“Verbs are the backbone of the language” said a wonderful teacher once and it’s true! We can’t pretend that you can manage to speak or understand without them. In one of our previous articles, we looked at how to say “you” in Italian, whether that means “tu” (familiar “you”), “Lei” (formal “you”), or “voi” (plural “you”) forms. This week, let’s look at the present tense forms for the other subjects.
All Italian verbs are divided into three groups, according to the endings of the infinitive form. In the Italian language, there are verbs that end in –are, -ere, and –ire that can be regular and irregular. In this article, we’re going to address the regular and irregular verbs which end in –are and their forms. But don’t panic! There’s nothing to get stressed out about in learning these verb endings, as regular verbs always follow a pattern and there are very few irregular -are verbs.
Regular -are Verbs
Remember that with a regular –are verb like cantare [kan-ta-reh] (to sing), we first take the –are off. Ok, let’s do that. We’re left with cant-. To this, we add these endings:
|(io) cant-o||I sing|
|(tu) cant-i||you [familiar] sing|
|(lui/lei) cant-a||he/she/You [formal] sings/sing|
|(noi) cant-iamo||we sing|
|(voi) cant-ate||you sing|
|(loro) cant-ano||they sing|
The stress is on the first syllable of the verb in the first three and the last forms. It is on the third syllable of the noi form and the second of the voi form.
“(Loro) Cantano sempre la stessa canzone!” – They always sing the same song!
Once you put together one –are regular verb, you can do them all, so try producing the present tense of parlare [par-la-reh] – to speak.
|(io) parl-o||I speak|
|(tu) parl-i||you speak|
|(lui/lei) parl-a||he/she speaks|
|(noi) parl-iamo||we speak|
|(voi) parl-ate||you speak|
|(loro) parl-ano||you speak|
“Parli bene l’Italiano!” – You speak good Italian!
Keep in mind that the personal pronouns are usually omitted, as the ending of the verb makes it clear who the subject is.
It’s important to know how to conjugate the following two verbs, as they are essential in Italy: “mangiare” and “pagare”.
|mangiare [man-jee-a-reh] – to eat||pagare [pa-ga-reh] – to pay|
Do you remember the pronunciation rules for the letter “g”? It can be pronounced soft or hard depending on the letter that follows it. Let’s see how this rule is applied in the case of these verbs.
|(io) mangi-o||(io) pag-o|
|(tu) mang-i||tu) pagh-i|
|(lui/lei) mangi-a||(lui/lei) pag-a|
|(noi) mangi-amo||(noi) paghi-amo|
|(voi) mangi-ate||(voi) pag-ate|
|(loro) mangi-ano||(loro) pag-ano|
“Mangio volentieri la pizza” - I love pizza.
“Pago un cappuccino e un croissant” – I’m paying for a cappuccino and a croissant.
As you may have noticed, the forms “paghi” and “paghiamo” have an “h” after the “g”, and it’s added to make “g” sound hard, otherwise it would be “pagi” and “pagiamo” with a soft “g”.
The same rule is valid for verbs with a “c” that can sound soft or hard, for example in verbs like:
|cominciare [ko-meen-chee-a-reh] – to start||giocare [jee-o-ka-reh] – to play|
|(io) cominci-o||(io) gioc-o|
|(tu) cominc-i||(tu) gioch-i|
|(lui/lei) cominci-a||(lui/lei) gioc-a|
|(noi) cominci-amo||(noi) giochi-amo|
|(voi) cominci-ate||(voi) gioc-ate|
|(loro) cominci-ano||(loro) gioc-ano|
“Quando cominci a studiare?” - When do you start to study?
“Andrea gioca benissimo a calcio” - Andrea plays soccer very well.
The basic rule is to remember that the verbs with endings like “-care” and “-gare” require an additional “h” in the forms for “tu” and “noi”.
Spiegare (to explain): spiego, spieghi, spiega, spieghiamo, spiegate, spiegano
Dimenticare (to forget): dimentico, dimentichi, dimentica, dimentichiamo, dimenticate, dimenticano
Irregular -are Verbs
These were the rules for the regular verbs in –are. Luckily there aren’t many irregular ones, as their formation is different from that of the regular verbs. There are three main irregular verbs you should memorize first of all: andare, dare, stare.
Let’s see how to conjugate them.
Andare [an-da-reh] – to go
“Dove vai?” – Where are you going?
“Andiamo al cinema!” – Let’s go to the cinema!
“Piero va a camminare dopo cena.” – Piero goes for a walk after dinner.
“Angela va sempre d’accordo con tutti.” – Angela always gets along with everyone.
Dare [da-reh]- to give
(io) do (pronounced like [doh]
“Mi dai un minuto?” – Can you give me a minute?
“Non do il mio numero di telefono a tutti.” – I don’t give my telephone number to everyone.
Stare [sta-reh] – to be (to describe a condition)
“Sto male. Ho mal di pancia.” – I feel sick. I have a stomachache.
“Come stanno i vostri genitori?” – How are your parents doing?
This seems like a hefty volume of verbs to memorize and it can be discouraging at the beginning, but it’s actually not such a tough task once you understand the basic principles of conjugation.
Practice Your -are Verbs
Let’s use some –are verbs to exercise. Can you add the right ending to these? (Click on the space to see the pop-up window containing the answer).
Now that you know the rules for the verbs in –are, taking part in everyday conversations with Italians will be much easier. For example, you can start telling your new acquaintances about you, where you live, where your, which languages you speak…and be proud of doing it in Italian!
Stay with us to learn how to deal with another group of Italian verbs and remember to practice every day!
(Note: This article was originally written for Italy Magazine by Pat Eggleton on April 22th 2010. It has been updated and expanded.)