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Using the Subjunctive in Conversation

Let's have a quick look at some of the ways the subjunctive has been used in a few of some recent Yabla videos.

One way Italian uses the subjunctive is when invoking some higher power.

In our first example the verb is assistere (to assist) which is a synonym for aiutare (to help).


Che Dio ci assista.

May God help us.

Caption 65, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema

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In the following example the verb is proteggere (to protect).


Che Dio mi protegga,

God may protect me,

lo devo riportare dove l'ho preso.

I have to take it back to where I got it.

Captions 30-31, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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We have mentioned before, but it bears repeating, that the formal imperative actually uses the third person singular subjunctive. Here Lara is using the formal imperative with the woman she is questioning.The verb is stare.


Stia tranquilla, Iolanda, lo scopriremo.

Be calm,[don't worry], Iolanda, we'll find out.

Caption 17, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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The next example is clearly subjunctive since it is used in the English as well. The verb is essere (to be). The subjunctive deals with hypothetical situations, and come se (as if) is the signpost.


E io l'ho cresciuta come se fosse mia figlia.

And I brought her up as if she were my daughter.

Caption 62, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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In the following example, the subjunctive is used after the word che (that), and involves doubt.
The verb is essere (to be).


Ho pensato che fosse già uscita,

I thought she had already gone out,

o che non fosse tornata per nulla.

or that she hadn't come home at all.

Captions 82-83, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP10 - Un morto di troppo

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Attenzione! Our last example is actually one of incorrect Italian. Lots of Italians get this wrong, sometimes by choice because it’s easier to say (and has become acceptable in very informal situations), but also because of ignorance.


This is a classic case where correct Italian requires one part of the phrase to be in the subjunctive, and the other part in the conditional.


In the following example, the verb that should be in the subjunctive is essere (to be). Manuela instead used the imperfetto (simple past tense). The other verb is sposare (to marry). She used the imperfetto once again, when she should have used the condizionale (conditional).


Cioè, se eri [fossi stato] più grande ti sposavo [avrei sposato]!

That is, if you were older, I would marry you!

Caption 79, La Tempesta - film - Part 5

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If Manuela had wanted to use correct grammar, she might have said:

Cioè, se fossi più grande ti sposerei.


Learn more about the Italian subjunctive here and here.

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