

Una prova

Struttura 1.2 Ripasso dei verbi irregolari al presente indicativo

Of course, there are also many common verbs that do NOT quite follow the patterns above. There are some patterns within these irregularities, but some of them just require some memorization. Here are the most common irregular verbs in the present tense. See if you can find any patterns that might help you remember them.

io sono ho
tu sei hai
lui/lei/Lei è ha
noi siamo abbiamo
voi siete avete
loro sono hanno

Common irregular -are verbs

io faccio sto do vado
tu fai stai dai vai
lui/lei/Lei fa sta va
noi facciamo stiamo diamo andiamo
voi fate state date andate
loro fanno stanno danno vanno

Common irregular -ere verbs

io bevo devo posso voglio piaccio
tu bevi devi puoi vuoi piaci
lui/lei/Lei beve deve può vuole piace
noi beviamo dobbiamo possiamo vogliamo piacciamo
voi bevete dovete potete volete piacete
loro bevono devono possono vogliono piacciono

Common irregular -ire verbs

io esco vengo dico
tu esci vieni dici
lui/lei/Lei esce viene dice
noi usciamo veniamo diciamo
voi uscite venite dite
loro escono vengono dicono
*Note that in almost all cases, the voi form remains regular.*


Una prova

Struttura 1.3 I verbi riflessivi e reciproci

There are also other verb forms in the present tense that are regular in their conjugations but a bit unusual in their meaning and usage. Reflexive verbs, or the verbs that end in -arsi, -ersi, and -irsi indicate actions that one does to oneself. Sometimes these are similar to how they are used in English, like mettersi (to put on [oneself]), but often times there is no good direct translation, like divertirsi (to have fun) – though in that case if it is defined as “to enjoy oneself” the idea becomes clearer. The biggest thing to remember is that these verbs conjugate just like regular -are, -ere, and -ire verbs do, with the addition of what is called the reflexive pronoun before. These verbs always have a two part conjugation, like this:

io mi alzo mi metto mi diverto
tu ti alzi ti metti ti diverti
lui/lei/Lei si alza si mette si diverte
noi ci alziamo ci mettiamo ci divertiamo
voi vi alzate vi mettete vi divertite
loro si alzano si mettono si divertono

Other common reflexive verbs, many of which we use to describe our routines, are svegliarsi, lavarsi, vestirsi, asciugarsi, prepararsi, addormentarsi, annoiarsi, arrabbiarsi, riposarsi, sentirsi, sposarsi, innamorarsi.

There are also other verbs that conjugate identically to reflexive verbs but with slightly different meanings. Those verbs are called reciprocal verbs, and much like the name suggests, they indicate actions that people do to each other. By definition, they only exist in the plural form (a “two to tango” kind of situation). Like this:

parlarsi (to speak to each other) vedersi (to see each other) sentirsi (to hear each other/to talk to each other on the phone)
noi ci parliamo ci vediamo ci sentiamo
voi vi parlate vi vedete vi sentite
loro si parlano si vedono si sentono

Sometimes the same verb can exist in both reflexive and reciprocal forms. For example, Mi chiamo Alessandra (I call myself Alessandra) and Io e Alessandra ci chiamiamo (Alessandra and I call each other). Or si sentono male oggi (They don’t feel well today) and si sentono al telefono (they talk to each other on the phone).

Una prova

Struttura 1.4 Altri verbi irregolari

In contesto

Jovanotti compone una canzone d’amore per la sua fidanzata. 🎼

Jovanotti propone il matrimonio alla sua fidanzata. 👰🏼

Jovanotti tiene in mano una piccola scatola. 🎁

La scatola contiene un anello di fidanzamento. 💍

Al momento giusto, Jovanotti produce la scatola dalla sua tasca e conduce la sua fidanzata ad una panchina.

Lui toglie l’anello dalla scatola e coglie l’occasione per cantare la canzone che ha scritto.

Il “concerto” attrae l’attenzione delle altre persone nel parco, che cominciano a guardare la scena.

Can you identify the verbs in bold above? Most likely, you can infer their meaning because they are similar to English. Can you identify their infinitive forms, though? Probably not, or at least not all of them. This is because they belong to some ‘families’ of irregular verbs that you have likely not seen before. The good news is that if you learn the base conjugation for these verbs, then you can conjugate all of the verbs from that family. Let’s look at an example.

Es. Jovanotti compone una canzone d’amore per la sua fidanzata. 🎼

The verb compone is the lui/lei form of the verb comporre. Yes, there are verbs that end in -rre! Specifically, ones that end in -orre, -arre, and -urre. Many of them are close to cognates in English, and if you learn the basic conjugation, you can conjugate all of the other verbs in that category.

proPORRE (to propose)

supPORRE (to suppose)

comPORRE (to compose)

disTRARRE (to distract)

atTRARRE (to attract)

proDURRE (to produce)

conDURRE (to conduct, to lead)

Let’s look at the first category:

io pongo propongo suppongo compongo
tu poni proponi supponi componi
lui/lei/Lei pone propone suppone compone
noi poniamo proponiamo supponiamo componiamo
voi ponete proponete supponete componete
loro pongono propongono suppongono compongono

As you can see, these verbs follow a clear pattern. The endings are all consistent with regular -ere verbs. There is the addition of the “n” throughout, of course, and even more notable is the addition of the “g” to the io and loro forms. You have seen this phenomenon before with the verbs venire (vengo, vengono) and rimanere (rimango, rimangono).

We see something similar with the second category, though the “g” is doubled:

io traggo distraggo attraggo
tu trai distrai attrai
lui/lei/Lei trae distrae attrae
noi traiamo distraiamo attraiamo
voi traete distraete attraete
loro traggono distraggono attraggono

In the third category, the root gets changed slightly, much like you’ve seen with verbs like bere (bev-) and dire (dic-).

io traduco produco conduco
tu traduci produci conduci
lui/lei/Lei traduce produce conduce
noi traduciamo produciamo conduciamo
voi traducete producete conducete
loro traducono producono conducono

Finally, there are two other categories of irregular verbs that you might encounter, those with tenere and those ending in -gliere:

manTENERE (to maintain)

conTENERE (to contain)

sceGLIERE (to choose)

toGLIERE (to take away)

accoGLIERE (to welcome)

The first category will look very familiar. In fact, if you can remember how to conjugate venire, you remember how to conjugate any verb ending in -tenere.

io tengo vengo
tu tieni vieni
lui/lei/Lei tiene viene
noi teniamo veniamo
voi tenete venite
loro tengono vengono

As you can see, with the exception of the voi form, the two conjugations are identical. Both also feature the added “g” to the io and loro forms that you saw above.

The final category also features a spelling change to the io and loro forms, but this time it’s a simple letter reversal:

io colgo scelgo tolgo accolgo
tu cogli scegli togli accogli
lui/lei/Lei coglie sceglie toglie accoglie
noi cogliamo scegliamo togliamo accogliamo
voi cogliete scegliete togliete accogliete
loro colgono scelgono tolgono accolgono

You should have observed that the “gl” switches to “lg” in the io and loro forms of these verbs.

Una prova

Struttura 1.5 I verbi impersonali

In contesto

Ti piace l’italiano?

Ti piacciono i verbi irregolari in italiano?

Why do we use piace in the first example and piacciono in the second? Hopefully you remember that piacere works a little differently in Italian than it does in English. In the first example, the subject of the sentence is actually l’italiano, literally meaning “Is Italian pleasing to you?” That “ti” at the beginning of the sentence is NOT a subject but rather an indirect object pronoun (no worries if you need a review on that–we’ll get to it!). The important thing to remember is that in Italian, the thing you like is actually the subject of the sentence, which also dictates the form of the verb. We use piace because l’italiano is singular. In the second example, we use piacciono because i verbi irregolari is plural.

There are a couple different formulas we can use to construct these sentences. The first is indirect object + piacere + subject, like above.

Mi                                       piace                 la musica tradizionale.

(indirect object)            (piacere)            (subject)

(Literally, “to me is pleasing traditional music”. Or, “I like traditional music”.)

The indirect object can be represented by a pronoun (mi, ti, gli, le, ci, vi – NOT loro, which would follow the verb) or the preposition “a” followed by either a noun (like the name of a person) or a tonic pronoun (me, te, lui, lei, noi, voi, loro).

Mi piace la musica tradizionale.

A me piace la musica tradizionale.

A Marta piace la musica tradizionale.

A lei piace la musica tradizionale.

Le piace la musica tradizionale.

The other way to construct these sentences is to reverse that formula: subject + piacere + indirect object. If you use this construction, then you cannot use indirect object pronouns. The “a + tonic pronoun/noun” is the option here.

La musica tradizionale           piace               a me.

(subject)                                 (piacere)         (indirect object)

La musica tradizionale piace a Marta.

La musica tradizionale piace a lei.

*That “a” is important! Without it, your sentence is incorrect.*

Piacere is not the only verb that functions this way in Italian. There are a handful of other “impersonal” verbs that work the same way and differ a bit from their English translations.

One common verb is mancare, or “to miss”. Instead of saying that you (in the active) miss someone, in Italian it is the person who is missing to you. Therefore, if you want to say “I miss you” in Italian, you say mi manchi – literally, “you are missing to me.”

Mi                                  mancano           i miei nonni.

(indirect object)      (mancare)         (subject)


I miei nonni           mancano          a me.

(subject)               (mancare)         (indirect object)

(Literally, “my grandparents are missing to me” OR “I miss my grandparents”)

Here are some other verbs like piacere and mancare.

bastare to be enough
dare fastidio to annoy, to bother
dispiacere to be sorry
(non) importare to (not) matter
interessare to interest
occorrere to need
sembrare to seem
servire to be useful; to need
stare a cuore to matter

Una prova


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Torniamo a tavola! Volume 1 by Melina Masterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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