Lezione 36-The impersonal 'si'

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Buongiorno, amici miei!

Hello, my friends!


Today we're going to learn about 'si' used by itself.

You've met it before, meaning 'oneself' in reflexive verbs, like lavarsi (to wash oneself), or 'each other' (scriversi-to write to each other)

As I said, it can have multiple uses and meanings, but one of its most important uses is when it is used to indicate 'we'.

What it corresponds to

If you're studying French (or have already), you will come across the impersonal subject pronoun 'on'. In German, 'man'. This, in Italian, is 'si'.

It means 'we' when you simply don't want to say things like "andiamo a casa adesso" ("we're going home now", since you may find it too cumbersome or long to say). 'Si' is the perfect option to take in this case.

How to use it

Simply use it with the verb utilized. Example: Mangiamo la pizza stasera (tonight). Instead of saying this, you could simply say 'si mangia la pizza stasera'. What difference did you notice? The verb 'mangiamo' has switched to the third person singular, 'lui/lei mangia'.

Negative: non+si+verb-non si mangia! (we're not eating!/we're not going to eat!)

It can also mean 'you can...' or simply 'you...' as in general, based on context.

Example: What's there? Cosa c'è? You can see a wolf! Si vede un lupo!

However, when the noun you refer to is plural, you change the verb to the third person plural (i.e -ano): Si vedono dei lupi!

Here, 'si' has remained the same, but 'vede' has become 'vedono' and 'un', 'dei', because 'lupi' is masculine plural. You use this form ONLY when the verb is transitive, like 'vedere' (to see).

Back to the English form, it would be 'vediamo dei lupi'-we see some wolves.

So the plural formula of 'si' would be as follows: si+conjugated third person plural+dei/delle/degli +noun.

You may also use it for referring indirectly to something and what happens in it, like a game. Example: Cosa si fa quando si gioca a Monopoly? Si comprano delle case! /What do you do when you play monopoly? You buy houses!)

How to conjugate it

Easy! After 'si', the verb becomes  third person singular or third person plural. Therefore, 'noi andiamo' becomes 'si va', 'noi mangiamo' becomes 'si mangia/no', etc. Obviously, 'si va' will never become 'si vanno' because it is labile, that is, neither transitive or intransitive.

It's easy, right? I hope so, at least.

You can also use it in questions, of course, but how?

By using this formular: adverb+si+conjugated verb.

Example: Dove si va stasera? Si va a mangiare la pizza. Where are we going tonight? We're going for a pizza.

Quando si va al mare? Si va in agosto. When are we going to the seaside? In August.

Perché non si mangia? Why aren't we eating?

As you can see, to make it negative, add 'non' before 'si'.

So, to sum it all up, let me show you some more examples on how to change a verb finishing with 'amo' to 'si ...'.

Andiamo-si va

Compriamo (we buy)-si compra/no (To buy-comprare-compro, compri, compra, compriamo, comprate, COMprano)

Parliamo-si parla/no* (*languages?)

Dormiamo-si dorme

Leggiamo-si legge/ono

Giochiamo-Si gioca/no

Balliamo-si balla

facciamo-si fa/nno

Try questi (these) esercizi if you think you've got it:

1) Cambia i seguenti verbi della prima persona plurale nella forma appropriata, poi traduci. (Switch the following first person plural verbs into the appropriate 'si' form, then translate.) Ex.: Giochiamo a mosca cieca____ risposta: si gioca-we're playing blind man's buff.

1. Prendiamo un gelato- (verbo PREndere-to get-prendo, prendi, prende, prendiamo, prenDEte, PREndono)__________________

2. Vediamo un ragazzo-_____________________

3. Guardiamo qualcosa? (something)- _________________

4. Non andiamo al parco!- __________________

5. Beviamo tre birre-__________________

2) Switch the following 'si' verbs into their appropriate conjugated form, then translate. Example: Si mangia-mangiamo (we're eating).

1. Si va ora-

2. Si asCOLtano dei CD-

3. Si cammina (camminare-to walk-cammino, cammini, cammina, camminiamo, camminate, camMInano)-

4. Si usa il computer (usare-to use-uso, usi, usa, usiamo, usate, USano)-

5. Non si parla così! (così-like that)




1. Si prende un gelato-We're getting an ice cream

2. Si vede un ragazzo-you can see a boy

3. Si guarda qualcosa?-Are we watching something? (anything)

4. Non si va al parco!-We're not going to the park!

5. Si bevono tre birre-We're having three beers/you have three beers.


1. Andiamo ora. We're going now.

2. Ascoltiamo dei CD. We're listening to some CDs.

3. Camminiamo-we're walking.

4. Usiamo il computer-We're using the computer.

5. Non parliamo così!-We don't talk like that!


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