In this lesson, we're going to talk about the future tense in Italian, and how it's used, not just for the future, but also for probability.
In our first example, Federico Fellini is talking about a future meeting with Ingmar Bergman, and as you can see from the translation, he uses the verb essere in its future tense in a straightforward way. He has no doubts about the outcome: It’s going to be stimulating!
Io penso che l'incontro fra lui e me sarà
I think that the encounter between him and me will be
veramente molto stimolante.
really very stimulating.
Caption 37, Fellini Racconta - Un Autoritratto RitrovatoPlay Caption
In this next example, however, the verb essere is again used in the future tense, but here it means something completely different! In fact, one of the uses of the future tense in Italian is to express a supposition, probability, uncertainty, or doubt. In this case, the element of time is no longer taken into consideration and is replaced by a kind of conditional mood (appunto, the future is now—probably).
Guarda, stamattina ho appetito,
Look, this morning I have an appetite,
Sarà l'aria di campagna...
It must be the country air...Play Caption
Although this special use can be applied to any verb, it’s most common with essere and avere. In Un medico in famiglia, Lele is reassuring his daughter, Maria, about the future. He’s sure!
Sono sicuro che ti piacerà la nuova scuola
I am sure you will like the new school
e avrai un sacco di nuovi amichetti.
and you will have a lot of new playmates.
Captions 11-12, Un medico in famiglia Stagione 1 - EP1 - Casa nuovaPlay Caption
But here, the signora is just making a good guess as to how hungry her passenger Alessio is.
Avrai fame immagino, sì? Andiamo?
You must be hungry, I'd imagine, right? Shall we go?
Captions 14-15, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 12Play Caption
In her Yabla newscast, Marika is giving us some very suspicious news from another planet, and she expresses her consternation:
Could it be true?
Caption 47, Anna e Marika - in TG Yabla Italia e MeteoPlay Caption
Another way to ask the above question would be: potrebbe essere vero? (could it be true?) or even può essere vero? (can it be true?). But more often than not, the future tense will be used when talking about probability in the present, or even in the past (together with a participle), as in the following example, where there’s uncertainty in retrospect.
Non lo so. Sarà stata una buona idea farlo venire qua?
I don't know. Was it such a good idea to have him come here?
Captions 30-31, Ma che ci faccio qui! - Un film di Francesco Amato - Part 10Play Caption
Here are a couple more examples to give you an idea.
In an episode of Un medico in famiglia, the family members are wondering what Cetinka is about to take out of her suitcase:
Che è, che sarà? -Non lo so!
What is it, what could it be? -I don't know!Play Caption
In a lively discussion between Lara and her zia about Ginevra, the attractive medical examiner, the aunt defends Commissario Manara, which infuriates Lara even more.
E Luca la sta coprendo! -Avrà le sue buone ragioni, eh!
And Luca is covering for her! -He must have a good reason, huh!
Captions 40-41, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
As you watch and listen to Yabla videos, notice how the future tense is used. You may be surprised at how often it is used to express probability, supposition, or uncertainty. And as you go about your day, maybe talking to yourself in Italian, use the future tense of essere or avere to wonder about things and their probability. Sometimes you may really be wondering about the future, as in:
Sarà una bella giornata?
Will it be a nice day?
But other times you may just be conjecturing:
Sarà una brava persona, ma dal suo comportamento non sembra proprio.
He may be a good person, but from his behavior it certainly doesn’t seem like it.
Sento bussare alla porta. Sarà il postino.
I hear someone knocking at the door. It’s probably the postman.
Perché non è ancora arrivato? Avrà avuto un contrattempo!
Why hasn’t he come yet? He must have had a setback.
So as you can see, in Italian, the future can be right now!