Bisogno or Bisogna? Posted by Serena on Jun 6, 2009 in Grammar
Here is another example of a verb that does not translate very well from English into Italian: “to need”. In Italian the verb bisognare (to need) has become redundant except in its third person form, but we use two different constructions to express the concept of ‘need’ that should not be confused with each other, bisogno and bisogna. So what is the difference between the two, and how do we use them?
Bisogno is a noun meaning “the need”, and is used with the verb avere (to have) followed by the preposition di, literally meaning “to have need of”:
Ho bisogno di un paio di scarpe nuove (I need a new pair of shoes);
tu hai bisogno di riposarti (you need to rest);
Bruno ha bisogno di studiare di piu’ (Bruno needs to study more);
Signora, ha bisogno di aiuto? (do you need some help, Madam?);
abbiamo bisogno di una bella vacanza (we need a nice holiday);
avete bisogno di qualcosa? (do you need something?);
i signori Rossi hanno bisogno di comprare una casa piu’ grande (Mr and Mrs Rossi need to buy a bigger house).
Bisogna is a remnant of the verb bisognare which, as I said above, is no longer used except in its impersonal form, having the meaning of “it’s necessary” or “one needs”. It is normally followed directly by an infinitive. For example:
Per diventare un bravo musicista bisogna esercitarsi molto (to become a good musician one needs to practice a lot); bisogna comprare il pane (it’s necessary/we need to buy some bread); bisogna rispettare le opinioni degli altri (it’s necessary to respect other people’s opinions); per andare a Capri bisogna prendere il traghetto (to go to Capri one needs to/must catch the ferry).
In the past tense bisogna is only used in the imperfect form, and not in the passato prossimo (present perfect). For example, to say “it was necessary” we say bisognava: e.g. per andare a Firenze bisognava cambiare treno a Viareggio (to go to Florence it was necessary to change train in Viareggio).
Just to add a bit of confusion, we have another impersonal construction which uses bisogno, but has the same meaning as bisogna, and it works in the following way: c’e’ bisogno di … (lit. there is the need of), e.g.: per diventare un bravo musicista c’e’ bisogno di esercitarsi molto (to become a good musician one needs to practice a lot); c’e’ bisogno di comprare il pane (it’s necessary/we need to buy some bread). Unlike bisogna this form can be used in the passato prossimo: per andare a Firenze c’e’ stato bisogno di cambiare treno a Viareggio.
Adesso ho bisogno di mangiare un bel piatto di spaghetti!
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