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Oggi, Ieri, e Domani-- practice your sentences side by side

If you have done enough of the Italian course to get you to, or past, the unit on the "Future" tense, then you probably have a lot of verb conjugation endings swimming around in your mind.

One way to "keep them in their own lane" is to develop your own sentences, and to change them by adding the words "Today", "Yesterday", and "Tomorrow" to the sentence, while attempting to keep all of the other sentence parts as close as possible to the original sentence.

Allow me to explain with this example:

TODAY (oggi) --- YESTERDAY (ieri) --- TOMORROW (domani)
He sees the dog --- He saw the dog --- He will see the dog
Lui vede il cane --- Lui ha visto il cane --- Lui vedrà il cane

These are the three most useful tenses for you to practice, since you could imagine yourself in Italy, speaking to someone in Italian, about what you are doing, what you did the day before, and what you would like to do the next day.
It is good to know the "remote past" tense ("This wall was built in 1218"), and the "imperfect" tenses ("When I was young, I used to go there."), but for day-to-day you won't need those very much.

Perhaps you can develop some sample conversation starters that are related to traveling.
Don't stick with "io" and "tu", though-- branch out and throw in some other pronouns, even if you don't think that you would use them.

I am on the train --- I was on the train --- I will be on the train
Sono in treno --- Ero in treno --- Sarò in treno

We go (Let's go) to the museum --- We went to the museum --- We will go to the museum
Andiamo al museo --- Siamo andati/e al museo --- Andremo al museo

My wife is late --- My wife was late --- My wife is going to be late
Mia moglie è in ritardo --- Mia moglie era in ritardo --- Mia moglie sarà in ritardo

They are on the beach --- They were on the beach --- They are going be on the beach
Loro sono sulla spiaggia --- Erano sulla spiaggia --- Saranno sulla spiaggia

Along the way, you're going to come up with sentences that force you to remember when to use the "avere" or "essere" auxiliaries, and all of the "rules" that you've remembered (or forgot about). Throw in some negative sentences for practice there, as well.

It is not raining --- It was not raining --- It will not be raining
Non sta piovere --- Non è stava piovere --- Non starà piovere

She does not say anything --- She did not say anything --- She will not say anything
Lei non dice nulla --- Lei non ha detto nulla --- Lei non dirà nulla

You do not have a phone --- You did not have a phone --- You will not have a phone
Non hai un telefono --- Non avevi un telefono --- Non avrai un telefono

I cannot do this --- I was not able to do that --- I will not be able to do that
Non posso fare questo --- Non ho potuto fare quello --- Non potrò fare quello

He does not drive too fast --- He did not drive too fast --- He is not going to drive too fast
Lui non guida troppo veloce --- Lui non ha guidato troppo veloce --- Lui non guiderà troppo veloce

You can even throw in some other words like "would, could, and should" to get you thinking about conditional tenses.
Later, when you get even more confident, throw in sentences that have multiple subjects, or use the subjunctive mood.

She thinks that you are right --- She thinks that you were right --- She thinks that you will be right
Lei pensa che tu abbia ragione --- Lei pensa che tu avessi ragione --- Lei pensa che tu avrai ragione

I want you to come to the party --- I wanted you to come to the party --- I will want you to come to the party
Voglio che tu venga alla festa --- Ho voluto che tu venissi alla festa --- Vorrò che tu venga alla festa

These will really let you know where you need to improve your Duolingo studies.

(If anyone spots any mistakes in my translations here, leave a comment and I'll edit them) Some edits done, as suggested by CivisRomanus-- grazie!

November 27, 2016



This is indeed an excellent exercise for mastering tenses.

If I may raise an objection about the "yesterday" sentences, sometimes the English simple past translates best as passato prossimo, sometimes as imperfetto, which of the two depending on the verb more than on the time setting.

For instance:

yesterday he saw the dog → ieri lui ha visto il cane [passato prossimo]

yesterday I was on the train → ieri io ero sul treno [imperfetto]

yesterday we went to the museum → ieri noi siamo andati al museo [passato prossimo]

yesterday my wife was late → ieri mia moglie era in ritardo [imperfetto]

yesterday she did not say anything → ieri lei non ha detto nulla [passato prossimo]

yesterday you did not have a phone → ieri tu non avevi il telefono [imperfetto]

This is because 'to see', 'to go' and 'to say' are verbs describing actions that imply a beginning and an end. So, by the time the sentence is spoken, these actions are already finished (→ passato prossimo).
Instead verbs that describe being in some place, or being in a certain condition (late, happy, tired, worried, etc.), or being in possession of something, describe a lasting action (→ imperfetto).

A method for telling which tense fits best is to try and turn the English sentence into the continuous (progressive) form, and see whether it makes sense or not:

  • he saw the dog → he was seeing the dog
  • we went to the museum → we were going to the museum

these make sense, so the passato prossimo tense is used.

  • I was on the train → I was being on the train
  • you did not have a phone → you were not having a phone

these don't make much sense, so the imperfetto tense is used.

In some cases, though, this method might be deceptive:

  • my wife was late → my wife was being late

the continuous form makes sense, but in Italian you would still use the imperfetto tense:

mia moglie era in ritardo

This is because 'to be late' can be translated in two different ways: essere in ritardo and fare tardi. And with the second verb you would actually use the passato prossimo:

  • my wife was late = mia moglie ha fatto tardi

I hope you won't mind me pointing out a few examples that need editing.

It is not raining --- It was not raining --- It will not be raining
Non sta piovendo --- Non stava piovendo --- Non starà piovendo

She thinks that you were right --- She thinks that you will be right
Lei crede che tu avessi ragione --- Lei crede che tu avrai ragione

Here the tense agreement of subjunctive allows either the congiuntivo imperfetto (che tu avessi ragione) or the congiuntivo passato (che tu abbia avuto ragione).
According to the method I suggested, if you try out the continuous form ('she thinks that you were being right'), it does not make much sense, therefore the congiuntivo imperfetto fits best than the congiuntivo passato ('being right' is a lasting condition).

I wanted you to come to the party --- I will want you to come to the party
Io ho voluto che tu venissi alla festa --- Io vorrò che tu venga alla festa

Again, the choice depends on the tense agreement of subjunctive.
According to the Italian syntax, these sentences turn into 'I wanted that you came...', and 'I will want that you come...' The actions expressed by the independent clause and the subordinate clause are contemporary (time relation between the two clauses), so the agreement of tenses is:

independent clause --- subordinate clause
any past tense --- congiuntivo imperfetto
futuro semplice --- congiuntivo presente

I hope everything is clear enough.


Great explanation as usual! Another translation for "I wanted you to come to the party" could be "Volevo che tu venissi alla festa" (it would depend on the context, of course). And instead of "Non starà piovendo" I'd rather say "Non pioverà", because "Non starà piovendo" sounds more like "It probably isn't raining", to me at least.

One thing is certain, we have way too many tenses...


CivisRomanus, this is almost certainly the most helpful advice I have ever read about imperfetto vs passato prossimo. Non ti ringrazierò mai abbastanza


Thanks a lot for the appreciation, I'm glad to learn that my explanation was useful.

With regard to the sentence 'I wanted you to come to the party', I agree with DuoFaber that the verb volere  can actually take any of these three tenses:

io volevo [imperfetto] che tu venissi alla festa

io volli [passato remoto] che tu venissi alla festa

io ho voluto [passato prossimo] che tu venissi alla festa

All three sentences translate as 'I wanted you to come to the party', according to the context of speech.

I also agree about using non pioverà  rather than non starà piovendo.
But since the explanation was already long and complex, I preferred to stick to the literal translation of 'It will not be raining', not to make things even more complicated.

The colloquial use of the futuro semplice for expressing uncertainty, as if making a guess, is very often overlooked by grammars and language courses, but it can indeed cause some misunderstanding, especially when using the continuous (progressive) form of the verb:

starà piovendo  sounds more like 'it might be raining' than 'it will be raining'.

With the futuro semplice both meanings are possible, although one is the formal meaning ('will do') and the other is a more colloquial meaning ('might do'):

(lui/lei) starà viaggiando = he/she might be travelling  (more often)

(lui/lei) starà viaggiando = he/she will be travelling  (less often)

When speaking of 3rd persons (either singular or plural), the speaker may be likely unaware of the subject's present activity. So this tense is perceived more often as expressing uncertainty about the action performed by the subject.

Instead, when speaking of a 1st or 2nd person, the meaning more likely refers to the future:

(io) starò viaggiando = I will be travelling  (more often)

(io) starò viaggiando = I might be travelling  (less often)

(tu) starai viaggiando = you will be travelling  (more often)

(tu) starai viaggiando = you might be travelling  (less often)

This is because the speaker is obviously aware of what he is presently doing, or of what the listener is doing. So this tense is perceived more often as expressing a future action.

When the listener's comprehension is at risk, instead of using the futuro semplice with a colloquial meaning, the use of forse + present tense clears any doubt:

forse sta viaggiando = maybe he/she is travelling.


I've noticed that Italians don't use the future tense when speaking about what they will do tomorrow, they instead simply use the present tense.

Domani, compriamo una macchina nuova.


Sort of how we rely on present tense, "going to", and an infinitive, in English.
I am going to go to school tomorrow.

A lot of the time the Italians use an infinitive where we would use a gerund:
Eating a lot before sleeping is not good for your health.
Mangiare molto primo di dormire non è buona per la vostra salute.


Excellent suggestion, thank you.

I'm unsure whether "guidare troppo..." needs "velocemente" or "veloce".

The very last sentence is conditionale, not futuro.


Velocemente is an adverb, veloce is an adjective. However, especially after the verbs andare, guidare and correre, most native speakers use veloce also as an adverb nowadays (maybe because velocemente is a longer word and we're lazy?), so I guess they're both correct, even though one is technically more correct than the other, and strangely enough it's also the least common one in this case :)


How do you do future subjunctive-- or is that even an option?


I think if you are quite sure things will happen like this you would say "Vorrà che tu verrai alla festa" (futuro + futuro), and if it rather unlikely or only an option you would say "Vorrei che tu venissi alla festa." (conditionale + congiungtivo imperfetto).

I'm quite unsure about this and would be happy about any corrections. Concordanca dei tempi plus subjunctive is really hard for me.


This table should be helpful.

Beware that for conditional sentences the scheme is different.

(full size image)


Very helpful, indeed, thank you. It's not that different from German, after all. I think I was confused with the conditional scheme.

Now I have to keep my "-erremo" / "-erremmo" and"-errete" /"-erreste" apart, and all will be swell.


The tense agreement for conditional sentences is a bit different, but much easier than the one for subjunctive.

The three cases correspond quite faithfully to the English 'first conditional', 'second conditional', and 'third conditional' (although in Italian they are called 'reality hypothetical sentence' , 'possibility hypothetical sentence' and 'unreality hypothetical sentence'). The third one includes conditions that can no longer take place because they are set in the past (same as the English third conditional), and also the ones that are impossible for other reasons (e.g. "if I were you... ", etc.).

full size image

In certain sentences, the third case also allows crossed combinations (congiuntivo imperfetto + condizionale passato, or congiuntivo trapassato + condizionale presente), which are often not mentioned by grammar books, because they are not a very common combination:

se fossi fortunato avrei vinto la lotteria = If I were lucky I would have won the lottery

se fossi nato in Germania ora parlerei bene il tedesco = if I had been born in Germany now I would speak German well

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