https://www.duolingo.com/apricotpixie

Subjunctive Confusion

I dont understand the subjunctive in Italian. I didnt even know such a thing existed in English. Can someone explain it to me thoroughly? Wikipedia wasn't helpful enough.

April 25, 2015

24 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/3amk6

It doesn't exist in English, at least not in a manner that demands different forms of verbs. I'm gonna explain it the way I got it, but I can look it up on some grammar sites if you want too.

So, subjunctive is used in complex sentences, the ones with two predicates. For example, I found a sentence that appears in the exercises: Spero che lui mi dia un'altra opportunita. Obviously, it means I hope he gives me another opportunity. - and you can see that the main verb here is 'spero', and the other is 'dia'. The main verb is always used in the normal, so to speak, form. But the other verb, the one that comes after 'che', 'se', 'anche se', 'di' and so on is sometimes changed. I'm not sure if there is a rule that explains every case, but the way I see it, 3. person singular seems to be the most challenging one, so I figured the verb form must be the same, just with an 'i' before the -a ending. Normally, the sentence would be Lui mi da un'altra opportunita (sorry, my keyboard doesn't have all the italian accents), but when combined so that it depends of the sentence 'Spero', 'da' turns into 'dia'. Also, dispiaccia, abbia, sia, stia,... Now, some of them don't get the normal ending at all, eg 'pensi'. I don't know whether there is a reason that explains it, but it didn't seem a problem to me to remember a couple of verbs that are 'exceptions'.

If I get it right, Subjunctive is used to express doubt, thoughts, beliefs, something that is not a fact as much as a product of thinking, knowing, trusting... (you use it with so, spero, credo, penso, sono certo,...).

I just wanna point out that these are my conclusions, not actual rules. I hope it explains something. :)

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/cyncooper

but don't use it with "So." when you know something. Use it with "Non so." That's why it's so tricky.

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/3amk6

Good point. Let's just consider the verbs I brought up the basis which you have to form, since you can add 'non' to all of them.

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/apricotpixie

Thank you it clarified most things for me :)

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/3amk6

I'm glad I could help :)

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Rafforza

@aphrodite, actually the subjective does take different verb forms in English they're just often not mandated. For example: "It is essential that we be here." "be" is subjunctive, the indicative form would be "are."

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SaintUrsula

Also, "I wish I were famous." The correct usage is disappearing and people generally just say "I wish I was famous" or "Imagine if I was living in Antarctica" instead of "Imagine if I were living in Antarctica". But that change from "was" to "were" is the subjunctive.

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/apricotpixie

Oh, like in Fiddler on the Roof, "If I were a rich man"

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/SaxyLady

It's funny, but I've often wondered which is the correct word (was vs. were). We're taught as children that "was" is singular and "were" is plural. Even as an adult it's hard to see how it's correct to say "I wish I were..." or "If I were..."

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Davide_Vitali

Remember the hit song "If I were a boy" by Beyoncé? Hard or not, she nailed it. ;)

April 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/3amk6

I guess you can see it that way too, but that's more like using infinitive for that purpose, like I wrote: It does have the meaning, just not the structure that demands a new form of the verb. But I'm not so gramatically familiar with the subject so I don't want to focus that much on that part.

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Rafforza

In this instance the form happens to match the infinitive, you're right, but it isn't the infinitive technically. That's just a coincidence. You wouldn't say, "Imagine if I be famous."

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/cyncooper

GREAT QUESTION! I often wish that I had learned to use the subjunctive FIRST as it is a very important tense in Italian. I always struggle with it.

"The indicative tense usually makes statements and asks questions and expresses certainty and reality. The subjunctive expresses uncertainty, doubt, opinion, hope, fear, possibility and belief, etc.

It is mainly used in dependent clauses introduced by "CHE". Dependent clauses are sentences introduced by a conjunction such as "that, when, because" and do not have complete meaning by themselves.

It also has four tenses: present, imperfect, past and past perfect. (in English we use the indicative) English used to use it but now it is rare. But we do still say "if I were you…” We do not say "I fear lest he come!"" (The info above is from the book "Living Language, Ultimate Italian, basic intermediate.")

The word THAT (che) is a signal to use subjunctive. The subjunctive tense translates to (1st person present): that I speak. (che io parli), that you speak. (che io veda.) Get a book! (library!)

According to my profesoressa, Italians use it all the time. She tells us that this usage is so ingrained in native speakers that, if you should, but do not, use the subjunctive, it just sounds wrong. Native speakers may not even know why grammatically; it just sounds really bad to them. But even Italians make mistakes and also can find it confusing!

Remember… It is used in the context of uncertainty, doubt or hope or belief and one way to know that it is needed is when your verb is used with the word "che"... THAT something happens. I hope THAT, I fear THAT, I am uncertain THAT, I want THAT you study! (see why we it sounds so odd to us!?) etc. Important example: I know that the museums are open. I am sure. This is indicative tense. So che i musei sono aperti. I do not know if the museums are open. DOUBT! use SUBJUNCTIVE! Non so se i musei siano aperti. It is so important that my teacher is unsympathetic when I complain and she replies, “Just Memorize the verbs that require subjunctive." Spero che, Dubito che, credo che, voglio che,

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/GiuliaJill92

you are right, subjunctive is very important, it just feels very wrong when someone doesn't use it, even though nowadays you can hear even journalists who don't use it -.-

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/Davide_Vitali

As a native Italian speaker, I applaud your crystal-clear explanation. :)

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/cyncooper

grazie mille!

April 27, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/apricotpixie

This was very thorough and very helpful!!! Grazie mille!!!

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/necronudist85

If you mean the congiuntivo, remember that the majority of Italians don't know how to use it, so be careful when you read news, watch tv shows or read low quality books. Try with the Italian Wikipedia page.

April 25, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/GiuliaJill92

That's not absolutely true, there are yes people who use it wrong, but any person with a decent cultural background definitely can use it...

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/necronudist85

> any person with a decent cultural background definitely can use it

Yeah, a couple of people use it. Jokes aside, any other Italian can tell you that congiuntivo is famously misused by Italians, we know it and we occasionally joke about it ourselves. Don't expect to find a congiuntivo on TV, I've also noticed that the voice over of foreign movies/TV series don't use it anymore. It's been abandoned in everyday speech from ages and will be dead for good very soon.

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/ALaAlec

I wonder where you are drawing your experience from. I am living in Italy for the moment and people often correct me when I don't use the subjunctive mood.

April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/necronudist85
April 26, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/GiuliaJill92

Beh allora farò parte della minoranza che "ancora" lo usa ^^

April 30, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/apricotpixie

Thank you very much!!

April 25, 2015
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