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  5. "Volevo sapere come lui volev…

"Volevo sapere come lui voleva migliorare il nostro matrimonio."

Translation:I wanted to know how he wanted to improve our marriage.

October 28, 2013



Maybe the problem with the marriage is poor communication. Hopefully now, with our comments, his or her past imperfect will become a future perfect.


I'm having trouble understanding how "I wanted" can be equated to the "imperfetto" tense in Italian. My understanding, based on the earlier exercises, is that "volevo" can only be translated as "I was wanting" or "I used to want", and that "I wanted" would have to be phrased in the "passato prossimo", that is "ho voluto", not "volevo".

Furthermore, I have no idea why the "had wanted" is available as a translation, because I had understood from previous lessons that the only the "trapassato prossimo" tense mapped to the English "past perfect" tense.

So, if Duo is not in error here, I am still confused about how to map verb tenses between English and Italian. I think I appreciate that the mapping is not exact, but this example seems to violate what I had understood from previous lessons.

I worry that Duo might be being a little more liberal with the mapping between verb tenses than is really warranted, and that this is creating some confusion.

If Duo is really correct in equating both "past perfect" and "simple past" to the Italian "imperfetto" tense, then I will add the following rule:

Italian imperfetto tense can map to both past-perfect and simple-past in English when the verb in English represents a state of mind or a state of being. This is because the notion of "ongoing", expressed in the Italian "imperfetto" tense, is contained in the verb itself in English. This rule should not be applied to verbs of action.


you are right about the use of imperfetto (more or less), but volere works differently.

if I say:

  • Ho voluto andare con Marco al cinema ieri.

this means that I wanted to go with him to the cinema, and i went with him for sure.


  • Volevo andare con Marco al cinema ieri.

this sentence has a feeling of doubt/uncertainty. you can't be sure if i really went with him, but i might have (though it's uncertain).

I hope you understand.


Also in addition to the Nitram15's explanation:

The negative forms in these tenses can be read as...

Non ho voluto... = I refused Non volevo... = I didn't want

Wanting can also be expressed as aver voglio di (I think or maybe voglia), meaning to passionately want. In the past tense it would use the imperfect. So, avevo voglia di dirle che me era importante, would mean something along the lines of I really wanted to tell her that she was important to me.

With this form however I'm not sure if there's any implication that you did as you wanted. I suspect not, as it's in the imperfect, and volevo has no such implications. I think that with anything other than Ho voluto you'd need to be clear if you did what you wanted.


Hi DespairSquid, I think you are right, except I have always learnt that "avere voglia di" means "to feel like" - much weaker than "to passionately want". But then I looked it up and it seems it can indeed have this meaning ("to crave/ to long for" as well as "to have a hankering/ an itch")


We can see it has a pretty broad meaning, from the definitions and examples given. Thanks!


That's good to know. Thanks for the link.

Maybe you'd need to here in the speaker's voice just how passionately he or she wanted it, or whether they just had a hankering for it.


Nitram, why isn't this just the third imperfetto case where the speaker is referring to something that happened in the past while something else was happening? ..
e.g. I wanted to know how he 'was wanting' to improve our marriage.

The example for this use case in imperfetto in my grammer book is:
mentre io leggevo, essi (loro) studiavano
while I was reading they were studying

taken from: From: Italian Verbs and Essentials of Grammar, Carlo Graziano, 1987, p.14


Thanks! I really appreciate your lessons.


lessons? :D haha... i just try to explain things, it's Duo who gives lessons (without explanation though)


Eh... In an actual Italian course, you would have lectures containing information much like you gave, and then exercise like what Duo provides. I think you're unwittingly playing the part of an instructor here, without getting paid!

Also, Duo could branch out with it's business model and offer "educator's packages" or something like that -- so that instructors can pay to use Duo as part of the instruction. To make it worthwhile, Duo could provided a couple tools for teachers, like tracking student progress, highlighting areas where the class is struggling, etc. This would be pretty neat.


So Nitram15's explanation improves DL's lessons!


I agree with you and Viaggiatore that "had wanted" should not be accepted. It is too liberal and thus confusing, and I think people should report it! Thanks also Nitram for your useful comment about the use of volere. It is handy to remember that there are verbs like this that change meaning depending on the tense (passato prossimo vs imperfetto). Other examples are potere, sapere and conoscere.


Let me just add to Nitram's excellent comments that English speakers use the simple past a lot, which means that it may correspond to the Italian imperfetto, passato prossimo, or passato remoto. But I can't explain why Duo translated an imperfetto with an English pluperfect, "had wanted". Here's one more reference on the Italian imperfect. http://www.lifeinitaly.com/italian/imperfecte-tense


You're right, the pluperfect in English is not correct here, and it has now been removed as an option.


it took me 5 tries to get this sentence right, but I got it! That's the most complex sentence I've encountered on here yet!


This sentence came to me as a listening exercise. It made me realize I'm not ready to listen to very long Italian sentences!


I listened twice because i couldn't imagine why she didn't say "IL nostro matrimonio," and was ready to post an inquiry about it. Alas! I got it wrong because it does, indeed, take "il." I can only hear it in the slow-mo. ??


Wanting to know is the first step to improving your marriage. Good for you, Duo!


Often the tense used in Italian would not be used quite the same in English so we have two choices, translate literally, which may be clumsy English, or translate in the tense most appropriate to the meaning. We do use past perfect in English more than the imperfect. The Italian use of imperfect here implies ongoing for some time. I agree pluperfect is not an appropriate transaltion


what is incorrect when say "to better our marriage"


This is fine I think, unless there is a more specific Italian word corresponding to the English verb "to better". If one were to encounter the translation "to better our marriage" on one of those multiple-multiple choice questions, I'd select it, but I wouldn't dare try it out as a translation on its own. 50% of this game is guessing which mistake the computer will make.


Surprise, surprise. "Used to want" is not accepted.


yes, that is the correct answer but there was a wowrd missing in the choices


Try saying this sentence three times in a row... :-)


This is really hard who can help xx


Ha! "I wanted to know how he wanted to improve our wedding" is also accepted.


I thought that matrimonio means 'wedding' but now it is a 'marriage'. What is the correct translation? If somebody may explain the difference, please...


Longest. Sentence. EVER!!!!!!!


This. Is. A. Horrible. Sentence. Period.

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