Italian Language Blog

Il Congiuntivo Part 1 – Presente Posted by on Oct 1, 2009 in Grammar

Several readers have asked me to explain how and when to use the congiuntivo (subjunctive), a verb form which is not used very much in English but is quite common in Italian. This is quite a big topic, so in order to make it more ‘digestible’ I have decided to divide it into several “chapters”. Let’s begin with the Congiuntivo Presente (present subjunctive). 

The Congiuntivo Presente is normally used…

1. with verbs which express wishes, thoughts, beliefs, worries, and doubts, e.g.: volere (to want), sperare (to hope), pensare (to think), credere (to believe), temere (to be afraid), dubitare (to doubt), when these verbs are followed by the conjunction che (that). Here are some examples: Giovanni vuole che lo aiutiate a ridipingere la camera (Giovanni wants you [plural] to help him repaint the bedroom); speriamo che domani non piova (let’s hope that tomorrow it won’t rain); Lucia pensa che Maria parta oggi per le vacanze (Lucia thinks that Maria is leaving today for her holidays); mi stupisco che tu sia ancora qui (I’m surprised that you are still here); ho paura che Carlo non ce la faccia a superare l’esame (I’m worried that Carlo won’t be able to pass the exam).

2. to give polite orders when using the lei form, e.g. Parli più lentamente, per piacere (speak more slowly, please); Cliente: Mi scusi! Cameriere: Mi dica Cliente: Un cappuccino, per piacere (Customer: Excuse me! Waiter: yes sir [literally: tell me]. Customer: A cappuccino, please).

3. after impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as bisogna che (it’s necessary that), basta che (it’s enough/sufficient that), si dice che (it is said that), e.g. bisogna che Carlo studi di più (lit. it’s necessary that Carlo studies more, or: it’s necessary for Carlo to study more); basta che tu mi dica con che treno arriverai (it’s sufficient that you tell me which train you’ll arrive with, or more simply: just tell me which train you’re arriving on); si dice che questa sia una leggenda (this is said to be a legend).

4. after impersonal constructions such as è facile / difficile che (it’s likely / unlikely that), è meglio che (it’s better that), è un peccato che (it’s a pity that), non è giusto che (it’s unfair that), e.g. È un peccato che tu non possa venire (it’s a pity that you can’t come); non è giusto che sia sempre io a lavare i piatti (it’s unfair that it’s always me that has to wash the dishes); è meglio che veniate oggi pomeriggio (it’s better that you [plural] come this afternoon).

5. following conjunctions built with che, such as prima che (before), affinché (so that, in order that), a meno che (unless), nel caso che (in case), e.g. dobbiamo partire prima che faccia buio (we must leave before it gets dark); ti aiuto affinché tu possa superare l’esame (I’m helping you so that you can pass the exam).

To make the congiuntivo presente of regular verbs, remove the ending from the infinitive form of the verb, i.e. -are, -ere, or -ire, and add the following:

for verbs ending in –are add –i –i –i –iamo –iate –ino, for example:

Parlare (to speak):

Io parli, tu parli, lui parli, lei parli, noi parliamo, voi parliate, loro parlino

for verbs ending in –ere, and –ire add –a –a –a –iamo –iate –ano, for example:

Credere (to believe):

Io creda, tu creda, lui creda, lei creda, noi crediamo, voi crediate, loro credano


Dormire (to sleep):

Io dorma, tu dorma, lui dorma, lei dorma, noi dormiamo, voi dormiate, loro dormano

Verbs ending in –ire which use the suffix –isco in the normal present tense (presente indicativo), follow the same rule in the present subjunctive, e.g.

Capire (to understand):

Io capisca, tu capisca, lui capisca, lei capisca, noi capiamo, voi capiate, loro capiscano

As you can see from the above examples the singular forms of the congiuntivo presente, io, tu, lui, lei, all use the same ending, therefore in order to avoid confusion we tend to use the appropriate personal pronoun , e.g. Penso che tu sia ammalato (I think that you are ill).

However, beware that many common verbs, such as essere (to be) and avere (to have) are irregular! Therefore in part 2 of this article I’ll give you a list of the most useful irregular verbs conjugated in the present subjunctive.




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  1. Nathan:

    Ciao Serena,

    Great explanation of the always problematic subjunctive tense. I’ve read recently that 3000 words make up 95% of normal speech in Italian. Do you know if this is true? And if true, do you happen to have a list of those words? I’m thinking learning those words would be a great step toward fluency. Grazie.

    • Kamilah lynette:

      @Nathan Ciao serena,
      Your blog really helps me a lot.It is very clear and easy to understand.i’m curious and I just want to know where will I go to see your latest blog(website) .coz i’m now studying the grammar of italian and I think your blog will be my best guide. Do you have your own website which is listed there the different italian lessons which is from basic to deep grammar?plss comment back graziel mille

      • Geoff:

        @Kamilah lynette Ciao Kamilah, grazie per il tuo commento.
        Here is our homepage:
        This page shows the newest posts. If you scroll down to the bottom you’ll find a link to older posts. On the right, near the top is the search bar, so if you’re looking for particular subjects, you can type your search in there and it will find all relevant blogs for you.
        However, if you need help with anything specific feel free to ask and we’ll do our best to help you out, va bene?

        A presto, Geoff e Serena 🙂

    • James:

      @Nathan @Nathan
      I’m not normally a grammar nazi but this is the one thing that really bugs me: the Subjunctive is not a tense!!! It is a verb mood. Tenses deal in time, the subjunctive of its own does not indicate a time. It indicates the speaker’s thoughts on what they are saying- thus it is a mood. It also can’t possibly be a mood given that you can have present, present perfect, imperfect and past perfect forms of the mood! LIkewise, the indicative, subjunctive, imperative and other impersonal forms (such as the participles and infinitives) are all mood forms!

      Sorry and thanks.

      * it also can’t be a tense given that you can…

      • Serena:

        @James Salve James!
        Non c’è di che!
        Saluti da Serena

  2. Iris monica jaswant:

    Where can I learn Italian as a start. No knowlegde

  3. Serena:

    Salve Iris, Hmmm tricky question. Firstly you need to try and find yourself a good teacher, or an Italian class for beginners. Certainly working your way through my blogs will help, there are about 150 so far, so pick and choose those that you find useful, you can always ask me questions.
    I am aware that just lately I have dealt with some of the more complex Italian grammar issues, but after I have published the final article on the subjunctive I intend to focus on more basic grammar and vocabulary because I know that it will be useful both for people such as yourself and as a form of revision for those at a higher level. You might also like to consider the Byki software produced by if you find that a ‘flashcard’ style of learning suits you.

    A presto, Serena

  4. Serena:

    Salve Nathan,
    sorry for the delay. I’m on holiday in England at the moment and I don’t have much access to the Internet. I remember hearing about the 3000 most comon words, but I don’t know anything about them. When I get back to Italy I’ll try to find some more information and let you know.
    A presto!

  5. Serena:

    Ciao Nathan, I did a bit of research to find out about the 3000 most used words in the Italian language, but I couldn’t find a definitive answer. However, I did find an interesting little site which lists the 1000 most common words. If you are interested you can have a look here:

    There may only be 1000 words, but don’t forget that you must be able to change the adjectives according to the noun gender, conjugate the verbs, change the ‘preposozioni semplici’ into ‘preposizioni articolate’, i.e. ‘in’ becomes ‘nel, nello, nella’ etc.

    Buon divertimento!

  6. Nathan:

    Grazie mille, Serena. This list will be a big help. Your the best!

  7. mary:

    Thank you so much, that is great explanation.
    But one question : what kind of diffrences are between congiuntivo presente and condizionale ?

  8. Emanuela:

    Very very helpful thank you so much!

  9. Alex:

    I just stumbled on your explanations this morning. I will return many times. I have studied and studied Italian and I think I am at a level that exceeds most texts. To get better and more proficient is very difficult because even my Italian neighbors who ordinarily help me when I try to write something just cannot explain what they know by habit. The result is I do not progress much in my efforts to write good idiomatic Italian. I read just okay. I am excited about the possibilities your lucid explanation, with examples, has given me this day.
    The Italian language schools near my home are prohibitive in cost because they all want me to study in a one on one situation which I cannot afford. Avanti. Alex

  10. Heather:

    Hi, Serena,
    Last night a friend mentioned the Congiuntivo being used in the passive voice.I had never come across it and can’t find out anything about it. Is she right? If so,can you give me a couple of examples?
    Grazie mille.

    • Serena:

      @Heather Salve Heather!
      All transitive verbs can be turned into the passive form, whatever the tense or the mood. An example of congiuntivo used in the passive form? eccolo: “spero che la torta non sia stata mangiata tutta” = I hope the cake hasn’t been all eaten” or “pensavo che il pane fosse già stato comprato” = “I thought the bread had already been bought”
      Saluti da Serena

      • Heather:

        @Serena Grazie mille,Sarena. Ho capito. Adesso cercerò fare alcuni frase me stesso!

  11. Sadique:

    Serena, I am doing italian B2 final…..
    but i am facing the problem getting Conjuntivo framing sentence…. i am unable to understand where i have to used imperfetto or trapassato conjuntivo… please help me… Grazie….

  12. Heather Sinclair:

    Ciao,Serena! Un soggetto un po’ morboso!….a friend and I were talking about his terminally ill friend and he wanted to say,in Italian,”I hope he dies soon”. We couldn’t decide between us,whether to use just the Congiuntivo Presente, “Spero che lui muoia presto” or whether to say it using the future tense with the meaning of ” I hope he WILL die soon”,in which case il Congiuntivo would not be used,as I understand things. How would Italians express such a wish? Thankyou,

    • Serena:

      @Heather Sinclair Ciao Heather!
      Sì, un soggetto un po’ morboso 😉
      In questa frase ci vuole il congiuntivo, niente futuro, perciò: “Spero che muoia presto”
      Saluti da Serena

  13. Heather Sinclair:

    Grazie mille,Serena!


  14. Elaine Davies:

    I have been working on an excercise asking to underline all the subjunctive verbs .Then i have to state if that verb is conjuntivo obligotorio or not.What is the Conjuntivo
    Obligotorio.?hope you can help.

    • Serena:

      @Elaine Davies Salve Elaine!
      Il congiuntivo obbligatorio does not exist. I suppose that the exercise is asking you ‘se il congiuntivo è obbligatorio o no’ = whether the use of the subjunctive is obligatory or not in that specific case.
      Saluti da Serena

  15. Romulus:

    It is important to note a general rule about
    the utilization of the ‘Presente Congiuntivo’ and
    ‘L’Imperfetto congiuntivo’………….

    It is my understanding that, whenever the
    ‘Presente Indicativo’ and the ‘Futuro’ are used
    in the first part of a sentence, the ‘Presente
    Congiuntivo’ is used……..example: Io voglio
    (presente indicative) che tu venga (presente
    congiuntivo) a casa mia……etc…

    Whereas, whenever the ‘Passato’ (Io fu’),
    ‘L’impefetto’ (Io ero) and the ‘Condizionale’
    (Io vorrei) are used the ‘L’Impefetto Congiuntivo
    Is used…….using same sentence………..
    Io vorrei (condizionale) che tu venissi (imperfetto
    congiuntivo’ a casa via……etc…..etc…..

  16. Romulus:

    sorry for the typo….last word should be ‘mia’ and not via…………..

  17. Romulus:

    Why wasn’t I able to Edit the ‘via’ into ‘mia’ ?

  18. romulus:

    So far, I am positively enamored with few of your articles I’ve read; now, I want to access all of them and read them all! So, where is that infamous web-site, where all may be found? Thanks…..Romulus

  19. Bahareh:

    I enjoy it. Grazie mille

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