sapere and conoscere

The two Italian verbs sapere and conoscere are often both translated as "to know". But they have very different uses. Sapere is used with facts, data, specific pieces of information, names, phone numbers and addresses. You will often see it followed by words that look like interrogatives such as quando, quanto, come, perché, etc. When followed by an infinitive (dictionary form of a verb), it means "to know how to".


Non so quando arriva il treno. - I don't know when the train arrives.

Sai il nome del professore di matematica? - Do you know the name of the math prof?

Non so ballare. - I don't know how to dance.

The Italian for "I don't know" is Non lo so. English drops the object pronoun, Italian keeps it (lo).

Conoscere carries the sense of "to be familiar with," "to be acquainted with," "to meet" or "to get to know." You will often see it followed by a noun or object pronoun.

Conosci questo ristorante? - Are you familiar with this restaurant?

Vorrei conoscere tua sorella. - I'd like to meet (or get to know) your sister.

Conosco quella ragazza, ma non so il suo nome. - I know that girl, but I don't know her name.

In the past, sapere means "to find out" and conoscere means "to meet."

Ho saputo che Mario sta male. - I found out Mario is sick.

Ho conosciuto una ragazza simpatica a Firenze. - I met a nice girl in Florence.


io so
tu sai
Lei sa
lui / lei sa
noi sappiamo
voi sapete
loro sanno


io conosco
tu conosci
Lei conosce
lui / lei conosce
noi conosciamo
voi conoscete
loro conoscono


how to say "some" in italian

Before we get to the topic of indefinite quantities ("some"), we have to distinguish between abstract and concrete nouns. Simply put, a concrete noun is one that can be counted. You can refer to 1, 2 or 3 peaches, but not so smoothly to 1, 2 or 3 waters (only 1, 2 or 3 bottles of water, or cups of water, or bodies of water).

Another way to make the distinction is this: if the noun has an English plural, it’s concrete. If not, it’s abstract.

Some examples…

Concrete: peas, bananas, chicken legs, bottles of beer

Abstract: ham, water, beer, cheese, poultry, celery

Some nouns have both abstract and concrete uses. For instance, you can say, “There are a lot of chickens on this farm.” (concrete) But you wouldn’t say, “I like eating chickens.” (concrete) You’d say, “I like eating chicken.” (abstract)

There are a few ways to express the idea of an unspecified quantity or portion of some noun in Italian. Which one you use and how it behaves depends on whether the noun you’re using it with is abstract or concrete.

One of the easiest and most common indefinite quantifiers is “di” + the definite article. It can be used with both types of noun.


some wine – del vino

some cheese – del formaggio

some lemons – dei limoni

Another is “qualche” + a noun in the singular. This one works only with concrete nouns. It has the meanings “some” or “a few” even though the noun it goes with is in the singular.


a few apples – qualche mela

a few oranges – qualche arancia

Another very easy indefinite quantifier is “un po’ di” + abstract noun (in the singular of course). This one only works with abstract nouns.


some coffee – un po’ di caffè

some milk – un po’ di latte

There are other ways of expressing indefinite quantities, but these three are a good start. Ciao for now!



1. Use cardinal numbers.

2. Only use ordinal (first) for the first.

Gli americani fanno festa il quattro luglio. (cardinal number for 4th)

Gli italiani fanno festa il primo maggio. (ordinal number for 1st only)

Quanti ne abbiamo oggi? What’s today’s date? (i.e. when you're asking for the number only) 

Oggi ne abbiamo cinque. OR Oggi è il cinque. Today is the fifth.

Che giorno è? What day is it?

Oggi è martedì. Today is Tuesday.

Qual è la data di oggi? What is today’s date? (number and month)

Oggi è il sette giugno. Today is June seventh.

The complete date is expressed in the following order: day, month, year.

Oggi è giovedi’, tre novembre, duemilacinque. Today is Thursday November 3rd, 2005.

You know that Italian uses cardinal, not ordinal, numbers for all dates after the first. This applies to the 21st and 31st as well.

So it’s primo maggio (May 1st), due maggio (May 2nd) and ventuno maggio (May 21st) - not ventunesimo.

And that's it! You're now ready to make (and keep!) appointments in Italy.


the imperfect (imperfetto)

Ciao cari! This week's tutorino Italian grammar topic is another verb tense - the imperfect or imperfetto . First let's see how it looks, then we'll learn how it's used.




io parlavo

io vedevo

io partivo

tu parlavi

tu vedevi

tu partivi

lui / lei parlava

lui / lei vedeva

lui / lei partiva

noi parlavamo

noi vedevamo

noi partivamo

voi parlavate

voi vedevate

voi partivate

loro parlavano

loro vedevano

loro partivano

Some irregularities...



Fare, dire: regular -ere endings on the stems fac and dic respectively (e.g. facevo , dicevo ).

So that's how the imperfect is formed, but what does it do? Its main use is to describe past actions or events that were habitual or recurring. In English we use "used to" for this.

lavoravo - I used to work
andava - he used to go
finivamo - we used to finish

So when you're describing an action that you did repeatedly in the past, you use the imperfect.

You also use l'imperfetto to describe an action that was in progress when another action occurred, or to describe two actions that were unfolding simultaneously. English often uses was / were + verb ending in -ing for this.

Leggevo il giornale quando Tony ha chiamato.
I was reading the paper when Tony called.

Mentre noi studiavamo , loro parlavano e ridevano .
While we were studying , they were talking and laughing .

You also use it to describe states and conditions in the past, or to refer to time, age and weather.

Ero stanco e avevo fame. - I was tired and hungry.

La loro casa era grande e brutta. - Their house was big and ugly.

Erano le sei. - It was 6:00.

Avevo venti anni. - I was 20 years old.

Era autunno. - It was autumn.

So in case you used to wonder about this tense, now you know it!


forming adverbs

An adverb is a word that describes a verb or adjective. It tells us how an action was performed or elaborates a quality possessed by a noun. For example, Jeff ran quickly. The apple was bright red.

To form adverbs in Italian, just take any adjective, convert it to the feminine form and add -mente (the equivalent of our English -ly). If the adjective ends in -e, simply add -mente. If it ends in -le or -re, drop the -e and add -mente.

Hence: certo – certamente (certainly); veloce – velocemente (quickly); naturale – naturalmente (naturally); regolare – regolarmente (regularly).

And that's it - you’ve just doubled your vocabulary! Any adjective you learn you now know the adverb for too (with a few exceptions). And you did it facilmente!


the present progressive (i am walking)

To emphasize that an action is in progress as you speak, you use the present tense of the irregular verb stare + a verb form called “the gerund”.



To form the gerund, you drop the verb ending (-are, -ere, -ire) and add -ando, -endo and
-endo (parlando, leggendo, uscendo). This is the equivalent of adding -ing to a verb in English.

The two together look like this:

Mario, cosa stai facendo? (Mario, what are you doing?)

Sto leggendo il giornale. (I’m reading the paper.)

Whether to use the present progressive or the simple present indicative we’ve seen so far is largely a matter of intent and style, not grammar. It depends on what you’re trying to emphasize or draw attention to and how. Usually you use the present progressive to convey urgency and immediacy. Leggo il giornale could mean, “I read the paper,” meaning, “in general.” But Sto leggendo il giornale means it’s happening in real time, as you speak.

A good rule of thumb is, only use the present progressive if you’re describing an action that’s unfolding while you speak.

Note that you can also use the gerund on its own. We do this a lot in English with the prepositions by, while and in.

Sbagliando, si impara.

One learns by making mistakes.

Camminando per la strada, Marco vede molti amici.

Walking down the street (or while walking), Marco sees many friends.

And that's it. See? You're learning - stai imparando!


present + da

To describe an action that began in the past but is still ongoing in the present, English uses "have been" plus a verb ending in -ing. For example...

The line-up is really long. We've been waiting for hours.

I've been studying Italian for three months.

But Italian just uses the plain old present tense + da (+ a time expression). For example...

Aspettiamo da ore.

Studio l'italiano da tre mesi.

If you're referring to an action that took place over a period of time in the past but is now completed (i.e. no longer in porgress) you use the passato prossimo + per. For example...

Ho studiato l'italiano per 3 anni. ("I studied Italian for 3 years" - with the implication that you're not studying it anymore right now.)

And that's it! You've probably been wanting to learn this for a while...and now you have!


the impersonal si

In English, when we make generalizations (as I'm doing right now!), we use one, you, we, they or people. Some examples...

You can't always get what you want.

In Quebec they speak French.

You never know.

The pronouns in these sentences aren't referring to specific concrete people, but abstractions, people in general.

Another way to make generalizations like this in English is to use the passive. For example, "Although Montreal is in Quebec, English is widely spoken there."

The best way to make generalizations like these in Italian is to use the impersonal si. Here's how you do it. Just take the pronoun si and add a verb in the lui or loro form. Some examples...

A Roma, si vedono molti turisti. In Rome you see a lot of tourists. (Or one sees, we see, etc.)

A Quebec si parla francese. In Quebec they speak French. (Or French is spoken, one speaks French, etc.)

In ufficio, si lavora. At the office, you work. (Or one works, people work, etc.)

So you always use si and always use the lui or loro form of the verb (3rd person singular or plural). But how do you know which one, lui or loro?

Well, if the noun after the verb is plural, you use the loro form. If it's singular, the lui form.

In Campania si producono molti limoni. (plural noun after the verb, plural verb)

In Canada si beve molta birra. (singular noun after the verb, singular verb)

Another tip is to start with an English passive. If your English passive uses "are", make your impersonal si verb plural. If your English passive uses "is", make your impersonal si verb singular.

For instance, suppose you wanted to say, "Where do you buy newspapers?" in Italian using an impersonal si. First change it to an English passive - "Where are newspapers bought?" Since your passive uses "are", use the plural in your Italian impersonal si: Dove si comprano i giornali?

And that's about it. One last point. You also use the impersonal si to ask questions without seeming blunt or nosey. For instance, suppose you want to ask your mother when supper will be ready. You could say, "A che ora si cena?" By couching your question in abstract general terms, you seem less direct, intrusive, confrontational, even though context makes it clear what you really mean - when will our specific supper be ready, not supper in general!


saying "each other" - italian reciprocal verbs

Last week we learned the Italian reflexive pronouns (mi, ti, si, etc.). Today we'll see how to use them to convey the idea of two people doing an action to each other, reciprocally.

In English we use the construction "each other" - We haven't seen each other in years. Do you guys still help each other study? John and Jane love each other.

In Italian we express reciprocal actions by using a plural reflexive pronoun (ci, vi, si), plus a corresponding plural verb form (noi, voi, loro).

For example...

Noi ci amiamo. (We love each other.)

Voi vi amate. (You guys love each other.)

Loro si amano. (They love each other.)

It's as simple as that! Just take any verb that two people can logically do to each other, put it in a plural form (noi, voi, loro), and add the corresponding reflexive pronoun (ci, vi, si).

Try saying, "They see each other."

Si vedono.

Try, "We hug each other."

Ci abbracciamo.

If you're stuck "aiutatevi" (help each other!) in the forum. Ciao for now!


italian reflexive verbs - i verbi riflessivi

So far we’ve seen that a verb has a subject (the person, place or thing doing the verb), and an object (the person, place or thing the verb is done to). Usually these two are distinct. One person does the verb, another receives it. For example, “I can’t hear you.”

But when the subject and object are one and the same person, place or thing, you need what’s called a “reflexive verb”. This is just a verb you can use with a “reflexive pronoun” to indicate that the subject of the verb is also its recipient. For example, “I can’t hear myself.”

Reflexive Pronouns in English and Italian (the Italian ones are easier for once)





















Some English Examples

I hurt myself playing tennis.

I bought myself a new top.

Once she moved to Vancouver, she found herself feeling lonely.

An Italian reflexive verb in the infinitive (dictionary form) always drops its final vowel and attaches “si”.

Some Examples

svegliarsi – to wake up

alzarsi – to get up

lavarsi – to wash oneself

vestirsi – to dress oneself

To conjugate a reflexive verb, you replace the infinitive “si” with the reflexive pronoun corresponding to the person doing the action (mi for io, ti for tu, si for lui, etc.), and conjugate the verb as you ordinarily would any –are, –ere or –ire verb. Like any pronoun, the reflexive ones go before the conjugated verb.

For example:

alzarsi – to get up

(io) mi alzo

(tu) ti alzi

(Lei) si alza

(lui/lei) si alza

(noi) ci alziamo

(voi) vi alzate

(loro) si alzano

Tricky Points

A lot of the reflexive pronouns in Italian are identical to each other, and to other pronouns (e.g. the object ones). This can sometimes create confusion for beginners.

Also, in Italian, some verbs are always reflexive, some non-reflexive, and some both depending on context, often with different meanings for each. A verb’s reflexivity in Italian doesn’t always parallel English. So a verb that isn’t reflexive in English, might be in Italian. You have to gain a sense of what Italians consider to be a reflexive action (one whose object is also its subject). Logic and English aren’t always good guides. The best thing to do is to start with a list of common reflexives, then pick up more along the way. Check the "vocabolario" section soon (like, tomorrow) for a good list.

A Few Examples of Reflexives That Mean Something Different Non-Reflexively

alzare, to raise or lift
alzarsi, to get up

chiamare, to call
chiamarsi, to be named

domandare, to ask
domandarsi, to wonder

sentire, to hear
sentirsi, to feel

OK, that's all for today. Ciao for now!


being nosey in italian - the interrogatives

OK ragazzi, today we're going to learn how to ask questions in Italian. In both Italian and English you use a special word known as an "interrogative". English examples include the famous who, what, when, where, etc.

An easy way to learn which interrogative to use when is to think of every question as a wheel. The spokes are the interrogatives and the hub they all revolve around is always a verb. Think about it - any question you ask has a verb at its core. You might ask what someone did, who did it, why they did it, when, but it always comes back to some aspect of something being done. So rather than rely on memory alone when learning the interrogatives, use logic to help you. Ask yourself, "Specifically what info about the verb am I looking for?" Here's a summary of the many options.

To ask about…


English equivalent


The verb itself

Che, cosa or che cosa + fare

What + to do

Cosa facciamo? (Answer: Usciamo.)

The cause, motive, purpose, aim, end, objective, reason or justification for the verb

Perche’, come mai (people also say per quale motivo)

Why, how come

Perche’ usciamo? (Answer: Per mangiare.)

The verb’s location in space

Dove (or dov’)


Dove mangiamo?

The verb’s location in time



Quando mangiamo?

The manner in which the verb is being done

Come (or com’)


Come mangiamo senza soldi (without money)?

The human subject of the verb



Chi mangia con noi?

The human direct object of the verb



Chi vediamo mentre mangiamo?

The human indirect object of the verb

Preposition + chi

Preposition + whom

A chi invitiamo?

The human to whom the subject of the verb belongs

Di chi


Di chi e’ il ristorante?

The non-human subject of the verb

Che, cosa (cos’) or che cosa (che cos’) (for a broad answer), quale (or qual) (for a more specific one) (agrees in number)

What, which, which one(s)

Che mezzo (means) ci porta al ristorante? Quale macchina?

The non-human direct object of the verb

Che (and variants), quale (or qual) (agrees in number)

What, which, which one(s)

Cosa mangiamo? Quali frutte?

The quantity of the subject or direct object of the verb

Quanto (agrees in gender and number)

How much, how many

Quante frutte mangiamo? Quante ragazze mangiano la frutta con noi?

The duration of the verb


How long

Quanto dura l’ uscita (outing)?

How much something costs (to cost is a verb)


How much

Quanto costa?

Confused? You know what to do - grab the nearest interrogative and ask me a question. Use the comments or the forum. Ciao for now!

irregular italian comparatives

OK ragazzi, one last lesson on comparing things in Italian. We've seen that the usual pattern for English comparisons is hot, hotter, hottest; smart, smarter, smartest; tall, taller, tallest. But not all adjectives fit this pattern - we don't say good, gooder, goodest for an easy example. Some adjectives (and for that matter the adverb "well") have irregular comparitives, the topic of this week's lesson (and sorry it's a day late).

So Italian has a few irregular comparatives too. Here they all are in a table:



Relative Superlative

Absolute Superlative


più buono,


il più buono,

il migliore




più cattivo,


il più cattivo,

il peggiore




più grande,


il più grande,

il maggiore




più piccolo,


il più piccolo,

il minore






benissimo, molto bene




malissimo, molto male

Do not confuse migliore / peggiore with meglio / peggio, even though both are translated as better / worse in English.

Meglio and peggio have 2 syllables as does the word “adverb”, so meglio and peggio are adverbs.

Migliore and peggiore have 3 syllables as does the word “adjective”, so migliore and peggiore are adjectives.

Lucia suona il violino meglio di me. (adverb)

I miei studenti sono i migliori della citta’. (adjective)

In other words, “migliore” means “more good” and is used with a noun.

“Meglio” means “more well” and is used with a verb.

Use the bold letters as a reminder.

And that about does it. Ora conoscete "meglio" i comparativi italiani!


-issimo: the italian absolute superlative

The most famous words in Italian are the "issimo" ones - bellissimo, carissimo, buonissimo, and so on. You can add the suffix "issimo" to just about any Italian adjective to form the "absolute superlative".

The absolute superlative is the comparative that tells us a noun possesses a quality to an extreme degree. There's no equivalent suffix in English. We just say "very beautiful" or "extremely beautiful". In Italian, you add "issimo". And since adjectives agree, the issimo does too. So you get...

il ragazzo bellissimo

la ragazza bellissima

i ragazzi bellissimi

le ragazze bellissime

Now you know four degrees of description in Italian:

Rachel e' bella. (beautiful)

Rachel e' piu' bella di Gwen Stefani. (more beautiful)

Rachel e' la ragazza piu' bella del mondo. (the most beautiful)

Rachel e' bellissima! (extremely beautiful)

Sei bravissimo!


relative superlatives in italian - "the most"

OK ragazzi, we've been looking at comparisons in Italian and so far we've learned how to say Frank is smarter than Sam and Sam is as smart as Vince. But how do we say Tony is the smartest kid in school? For this we use the so called relative superlative.

In English we form the relative superlative of an adjective either by placing "the most" or "the least" in front of it, or by attaching "-est" to it if it's an adjective with one syllable. "It's the most wonderful time of the year," or "It's the hottest show on Broadway."

In Italian you use the defininte article (il, la, etc.) + piu' or meno. The tricky part is where to position them. The thing to remember is that the piu' or meno always go right before the term you're describing as the most (or least). Think of them as inseparable teenie boppers in extreme puppy love. Only the "il" (or whatever article is needed - la, i, le, etc.) can change position. It can go either before the noun as usual or before the piu' or meno, whichever you prefer. Here's what I mean.

E' la ragazza piu' bella del mondo.

E' la piu' bella ragazza del mondo.

Now, whereas we usually qualify our relative superlatives in English with "in" (in the world, in school, etc.), Italian usually uses "di" (which of course contracts with articles) - del mondo, della scuola, di Toronto, etc.

And that's the long and the short of it. Wasn't that la piu' facile lesson ever!


comparing things in italian: equality ("as much as")

Last week we learned how to describe a noun with more or less of a quality than another noun, or how to describe a single noun with more or less of one quality than another. The key words here are "more or less". But what about when nouns possess equal amounts of qualities? In English we use the construction "" (e.g. Jen is as pretty as a flower). But what about Italian? You have two options:

Mario e’ tanto intelligente quanto Giovanni.


Mario e’ cosi’ intelligente come Giovanni.

(Which both translate, “Mario is as intelligent as Giovanni.”)

Tanto…quanto can be used to compare nouns or adjectives. When used with adjectives, however, it is invariable (no agreement). Cosi’…come can be used with adjectives only. You don’t use cosi’...come with nouns (to compare their quantities), only with adjectives (to compare qualities).

So you would say, “Mario e’ tanto intelligente quanto Marco,” or, “Mario e’ cosi’ intelligente come Marco.”

But, “Mario ha tanti amici quanto Marco.” (Not cosi’…come because you’re comparing quantities of nouns.)

In tanto…quanto constructions with nouns, the tanto and quanto agree in gender and number ONLY with nouns they describe quantities of.

A Toronto ci sono tanti ragazzi quante ragazze.


I ragazzi hanno tanti soldi quanto le ragazze.

No quantity of girls is referred to in the second sentence, only a quantity of money. Hence no agreement of quanto with ragazze.

If you make the quanto agree with ragazze in the second sentence (I ragazzi hanno tanti soldi quante ragazze), you’re saying, “The boys have as much money as (they have) girls.”

Hope this is clear! Feel free to post questions in the comments or forum. Ciao for now!


comparing things in italian: inequality

Part 1: Comparing two items with respect to a single quality

In English comparisons can look like this:

Vince is taller (= “more tall”) than Frank.

Tony is fatter (= “more fat”) than Jen.

Rita is less fortunate than Tina.

Notice in each of these sentences we’re comparing two people (Vince and Frank, Tony and Jen, Rita and Tina) with respect to a single quality (height, weight, luck).

Of course, we can compare other nouns as well, not just people.

Peaches are sweeter (= “more sweet”) than pears.

Dogs are more loyal than cats.

Big cities are less friendly than small towns.

Italian comparisons have a very similar structure. Instead of more or less you use piu’ or meno, and instead of than you use di. The rest stays pretty much the same. So you get things like…

Vito e’ piu’ alto di Franco.

Gino e’ meno intelligente di Carlo.

Rita e’ piu’ simpatica di Maria.

As a diagram it looks like this:

1st item





2nd item







Part 2: Comparing two qualities of a single item

Now, the thing to realize is that in both English and Italian we don’t always compare two items. Sometimes we compare two qualities of a single item. Here’s what I mean.

Vince is more honest than funny.

Rocco is more lazy than calm.

Linda has more brains than beauty.

See the difference? In these sentences, only one person is being described, but with respect to two qualities.

In Italian, when you’re doing a comparison like this, you use che to say than, not di.

Mario e’ piu’ intelligente che bello.

Rita e’ meno simpatica che sincera.

Marco ha piu’ soldi che amici.

It seems a minor detail but to an Italian it makes a big difference.

It’s not always obvious when you’re comparing items or qualities. This little trick will help you. When trying to decide whether to use di or che, break your comparative down into two separate sentences. If the two sentences have the same subject, use che. If they have two different subjects, use di. The first two letters of different are di – this will help you remember.

Here’s an example.

Bill Gates is richer than the Donald.

This sentence breaks down into…

The Donald is rich. Bill Gates is richer.

Since these two sentences have different subjects, you use di to form the comparison in Italian.

Bill Gates e’ piu’ ricco di Donald Trump.

Now try this one.

Tony Soprano has more money than friends.

This breaks down into…

Tony has friends. Tony has more money.

Same subject (Tony), so use che.

Tony ha piu’ soldi che amici.

You also use che when comparing verbs.

E’ piu’ facile leggere che scrivere.

Ecco tutto! You're on your way to being a critic in Italian!


passato prossimo part 2

One other very important thing to know about the passato prossimo (I didn't want to bombard you with too much all at once last week): the participles of avere verbs always agree with the direct object pronouns lo, la, li and le.


Ho visto Maria. (no pronoun, no agreement)

La ho vista. (pronoun - the participle agrees)

Avete comprato i biglietti? (no pronoun, no agreement)

Li avete comprati? (pronoun - the participle agrees)

This agreement takes place only with direct object pronouns (not with direct objects, not with indirect object pronouns, but direct object pronouns only). With the direct object pronouns mi, ti, ci and vi, the agreement is optional. I say keep it simple and only worry about the mandatory ones - lo, la, li and le.

Often you will see (and especially hear) this:

L'ho vista.

This is the same as "La ho vista" - the vowel in the direct object pronoun is usually dropped for greater speed and ease of pronunciation. That's why this agreement is so important - the past participle is often your only clue to the gender and number of the direct object.

And that's really all this time. L'hai imparato!


il passato prossimo: the italian past tense

OK ragazzi, today's tutorino goof-proof grammar lesson is going to give you something to talk about around the water cooler on Monday mornings. We're going to cover the past, so you'll finally be able to tell everyone what you did on the weekend - in italiano!

The most commonly used past tense form in spoken Italian is called the passato prossimo. It describes an action or event that both began and ended in the past. Its equivalents in English are I ate, I did eat, I have eaten.

In Italian the past has two parts: the present tense of avere or essere (which we learned much earlier on - review it if you have to) + something called the "past participle". The past participle is formed as follows:

–are verbs: drop the –are and add –ato (e.g. parlare - parlato)

–ere verbs: drop the –ere and add –uto (e.g. vendere - venduto)

–ire verbs: drop the –ire and add –ito (e.g. partire - partito)

Think of it as adding "ed" to an English verb in the past.

So "I ate" is "ho mangiato" - the present tense of avere plus the past participle of mangiare.

"You sang" is "hai cantato". "He spoke" is "ha parlato". Get it? You take the form of avere or essere that matches the person doing the action, and put the verb denoting the action in the past participle form.

Now, the first question that usually comes up when people learn the passato prossimo is, "How do I know when to use avere and when to use essere?" It's simple. You use avere for all but the following verbs (and a few others but these are the most common). Note: some of these verbs have irregular past participles. I have indicated where this is the case.

andare – to go

venire – to come – venuto

entrare – to enter

uscire – to go out

arrivare – to arrive

rimanere – to remain or stay – rimasto

partire – to leave or depart

ritornare – to return or come back

nascere – to be born – nato

crescere – to grow up – cresciuto

morire – to die – morto

scendere – to go down, descend – sceso

salire – to climb, go up, ascend

succedere – to happen – successo

sembrare – to seem

diventare – to become

durare – to last

costare – to cost

piacere – to please – piaciuto

cadere – to fall

essere – to be – stato

stare – to be

One very important thing to know about verbs conjugated with essere in the past is that their participles agree in gender and number with the subject (i.e., the person doing the verb). For example:

Luigi e’ andato in Francia.

Maria e’ andata in Francia.

Noi siamo andati in Francia.

Notice how the final vowel of the past participle changes to reflect the gender and number of the person doing the verb.

To negate a verb in the past, place "non" before avere or essere: Non ho mangiato le fragole.

We saw a few irregular participles of essere verbs. It's important to know that a number of avere participles are irregular too. Here are some of the more common ones:

bere (to drink) – bevuto

conoscere (to know) – conosciuto

dire (to say) – detto

fare (to do) – fatto

leggere (to read) – letto

perdere (to lose) – perso/perduto

prendere (to take) – preso

scegliere (to choose) – scelto

trascorrere (to spend) – trascorso

vedere (to see) – visto

vincere (to win) - vinto

And that's it - hai imparato il passato prossimo!


bossing people around using pronouns

A while ago we covered the Italian command form (or imperative) and the Italian object pronouns. Last week we saw how to use two object pronouns in the same sentence. Today we'll add one more ingredient to our linguistic minestrone by learning how to give commands using pronouns, how to say things like, "Tell me," "Bring it to her," and "Do it for me." Attention management types with Italian career ambitions: this is the lesson for you. Or use it to whip your Italian spouse into shape with his share of the housework!

All object pronouns, including combined versions, attach to the end of all imperatives but the Lei form. When used with the Lei form they go before it.

Portami il libro!


Mi porti il libro signore.

Me lo porti signore.

Studiatelo bene ragazzi!

Scrivigli una bella lettera.


With one-syllable tu forms of irregular imperatives - e.g. da' (give), di' (tell), fa' (do) - you double the first consonant of the pronoun, unless it’s gli (or glie).




Pronouns with negative imperatives

With negative imperatives the pronoun goes...

1. before the Lei form: Non lo dica.

2. attached to the noi and voi forms: Non diciamolo, non ditelo

3. before or attached to the tu form: Non lo dire, non dirlo.

The exercises tomorrow will clear up the blurry spots for you, or ask for help on the forum. Thanks for visiting Ciao for now!



double pronouns

A few lessons ago we covered direct and indirect object pronouns, how to say things like me, you, him, her, us, you and them, or to me, to you, to him and so on. This allowed us to say things like, “I see him” (Lo vedo), and “She phones him” (Gli telefona). Now we’ll kick things up a notch and learn how to handle two object pronouns in the same sentence. This will let us say things like “I’ll bring it to you” and “She’ll show them to us”.

The #1 rule in combining pronouns is as follows:

Indirect first, direct second.

The indirect object pronoun always comes first, the direct one second.

Now, the indirect object pronouns Le (to you formal), gli (to him), le (to her) and gli (to them) all become “glie” when followed by the direct object pronouns lo (him, it), la (her, it), li (them, masculine) and le (them feminine), and the two blend together to form a single new word. So you get things like glielo, gliela, glieli and gliele.

The indirect object pronouns mi, ti, ci and vi change to me, te, ce and ve respectively, only this time lo, la, li and le don’t get attached, but remain separate. So we get me lo, me la, me li, me le, te lo, te la, te li, te le and so on.

The following chart will lay this all out more clearly.











me lo

te lo

ce lo

ve lo






me la

te la

ce la

ve la






me li

te li

ce li

ve li






me le

te le

ce le

ve le





For some unknown reason, these are the only direct and indirect object pronoun combinations in Italian. The direct object pronouns mi, ti, ci and vi get left out. Poverini!

As with all pronouns in Italian, the double pronouns go immediately before the verb, bumping “non” back a spot in negations. Here they are in action.

Te lo porto domani. (I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.)

Glielo facciamo stasera. (We’ll do it for you formal, him, her or them this evening – context would clarify.)

Non ve lo dico mai! (I’ll never tell it to yous guys!)

Hopefully you get the idea. If not, post a plea for aiuto on the forum! Ciao for now!