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A Word About the Congiuntivo (the Subjunctive)

As Daniela finishes up talking about the conditional, she sneaks in a word in the subjunctive, which she hasn’t covered in her lessons yet.

"Io, fossi in te, partirei domani".

"If I were you, I would leave tomorrow."

Caption 4, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il condizionale - Part 7

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And in the previous segment of the lessons on the conditional, she also uses it.

Il condizionale in italiano si usa per esprimere la possibilità che possa succedere qualcosa.

The conditional is used in Italian to express the possibility that something could happen.

Captions 21-22, Corso di italiano con Daniela - Il condizionale - Part 6

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The conditional often goes hand in hand with the subjunctive, so it's not easy to avoid using the subjunctive sometimes.

 

For those who are curious, there have been some written lessons about the subjunctive, called the congiuntivo in Italian, and we provide some links here so that you can peruse them.  

 

Hypothesis Versus Reality - the subjunctive and the conditional

Verbs of Uncertainty and the Subjunctive

 

The subjunctive is necessary in several different kinds of scenarios, and they need to be treated one by one, but in very general terms, most of the time, the subjunctive has to do with uncertainty in some way, and that is why it goes hand in hand with the conditional, since the conditional also deals in uncertainty. Be on the lookout for the conjunction che (that, which) that often necessitates the use of the subjunctive following it. 

 

Another way the subjunctive is used is in polite commands, such as:

mi scusi  (excuse me)

 

It also gets used with impersonal verbs:

Bisogna che vada via entro mezzogiorno (it’s necessary for me to leave by noon), and other impersonal constructions such as:

Sarà difficile che tu vada via entro mezzogiorno (it will be unlikely that you leave by noon).

 

For the most part, the subjunctive has become a rarity in English but we still do use it, especially when we are speaking formally, or just correctly. And we especially find it in proximity to the conditional.

If I were you I would go right now.

It is incorrect to say “if I was you,” even though lots of people do say it.

 

A good rule of thumb is to learn the subjunctive conjugation for the verbs you will be using often, like essere (to be), avere (to have), and andare (to go) and even more importantly, to learn some frasi fatte (set phrases), like:

Cosa vuoi che faccia (what do you want me to do)?
Cosa vuoi che sia (how serious could it be)?
Dove vuoi che vada (where do you want me to go)?

The verb volere (to want) is used idiomatically here, as a somewhat rhetorical question.

 

Let's look at some alternative translations of these phrases to get the idea.

Cosa vuoi che faccia (what can I do about it)?
Cosa vuoi che sia (how big a deal could it be)?
Dove vuoi che vada (where could I possibly go? — I'll be right here).

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Little by little you'll put all the pieces together and know when to use it and when not to use it.

Grammar

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