Unità 5

Come sarebbe un mondo ideale?

Obiettivi per il capitolo

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

  • express actions that would, could, or should happen under certain circumstances
  • express actions that would have, could have, or should have happened under certain circumstances
  • give commands, hints, directions, and suggestions
  • identify and discuss issues of diversity and inclusion in Italy and their own cultures
  • offer suggestions and possible solutions for social, cultural and political issues

Vocabolario: l’Italia regionale. L’unità e la diversità.

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.

italiano English
accogliente welcoming
accogliere to welcome
il campanilismo parochialism (literally an attachment to the bell tower of your local church
la comprensione understanding
il conflitto di classe class conflict
il dialogo dialogue
difendere to defend
la diversità diversity
l’emarginazione exclusion, alienation
la globalizzazione globalization
inclusivo/a inclusive
l’identità identity
l’integrazione inclusion, integration
la larghezza inclusiveness
litigare to argue
lottare to fight
il maltrattamento abuse
maltrattare to abuse
l’orgoglio pride
orgoglioso/a proud
il partito politico political party
patriotico patriotic
il patriottismo patriotism
la polemica controversy
polemico/a controversial, contentious
la politica

-di destra

-di sinistra




il Risorgimento period of unification of Italy
superare to overcome
tutelare to protect, to defend
l’unificazione unification
l’unità unity

Struttura 5.1 Il condizionale

In contesto

Vorrei studiare in Italia il prossimo anno.

Mangerei la pasta tutti i giorni.

Dovremmo trattare bene le persone e essere inclusivi.

Potremmo avere il conto?

The conditional, or condizionale, is a verb form that we use to talk about things we would, could, or should do in certain (wait for it…) conditions! Just like it is in English, it is also a more polite way to make requests or offers.

The first three examples above illustrate the former, with the conditions that can be understood through context.

Vorrei studiare in Italia il prossimo anno.

(I would like to study in Italy next year.) [if possibile]

Mangerei la pasta tutti i giorni.

(I would eat pasta every day.) [if I could]

Dovremmo trattare bene le persone e essere inclusivi.

(We should treat people well and be inclusive.) [because we don’t always]

The final example illustrates a more polite way to make a request.

Potremmo avere il conto?

(Could we have the check?)

Come si forma?

I verbi regolari

Conjugating regular verbs in the conditional has a few things in common with verb conjugations in the future tense. Both conjugations share the same stem, which you can determine by dropping only the final -e from the infinitive form.

difendere (infinitive) → defender- (stem)

Also like the future, regular -are verbs undergo a spelling change, with the “a” becoming an “e” to complete the stem. This means that -are and -ere verbs look identical in the conditional.

lottare → lotter

Once you have found the stem, the endings are the same for all three verbs forms:

(io) -ei (noi) -emmo
(tu) -esti (voi) -este
(lui/lei/Lei) -ebbe (loro) -ebbero

Look at the table below. These are long conjugations! Because the stem is long in addition to the endings, these forms will always be a bit longer than what might seem natural to you. Try to have fun with it! Preferirebbero is a fun word to say!

Also note that the noi form looks somewhat similar to the future. The difference is the extra “m”! In the future, the ending is -emo, and in the conditional it is -emmo. Fun!

lottare difendere sentire
io lotterei difenderei sentirei
tu lotteresti difenderesti sentiresti
lui/lei/Lei lotterebbe difenderebbe sentirebbe
noi lotteremmo difenderemmo sentiremmo
voi lottereste difendereste sentireste
loro lotterebbero difenderebbero sentirebbero

Also like the future, verbs ending in -care and -gare add an “h” after the “c” and “g” to preserve the hard “c” and “g” sounds:

cercare litigare
io cercherei litigherei
tu cercheresti litigheresti
lui/lei/Lei cercherebbe litigherebbe
noi cercheremmo litigheremmo
voi cerchereste litighereste
loro cercherebbero litigherebbero

Verbs ending in -ciare and -giare lose the “i” after the spelling change:

cominciare mangiare
io comincerei mangerei
tu cominceresti mangeresti
lui/lei/Lei comincerebbe mangerebbe
noi cominceremmo mangeremmo
voi comincereste mangereste
loro comincerebbero mangerebbero
I verbi irregolari

Irregular verbs in the conditional follow the same patterns as those of the future (which is to say, that the irregular stems are also the same between the two forms).

There are a couple very irregular verbs (like essere), but most either involve the elimination of a single vowel, the addition of -rr to the root, in substitution of the consonant immediately preceding the ending, or -are verbs that do not undergo the spelling change of -a to -e.


io sarei noi saremmo
tu saresti voi sareste
lui/lei/Lei sarebbe loro sarebbero

Vowel elimination

andare avere dovere potere vedere
io andrei avrei dovrei potrei vedrei
tu andresti avresti dovresti potresti vedresti
lui/lei/Lei andrebbe avrebbe dovrebbe potrebbe vedrebbe
noi andremmo avremmo dovremmo potremmo vedremmo
voi andreste avreste dovreste potreste vedreste
loro andrebbero avrebbero dovrebbero potrebbero vedrebbero
volere tenere rimanere venire
io vorrei terrei rimarrei verrei
tu vorresti terresti rimarresti verresti
lui/lei/Lei vorrebbe terrebbe rimarrebbe verrebbe
noi vorremmo terremmo rimarremmo verremmo
voi vorreste terreste rimarreste verreste
loro vorrebbero terrebbero rimarrebbero verrebbero

-are verbs without the spelling change

fare stare dare
io farei starei darei
tu faresti staresti daresti
lui/lei/Lei farebbe starebbe darebbe
noi faremmo staremmo daremmo
voi fareste stareste dareste
loro farebbero starebbero darebbero

Quando si usa?

1. To describe what would, could, or should happen in certain situations or conditions.

Es. Con un milione di dollari, comprerei una villa in Toscana.

(With a million dollars, I would buy a villa in Tuscany.)

Es. Ho molto lavoro da fare, quindi non dovrei andare al concerto stasera.

(I have a lot of work to do, so I shouldn’t go to the concert tonight.)

Es. Sarebbe bello fare un viaggio in Australia.

(It would be nice to take a trip to Australia.)

*Note that the would, could, should meaning is included in the conjugated form – there is no need to add anything extra like we do in English.

As a general rule, the verb potere in the conditional can mean “could”, while dovere means “should.”

2. To express polite requests and offers.

Es. Potresti passare il sale?

(Could you pass the salt?)

Es. Professoressa, potrebbe spiegare meglio il condizionale?

(Professor, could you explain the conditional better?)

3. In hypothetical statements.

You will learn these in Unità 7, but here is an example:

Es. Se fossi il Presidente di UMass, abbasserei le tasse universitarie.

(If I were the President of UMass, I would lower tuition.)

Una prova

Struttura 5.2 Il condizionale passato

In contesto

Senza Covid, sarei andata in Sicilia per una vacanza. 

Michele ha accettato la proposta, ma io avrei lottato per alcune condizioni migliori.

If the present conditional (condizionale) refers to something you would, could, or should do in the present or future, then the conditional past, or the condizionale passato, is used to express something you would have, could have, or should have done in the past. Like the condizionale, there is an element of the impossible or improbable here, since changing the past is not exactly within the realm of possibility.

Senza Covid, sarei andata in Sicilia per una vacanza l’anno scorso. 

(If not for Covid, I would have gone to Sicily for a vacation last year.) [but I didn’t/couldn’t]

Michele ha accettato la proposta, ma io avrei lottato per alcune condizioni migliori.

(Michele accepted the proposal, but I would have fought for some better conditions.) [but I didn’t / couldn’t, because I’m not Michele]

Come si forma?

As in English, the condizionale passato is a compound form, and it follows the same rules as the other compound forms you have studied thus far, like the passato prossimo, the trapassato prossimo, and the futuro anteriore.

It is formed with the conditional form of either essere or avere, and the past participle of the main verb.

Il condizionale passato con avere

As with other compound forms, verbs that take avere in the conditional past are transitive verbs (i.e. verbs that take a direct object and answer the questions “What” or “Who(m)”). If the verb takes avere in the passato prossimo, it takes it in the condizionale passato, too!

The past participle is formed in the same way as well, and the irregulars are also the same:

lottare → lottato
vendere → venduto* (watch out for the -ere verbs, which are often irregular!)
dormire → dormito

io avrei lottato noi avremmo lottato
tu avresti lottato voi avreste lottato
lui/lei/Lei avrebbe lottato loro avrebbero lottato
Il condizionale passato con essere

As you have already learned, verbs that take essere are intransitive (i.e. they do NOT take a direct object) and tend to refer to states of being or physical movement (or lack thereof!). The past participle must agree in gender and number with the subject.

io sarei andato/a noi saremmo andati/e
tu saresti andato/a voi sareste andati/e
lui/lei/Lei sarebbe andato/a loro sarebbero andati/e

Quando si usa?

1. To describe what would have, could have, or should have happened in the past

Es. Avrei preferito vedere l’altro film.

(I would have preferred to see the other film.)

Es. Avremmo dovuto studiare di più per l’esame.

(We should have studied more for the exam.)

Es. Sarebbero potuti arrivare un po’ prima.

(They could have arrived a bit earlier.)

As with the condizionale presente, dovere in the condizionale passato translates to should have, while potere means could have.

2. In hypothetical statements, which will be covered in Unità 7.

Es. Se avessero potuto, gli studenti sarebbero andati in Italia lo scorso semestre.

(If they could have, the students would have gone to Italy last semester.)

Una prova

Struttura 5.3 L’imperativo informale

In contesto

Mangia le tue verdure!

Non arrivare a lezione in ritardo!

Divertiti alla festa!

The conditional is a way to politely make requests or give suggestions, but sometimes we want to just give more direct orders (tone is important here so you don’t seem TOO bossy ;)): this is where the imperative, or imperativo, comes in.

The imperative is typically used to address people directly and has both an informal and a formal register. The informal imperative is used in the tu, noi and voi forms (not io or loro because you’re not giving orders in those contexts), and the formal imperative is used in the Lei form (not lui/lei).

Come si forma?

The good news is that the imperative is very similar to the regular present indicative tense. In fact, the conjugations are nearly identical, but with three (3) important modifications to remember.

1. -ere and -ire conjugations are the same as the present indicative:

leggere dormire
tu Leggi! Dormi!
noi Leggiamo! Dormiamo!
voi Leggete! Dormite!

2. -are verbs have one change in the tu form: the “i” changes to “a”:

tu Mangia!
noi Mangiamo!
voi Mangiate!

Just think of those stereotypical depictions of Italian mothers and grandmothers, saying “Mangia, mangia!” That’s the imperative!

3. For negative commands in the tu form, use non + infinitive. The noi and voi forms maintain the same conjugation, with the non preceding it.

tu Non mangiare!
noi Non mangiamo!
voi Non mangiate!

4. Any direct, indirect, combined, or reflexive pronouns combine with the imperative and attach to the end of the verb. This is different from their normal position before the conjugated verb.

With object pronouns
prestare leggere finire
tu Prestaglielo! Leggila! Finiscili!
noi Prestiamoglielo! Leggiamola! Finiamoli!
voi Prestateglielo! Leggetela! Finiteli!
With reflexive pronouns
alzarsi mettersi divertirsi
tu Alzati! Mettiti! Divertiti!
noi Alziamoci! Mettiamoci! Divertiamoci!
voi Alzatevi! Mettetevi! Divertitevi!

5. Some common verbs are a bit irregular in the imperative, mostly in the tu form:

andare vai/va’
dire di’
fare fai/fa’
dare dai/da’
stare stai/sta’
essere sii / siate
avere abbi / abbiate
sapere sappi /sappiate

You can see that some of these have two possibilities, one that is the same as the regular tu form and one that drops the final “i” and adds an apostrophe. Either form is correct, just be consistent–and if you choose the form with the apostrophe, don’t forget to include it!

When these short, irregular commands are combined with pronouns, they drop the final “i” or “apostrophe” and double the first consonant of the pronoun:

Es. Da’ + mi = Dammi!

Es. Di’ + ci = Dicci!

Es. Fa’ + le = Falle!

This is true of all of the pronouns except gli:

Es. Da’ + glielo = Daglielo!

Quando si usa?

1. The imperativo is used to give commands or suggestions.

Es. Ordina la specialità della casa!

(Order the house specialty!)

Es. Prendi un’aspirina e chiamami domani!

(Take an aspirin and call me tomorrow!)

Es. Non urlare!

(Don’t shout!)

Es. Dimmi la verità!

(Tell me the truth!)

2. The noi form of the imperative translates to “Let’s” do something.

Es. Andiamo al mare!

(Let’s go to the beach!)

Es. Vediamo quel film!

(Let’s see that film!)

Una prova

Struttura 5.4 L’imperativo formale

In contesto

Prego, si sieda!

Mi dica!

The informal imperative is used when you’re talking to your friends and family, but there might be situations in which you want to make commands or suggestions to someone you either don’t know well or with whom you have a more formal relationship, like a professor or a client. The conjugations actually differ a bit in the formal imperative, or imperativo formale, and the rules of the imperativo informale do not apply. The good news is that these forms will come in handy in Unità 6 when you learn the subjunctive! (Yay?)

Come si forma?

I verbi regolari

The conjugations in the imperativo formale differ a bit from the present indicative. In fact, they undergo small changes that seem to be a bit contrary to the normal conjugations.

guardare mettere sentire
Lei Guardi! Metta! Senta!

You should have noticed that -are verbs replace the “a” with an “i”, and -ere and -ire verbs replace the “e” with an “a”. So -ere and -ire verbs look a bit like -are verbs in the formal imperative.

Also notice that when we use the formal imperative, we are primarily dealing with the Lei form.

I verbi irregolari

There are also quite a few irregular verbs. However, if you know the present indicative conjugation of the verb, you can get to the irregular form in the formal imperative as well.

If it is irregular in the present tense, it’s irregular in the formal imperative, too. A good rule of thumb is to identify the io form of the verb in the present tense and drop the “o” and add “a”.

present indicative (tu) formal imperative
andare vado vada
bere bevo beva
dire dico dica
potere posso possa
rimanere rimango rimanga
uscire esco esca
venire vengo venga

For verbs like stare, dare, and fare, the noi form is more helpful for this exercise.

present indicative (noi) formal imperative
dare diamo dia
fare facciamo faccia
stare stiamo stia

And of course, essere and avere are irregular, as is sapere, but the forms of all three are related to their irregular forms in the imperativo informale.

informal imperative formal imperative
avere abbi abbia
essere sii sia
sapere sappi sappia

Unlike the imperativo informale, there are no changes with negative forms, and pronouns remain before the conjugated verb.

Es. Non si preoccupi!

(Don’t worry!)

Es. Mi dica!

(Tell me!)

Quando si usa?

The imperativo formale is used for the same reasons as the imperativo informale, but the context is a bit different. If you work in a store, for example, you would use this form with clients to offer suggestions and advice. A doctor might offer recommendations to a patient using this form. It is an alternative to the conditional for making polite requests.

If you’re in a situation in which you are unsure as to whether or not to use the formal (Lei) or informal (tu) register, it is a good idea to err on the side of caution and start with the formal. Once you have established a rapport with someone, you can switch registers. You can offer this possibility in a couple of ways:

  1. Ci diamo del tu? (Shall we use the tu?)
  2. Diamoci del tu! (Let’s use the tu!)
  3. Per favore, dammi del tu!  (Please, use the tu!)

Una prova



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Torniamo a tavola! Volume 2 by Melina Masterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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