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How to use the Past Conditional in Italian

Posted on 22. Oct, 2014 by in Grammar

Last week we took a look at the present conditional, which, if you missed it, you can find HERE. Today we are going to look at il condizionale passato (the past conditional). Here are a couple of examples of how we conjugate it, firstly with the auxiliary verb essere (to be):

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei stato/a
tu saresti stato/a
lui sarebbe stato
lei sarebbe stata
noi saremmo stati/e
voi sareste stati/e
loro sarebbero stati/e
I would have been
you would have been (sing, inf.)
he would have been
she would have been
we would have been
you would have been (plural)
they would have been

This second example is built with the auxiliary verb avere (to have):

Coniugazione del verbo avere: Conjugation of the verb to have:
io avrei avuto
tu avresti avuto
lui/lei avrebbe avuto
noi avremmo avuto
voi avreste avuto
loro avrebbero avuto
I would have had
you would have had (sing, inf.)
he/she would have had
we would have had
you would have had (plural)
they would have had

The past conditional is used:

1. to express a regret:
avrei dovuto seguire il consiglio di mio padre! = I should have followed my father’s advice!
sarebbe stato meglio partire ieri = it would have been better to leave yesterday
me lo sarei dovuto immaginare! = I should have imagined that/it!

2. to express disbelief, incredulity:
chi l’avrebbe mai detto! = who would ever have thought it! (literally: who would have ever said it!)
l’avresti pensato che era così antipatico? = would you have thought that he he could be so unfriendly? (literally: that he was so unfriendly)
chi l’avrebbe mai immaginato che la torre di Pisa pendeva così tanto!
= who would ever  have imagined that the tower of Pisa leaned so much?

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La Torre di Pisa. Photo: (CC) by Maxime Guilbot

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
la notizia sarebbe stata diffusa di proposito dalla polizia = it is thought that the news has been spread by the police on purpose (literally: the news would have been spread)
secondo i giornali il presidente della società avrebbe presentato le dimissioni
= according to newspapers the president of the society has handed in his resignations (literally: would have handed in)
alcune fonti internazionali riferiscono che ci sarebbe stato un colpo di stato in Antartide = some international fonts report that there has been a coupe in the Antarctic (literally: there would have been a coupe)

4. to say what we would have done if the conditions had been different:
se fossimo stati più ricchi avremmo comprato una casa al mare in Liguria = if we had been richer we would have bought a house on the coast in Liguria
se avessi avuto più tempo a Venezia, mi sarebbe piaciuto visitare anche l’isola di Torcello = If I had had more time in Venice, I would have liked to have visited the island of Torcello as well
se ieri non avesse piovuto il bucato si sarebbe asciugato completamente = if it hadn’t rained yesterday the washing would have dried completely

Torcello
Torcello. Photo: (CC) by John W. Schulze

5. to express the future in the past:
Maria mi ha detto che oggi sarebbe andata a Sarzana = Maria told me that she would go to Sarzana today (literally: today she would have gone to Sarzana)
non immaginavo che ci sarebbe voluto così tanto tempo = I didn’t imagine that it would take such a long time (literally: it would have taken)
ho chiesto a Giorgio quando sarebbe tornato da New York = I asked Giorgio when he would come back from New York (literally: when he would have come back)

As usual, if you have any questions please leave a comment.

How to use the Present Conditional in Italian

Posted on 16. Oct, 2014 by in Grammar

While I was replying a reader’s question last week about the differences between the congiuntivo presente and the condizionale, I realised that although I’ve covered the use of the congiuntivo presente I’d never written an article specifically on the use of the condizionale (conditional). So I’m going to make amends, beginning today with il condizionale presente (the present conditional). But first let’s have a look at how we conjugate it:

Coniugazione del verbo essere: Conjugation of the verb to be:
io sarei
tu saresti
lui/lei sarebbe
noi saremmo
voi sareste
loro sarebbero
I would be
you would be (singular, informal)
he/she would be
we would be
you would be (plural)
they would be

The present conditional is used:

1. to politely express a wish or a request:
vorrei un bicchiere d’acqua, per piacere = I would like a glass of water, please
mi potresti prestare una penna? = could you lend me a pen?
scusi, saprebbe dirmi dov’è Piazza del Duomo? = excuse me, could you tell me where Piazza del Duomo is? (literally: … would you know how to tell me …)

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Piazza del Duomo, Pontremoli. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

2. to express a personal opinion, or to give advice:
secondo me dovresti andare dal dottore = in my opinion you should go to the doctor
io suggerirei di partire subito dopo pranzo = I would suggest that we leave immediately after lunch
sarebbe meglio se Marco rimandasse la partenza di qualche giorno = it would be better if Marco delayed his departure for a few days

3. to report a piece of news that has not been verified, or that we have doubts about:
secondo alcuni testimoni i rapinatori sarebbero ancora all’interno della banca = according to some witnesses the robbers are still inside the bank (literally: … the robbers would still be inside the bank)
ho sentito che il presidente del club starebbe pensando di presentare le sue dimissioni = I’ve heard that the president of the club is thinking of handing in his resignations (literally: … the president of the club would be thinking of handing in his resignations)
mi è stato detto che Marco vorrebbe trasferirsi in Inghilterra = I’ve been told that Marco would like to move to England

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… una casa al mare in Liguria. Photo by Geoff Chamberlain

4. to say what we would do if the conditions were different:
se non piovesse andrei a fare due passi = if it didn’t rain, I would go for a little stroll
se fossimo ricchi ci compreremmo una casa al mare in Liguria = if we were rich we would buy a house on the coast in Liguria
se ci fosse abbastanza basilico si potrebbe fare una pasta al pesto = if we had enough basil we could make pasta with pesto (literally: if there were enough basil, one could make pasta with pesto)

Next week I’m going to cover the past conditional. A presto!

Rita’s Story

Posted on 15. Oct, 2014 by in History, Italian Language

A few days ago we received a fascinating e.mail from one of our long-time readers, Rita. The mail was written in the form of a very brief autobiography, and her story reminded me of my aunt Vicky, who, like so many Italians, was forced by circumstances to leave Italy and begin a new life abroad. We liked Rita’s story so much that we decided to ask her if we could publish it as a blog. Rita graciously consented, so without further ado, here’s her story:

Carissimi amici e colleghi  italiani,

Dearest Italian friends and colleagues,

la vostra mail mi è stata molto gradita; per me ricevere una mail dalla mia bella Italia che ho lasciato più di cinquant’anni fa mi commuove e mi fa sentire molta nostalgia.

I really enjoyed your mail; to receive a mail from my beautiful Italy which I left over fifty years ago moves me and makes me feel nostalgic.

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La mia classe. Io sono quella col cappello arancione

Ho lasciato la mia bella terra per raggiungere mio padre che era emigrato cinque anni prima di me. Ho fatto il mio viaggio verso la terra straniera da sola a quindici anni con la nave Constitution. Sono stata cresciuta dai miei zii a Reggio Calabria dove ho frequentato il ginnasio Tommaso Campanella. I miei genitori erano separati da molti anni e io con l’eccezione di mio papà non conoscevo nessuno della famiglia paterna. Abituarsi a una nuova famiglia, a una nuova lingua e alle  usanze americane è stata una bella sfida per me, ma grazie a Dio e alla mia forza d’animo me la sono cavata.

I left my beautiful land to join my father who had emigrated five years before me. I made the trip towards the foreign land on my own at the age of fifteen on the ship Constitution. I was raised by my aunt and uncle in Reggio Calabria where I attended to the Tommaso Campanella grammar school. My parents had been separated for many years, and I didn’t know anyone from my father’s family with the exception of my father. Getting used to a new family, a new language, and to American habits was a great challenge for me, however thanks to God and to my own fortitude I managed it.

Ho finito la "high school" e mi sono laureata all’università di Saint Elizabeth nel N.J. e poi all’università di Montclair dove ho conseguito il mio Master in spagnolo, francese ed italiano. Quarantadue anni fa, durante una vacanza in Grecia, ho conosciuto mio marito ad Atene e un anno dopo lui mi ha rintracciato in N.J. e ci siamo sposati. Non abbiamo avuto la sorte di avere figli ma siamo contenti lo stesso. Ho insegnato lingue per trentanove anni nel N.J. e prima di andare in pensione ho avuto l’onore di ricevere il “Governor’s teacher of the year award” e anche una borsa di studio per l’università di Knoxville in Ten.

I finished high school and graduated from the university of Saint Elizabeth in N.J., and then from the university of Montclair, where I took my Master in Spanish, French and Italian. Forty two years ago, during a holiday in Greece, I met my husband in Athens, and a year later he traced me back to N.J. and we got married. We haven’t been lucky enough to have children but we are happy nevertheless. I taught languages for thirty nine years in N.J., and before retiring I had the honour of receiving the “Governor’s teacher of the year award” and also a scholarship for the university of Knoxville in Ten.

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Io e il mio amico francescano di Assisi durante una sua visita a Washington. Conoscete questo fratello? Ha una bella voce e ha registrato due CD. Si chiama Fra Alessandro Bustenghi

Dopo essere andata in pensione io e mio marito ci siamo trasferiti a Long Beach Island. Avendo ancora amore e passione per l’insegnamento delle lingue, ho incominciato a dare lezioni d’italiano e di spagnolo presso la "Foundation of the Arts and Sciences " dell’Isola. I miei studenti sono tutti professionisti in pensione che amano la Bella Lingua e gradiscono i vostri blog con le vostre belle avventure. Mi dimenticavo di dirvi che ho anche fondato una società chiamata ITALIAN CULTURAL SOCIETY OF L.B.I.

After retiring my husband and I moved to Long Beach Island. Still full of love and passion for teaching languages, I started to give Italian and Spanish lessons at the “Foundation of the Arts and Sciences” on the island. My students are all retired professionals who love “la Bella Lingua” and enjoy your blogs about your lovely adventures. I forgot to tell you that I also founded a society called ITALIAN CULTURAL SOCIETY OF L.B.I.

La vita nell’Isola è piena d’avventure durante l’estate ma quando i turisti sfollano la pace e la tranquillità ritornano. Oltre alla mia passione per l’insegnamento, aiuto i miei cari amici francescani con la preparazione delle Messe in spagnolo per la popolazione latina due volte al mese. Questa in breve è la mia vita.

Life on the island is full of adventures during the summer season, but when the tourists leave, peace and tranquillity return. Beside my passion for teaching, I help my dear Franciscan friends with the preparation of the Masses in Spanish for the Latin population twice a month. This in brief is my life.