Lezione 43: The subjunctive

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Questo non è facilissimo...aspettatemi...

This isn't so easy! Bare with me...


What is the subjunctive?

The subjuntive is a mood. It isn't the indicative tense that indicates what is happening, but it is a mood that tells you how something happens. Mood comes from mode which came from way, as in how.

When do I use it?

You use it when something isn't clear-there's a possibility or doubt in its actually happening. Does the subjunctive exist in English? Yes, but it's so rare that native speakers barely use it. For example: 'It's important that you be good.' The be here is in the subjunctive, even though many would simply say, 'It is important for you to be good.' Even, 'if I were you', 'I wish I were', the 'were' is in the subjunctive.

You use it in Italian, French and Spanish after expressions that denote possibility or doubt of an action happening. These could be expressions like: I think, I believe, I doubt, it is possible (that), it is bad (that), it's good (that), I wish, If I were, I want you to be etc.

How do I use it?

Firstly, child, let us take a look at the verb essere-to be:

io sia (SEE-yah)

tu sia

lui/lei sia

noi siamo

voi siate

loro Siano (SEE-ano)

Usually, in Italian, the subjunctive is preceded by 'che', 'that'-an optional in English.

Let's put 'essere' into use!

Lui pensa-he thinks




stupido (STOO-pee-doh)-stupid/dumb

Put it in the subjunctive by changing 'sono':

Lui pensa che io sia stupido-he thinks (that) I am stupid.

How do you say 'I think that you are intelligent'?

Io penso che tu sia intelligente.

Easy! By the way, you can also omit the subject when you already know who's being talked about.

What about with: I want you to be...?

This is where the subjunctive gets put into use the most.

I want-voglio


to be-essere

good-bravo (at something)/buono (good at heart)


Voglio tu essere bravo is gibberish!

Make it subjunctive then:

Voglio che tu sia bravo.

Lit.: I want that you be good.

He wants me to be good:

Lui vuole che (io) sia buono. 

(He wants that I be good)

You need the subjunctive after the following expressions:

Voglio che...

E' possibile/impossibile che... It's possible/impossible that...

E' terribile che...

E' difficile che... it's difficult that...

E' facile che... it's easy that...

How do I learn the subjunctive of every verb?

While memorizing is the only way-even though you can use flash cards-notice how in 'essere' the 'sia' remains the same for the first three persons? Io sia, tu sia, lui sia.

The same goes for literally every other verb. Take a look at the verb leggere: io legga, tu legga, lui legga.

 Oh yes, and another trick is:

for -are verbs: take off the final -are, and add -i. (Mangiare: Io mangi, tu mangi, lui mangi.) Also, the first person plural doesn't change for -are verbs: noi mangiamo. Voi mangiate, loro MANgino.

for -ere and -ire verbs: remove the endings -ere or -ire and add -a: leggere: io legga, tu legga, lui legga. (Non voglio che tu legga! I don't want you to read!)

Sometimes the first plural doesn't change, sometimes it does: noi leggiamo.

Add an -iate to the second plural: voi leggiate.

Infine (finally): loro leggano (LEG-gano-switch the original -o to an -a). 

Memorize the following verbs and their subjunctive forms:


io vada

tu vada

lui/lei vada

noi andiamo

voi andiate

loro VADano


io faccia

tu faccia

lui/lei faccia

noi facciamo

voi facciate

loro FACciano


io studi

tu studi

lui/lei studi

noi studiamo

voi studiate

loro STUdino


io dorma

tu dorma

lui/lei dorma

noi dormiamo

voi dormiate

loro DORmano

In bocca al lupo!

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