1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Italian
  4. >
  5. Italian Subjunctive Guide


Italian Subjunctive Guide

The subjunctive (Il congiuntivo) can be tricky to grasp for English speakers, as it's rare in our language. I'm putting this guide together in the hopes that it will help those who struggle with this aspect of Italian.

<h1>What is the subjunctive?</h1>

The subjunctive is a verb mood. What does that mean? A verb mood, of which there are four, shows the meaning behind a verb, not the time at which it occurred - the subjunctive a tense. The four verb moods which exist are the indicative, the subjunctive, the conditional, and the jussive. The indicative is the easier form which is learnt first - used for things like facts or definite situations, like “He was here”. The conditional is used for situations which are dependent on other situations to be able to occur, like “I would go, if I had the time“. The jussive is the form used for the “Let's ...“ and imperative forms of the verb, like “Let's eat” and “Eat!”. The subjunctive, however, is used in situations of doubt, desire, opinion, and others, which will be shown later.

<h1>How to conjugate the subjunctive - Present Tense</h1>

To conjugate the subjunctive in the present tense, take the io form of the verb, remove the final -o, then add the personal endings:

Note that for io, tu, lui/lei & loro for -ire verbs, the -isca/-iscano form is used when the verb ends in -isco in the io form of the indicative (e.g. “Finire“ - “Finisco“), and the -a/-ano form when the io form of the indicative doesn't end in -isco (e.g. “Dormire“ - “Dormo“).

So, let's look at these endings on some verbs:

There are, of course, irregular verbs in the subjunctive. Some of these are:

  • Essere: Regular = Si-; For noi & voi = S- (For example, “Io sia“, “Noi siamo“)
  • Stare: Regular = Sti-; For noi & voi = St- (For example, “Lui stia“, “Loro stiano“)
  • Avere: Regular = Abbi-; For noi & voi = Abb- (For example, “Tu abbia“, “Voi abbiate“)
  • Andare: Regular = Vad-; For noi & voi = And- (For example, “Io vada“, “Noi andiamo“)
  • Dovere: Regular = Debb-; For noi & voi = Dobb- (For example, “Lei debba“, “Voi dobbiate“)
  • Fare: This verb acts like an -ere verb. Regular = Facci-; For noi & voi = Facc- (For example, “Tu faccia“, “Noi facciamo“)

Regular = io, tu, lui/lei & loro

There are other irregular verbs; these are just some of them and how they work.

<h1>How the present subjunctive is used</h1>

The use of the present subjunctive can be hard to get the hang of at first, as it appears so seldom in English (an example being “I suggest that he go“). If you've already encountered the subjunctive in other languages like French, it will be a bit easier, as many of the “subjunctive phrases” will carry over to Italian. Likewise, getting familiar with the subjunctive in Italian first will help when it comes to using it in other languages.

1. Doubt

If there is doubt within a situation, the subjunctive is used. For example, phrases like “Credo che...“ (I believe that...), “Penso che...“ (I think that...), “Non sono certo che...“ (I'm not sure that...) all use the subjunctive. Let's look at some example sentences - words in Italics are “subjunctive phrases“, and words in Bold are verbs in the subjunctive.

  • Credo che il suo compleanno sia in agosto - I think his birthday is in August
  • Non penso che loro vadano domani - I don't think they'll go tomorrow
  • Suppongo che debba aiutarti - I suppose I ought to help you
  • Dubito che ci sia abbastanza tempo - I doubt there is enough time

Note that after these types of “subjunctive phrases“, the “che“ can be omitted:

  • Credo (che) abbia ragione - I think you're right
  • Penso (che) sia bella - I think she is pretty

2. Wishes/Orders

If there is a wish or an order, something which may not end up happening, the subjunctive is used. Some phrases which require the subjunctive are “Voglio che...“ (I want (that)...), “Desidero che...“ (I wish (that)...), and “Insisto che...“ (I insist (that)...). Let's look at some example sentences of this use:

  • I miei genitori vogliono che io impari il tedesco - My parents want me to learn German
  • Insistiamo che mangiate qualcosa - We insist that you eat something
  • Mio fratello spera che non piova domani - My brother hopes it doesn't rain tomorrow

3. Impersonal statements

Statements like “È bene che...“ (It's good that...), “È difficile che...“ (It's unlikely that...), and “È necessario che...“ (It's necessary that...) use the subjunctive. “È“ can be replaced with “Sembra“ for the same effect. However, remember that the subjunctive is used where there is uncertainty - so statements like “È certo che...“ (It's certain that...) wouldn't be used with the subjunctive. Also, if you use “Mi sembra che...“ (It seems to me that...), the subjunctive isn't used. Here are some example phrases:

  • È strano che non possa venire - It's strange that she not be able to come
  • Sembra difficile che io vada con te - It seems unlikely that I'll go with you
  • È necessario che tutti lavorino insieme - It's necessary that everyone work together

Here is a list of phrases which use the subjunctive:

4. Direct effect

If an action affects you directly (e.g. “I don't like that...“), the subjunctive is used. Some phrases which use the subjunctive in this way are “Mi disturba che...“ (It bothers me that...), “Mi piace che...“ (I like that...), and “Mi sconvolge che...“ (It upsets me that...). Some examples are:

  • Non mi piace che stia sempre aspettando - I don't like that I'm always waiting
  • Mi disturba che non si ricordi di me - It bothers me that he doesn't remember me
  • Mi sconvolge che alcune persone non abbiano abbastanza da mangiare - It upsets me that some people don't have enough to eat

5. Fixed expressions

Some fixed expressions use the subjunctive. Some examples of such expressions are “Benché...“ (Although...), “Nonostante che...“ (Despite...), and “A meno che...“ (Unless...). Here are some examples:

  • Benché mi piaccia il gelato, non ne voglio nessuno - Although I like ice cream, I don't want any
  • Lei va alla festa nonostante che sia molta stanca - She is going to the party despite the fact that she is very tired
  • A meno che non mi rompa la gamba, giocherò a calcio - Unless I break my leg, I'll play football
  • Inviagli un messaggio prima che sia troppo tardi! - Send him a message before it's too late!

6. Che...

The last use of the subjunctive is starting a sentence or clause with “Che“, then using the subjunctive. This is used to show desires and thoughts. For example:

  • Che nessuno mi faccia ridere! - No one make me laugh!
  • Lei non è venuta a scuola oggi. Che abbia la febbre? - She didn't come to school today. Could it be that she has a fever?
<h1>How to conjugate the subjunctive - imperfect tense</h1>

The subjunctive also directly exists in the imperfect tense. To conjugate it, take the io form of the verb in the imperfect tense, remove the -evo, and add the following endings:

Here are the endings on the verbs we looked at for the present tense:

The verb Avere is regular in the imperfect subjunctive, however the verb Essere isn't. To conjugate Essere, remove the i- at the beginning of the -ire conjugation, then add fo- add the beggining of the new endings. For example, the -ire imperfect subjunctive conjugation for noi is -issimo. Remove the i-, which leaves us with -ssimo. Then add fo-, which gives us “fossimo“ - the imperfect subjunctive conjugation of Essere for noi.

<h1>How the imperfect subjunctive is used</h1>

The imperfect subjunctive is used, for the most part, in the same cases as the present subjunctive. Generally, the preceding phrases are either in the conditional or imperfect tenses. So while the present subjunctive would be used with “Voglio che...“ (I want (that)...), the imperfect subjunctive would be used with “Vorrei che...“ (I would like (that)...) and “Volevo che...“ (I wanted (that)...). This carries across for all aspects:

  • Non credevo che avesse diciotto anni - I didn't think he was eighteen
  • Vorremmo che venissi alla partita - We'd like you to come to the game
  • Sarebbe essenziale che bevessimo acqua - It'd be essential that we drink water
  • Mi piacerebbe che le vacanze fossero più lunghe - I'd like the holidays to be longer

However, if a structure like the “impersonal statements“ is used to refer back to a past event, this will remain in the present tense:

  • È bene che tutti potessero venire - It's good that everyone was able to come
  • Non penso che mi vedesse - I don't think he saw me

Se + Conditional

Unique to the imperfect subjunctive is the “Se + Conditional“ sentence. This is used to state hypothetical actions - which is why the subjunctive is used. This type of sentence is the only sentence where the subjunctive is still fairly identifiable in English - “If I were rich, I'd buy a mansion“. This type of sentence works exactly the same in Italian:

  • Se potessi imparare qualsiasi lingua in soltanto un giorno, quale sarebbe? - If you could learn any language in a day, which would it be?

The sentence structure can also be flipped, starting with the conditional clause and then using the imperfect subjunctive. For example:

  • Mi piacerebbe il congiuntivo se fosse più facile! - I'd like the subjunctive if it were easier!

Come se...

“Come se“ is the translation of “As if“ in Italian, which always uses the imperfect subjunctive. It works in the exact same ways as in English:

  • È come se non mi conoscesse - It's as if she didn't know me
  • Come se io non sapessi quella cosa! - As if I didn't know that!
<h1>Perfect and Pluperfect Subjunctive</h1>

The perfect and pluperfect subjunctive tenses also exist in Italian. These are formed by either using the present subjunctive of Avere/Essere + Past Participle, or the imperfect subjunctive of Avere/Essere + Past Participle. For example:

  • È raro che tanta gente sia andata in spiaggia - It's rare that so many people have gone to the beach
  • Se mi avessi detto la verità, ti avrei potuto credere - If you'd told me the truth, I would have been able to believe you

I hope this helps!/Spero che questo aiuti!

Check out my other subjunctive guides!

Portuguese Subjunctive Guide
Spanish Subjunctive Guide
May 25, 2015

This discussion is locked.


Earlier this morning, while surfing the internet for a translation, I ran across an Italian forum and I was thrilled to find that I was able to follow the ongoing discussion (having to look up only a handful of words!)

Re-energized I came to DL and continued with my studies, truly believing I was making some sort of progress ... ... ... until I ran into this sticky!!!

Now, I'm back to thinking I'll never be able to learn Italian! Well, thanks a lot!!!


Naaah, thank you for taking the time to put this together! Who knows, one day it may actually make sense and stick ... One can only hope! ;-)


You're welcome! And don't worry, the subjunctive will become second nature with time :)


I hope so! I noticed that I started to take a second look when 'che' appears. (I know it's not the key to subjunctive but it seems to always be a part of it.)

PS: In your 'What is the subjunctive?' paragraph, the sentence "The four verb moods which exist are the indicative, the subjunctive, and the jussive." <-- is missing the 4th one, 'conditional' ;-)


Man, you write subjunctive guides? I'm not sure if you're a hero or a masochist. Either way, thank you.


i lived 10 years in italy and i am only 12 :) and i think you did a great job explain it really similar how they explain it in 6th grade in italy

inoltre italiano che sto facendo per ripetizione, tedesco e spagnolo che lingua mi consigli?! grazie in anticipo


Non so quale consigliarti, perché ognuna è buona... Se impari lo spagnolo, il vocabulario sarà più facile, ma forse se vuoi una sfida, ti direi di imparare il tedesco (mi piace più il tedesco, ma mi piacciono entrambi). Buona fortuna! :)


Certi italiani dovrebbero proprio leggere questo documento :)


Ahah sii infatti lo sto leggendo con attenzione!


WOW! Great work! This is a lesson in itself


For those of you who might be curious, the Latin subjunctive is not super hard to make. It's really predictable, and there's like one or two verbs for which you actually have to remember it.

For example, to be present indicative: sum es est sumus estis sunt

To be present subjunctive: sim sis sit simus sitis sint

But seriously, fantastic job on this article. Super thorough, and incredibly informative.




Thank you very much for making this amazing guide! I definitely wish I'd had this when I first came across the subjunctive. :)


ditto, and thanks from me too.


Thanks a lot, Adam! I have adding this to my collection of "helpful hints."


Prego! :) Sono contento che ti aiuti :)


Hemh, "Sono contento che ti aiuti", maybe it should be correct but usually Italians don't use it this way! "Sono contento/felice che ti sia di aiuto" I am Italian


Hello, nice guide :)

I just want to help you with some little changes I'd suggest: • in 5. Fixed Expressions of the Presente tense, remember that there's an additional "non" after "a meno che" so it would be "A meno che non mi rompa una gamba" • in How the Imperfect Subjunctive is used, the sentence "Non penso che mi vedesse" would be translated with "I don't think he could see me". "I don't think he saw me" would translate "Non penso che mi abbia visto"

Other than those, I think the rest of the guide is completely ok :)

*source: I'm an Italian grammar freak :P


Ack, I didn't notice the "A meno che non mi rompa una gamba, giocherò a calcio"

We don't use the article, yet the preposition "a" to introduce a sport we play :)


Caro Adam! Grazie mille per questo. Ho studiato l'italiano tanti anni fa, ma congiuntivo era sempre in cinese per me :) Adesso cerco di studiarlo di nuovo.


Prego, mi piace che ti aiuti :)


This is awesome! Thank you so much. I wish DL would give us a few lessons of conjugating the verbs like this before throwing them at us in 12-word long nonsensical sentences.


Thank you for making this guide. I am just on the subjunctive and even though I know how to use the subjunctive in Spanish and French, the Italian subjunctive seems different in that verbs like pensare don't need to be negative.


Yeah, that is the main part where it's different. Apart from that I think it's pretty much the same though :) And you're welcome!


THANK YOU, thank you, .... THANK you. Very informative and comprehensive guide. Now. Can Duo please paste it to the home lesson page when we first see subjunctive???


You're welcome, and I don't know... You'd have to ask them... :)

[deactivated user]

    If you use "mi sembra che" you almost always need a subjunctive! "Mi sembra che sia arrivato". Indicative is acceptable too.


    Grazie mille :D


    As a native Italian speaker and a Spanish learner, I thank you for both these useful and very, very fine guides. I'm always glad to see someone so keen to learn and teach our beautiful language! A lingot for you.


    In italy strangers always use the infinite of the verbs in all situations!


    This is an amazing tool, and awesome that it is concise and very well laid out. Thank you so much for this.


    Gratzie Molto Adam, that is most enlightening and really useful.


    Just be careful that "vorremo" is the future form of "volere", not the conditional. The conditional form is instead "vorremmo"... :)


    Grazie - l'ho corretto :)


    wow .....Grazie mille Adam! that is very useful for me that I'm studying english


    Bless your soul


    Thank you for sharing this!!!


    You're welcome :)


    Molto interessante e utile! Grazie!


    sono d'accordo con te mille grazie :)


    very useful guide thank you.


    Is it normal for my head to be spinning or am I just stupid?


    You wouldn't be normal if it wasn't, from what I see and hear.


    Very helpful guide, thank you.


    Beautiful work. Well done and deserving of a sticky; I believe it's the first in Italian. Have a lingot or two.


    Oh,. this is so very useful. I am Hungarian and study Italian via English. We do not have subjunctive forms and these tables of yours seem to be quite essential. Thank you friend!


    Nincs mit, én pedig neked szeretném köszönni a munkádat a magyarról angolra és angolról magyarra kurzusokon. Eredetileg magyarországról származom, de elfelejtettem a nyelvet amikor angliába költöztem, és megint akarom beszélni :)


    Azért elég jól megy!:-)


    Wow! I am only in the beginning but this guide will be very useful for me. I am a fluent tri-lingual (Russian (native), English, Hebrew) and I love Italian. I want to learn it as well as I can.


    The four verb moods which exist are the indicative, the subjunctive, and the jussive
    and the conditional.


    You'd think DL would have something like this in the non-existent Tips & Tricks section for the single hardest verb tense...


    That's why I made it :)


    Fantastic guide! Very well written :-) I remember when I first came across il congiuntivo, I thought it was insane... then I realised that I'd been using the various English subjunctives without realising for years! Unfortunately, most English people I've met don't actually use the English subjunctives which makes learning il congiuntivo even harder. What was it Goethe once said? "Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen." :-)


    Thank-you! I often wish there was a little grammar lesson with each new conjugation studied. It helps to remember!


    Incredibly useful! Thanks so much!


    Thank you so much, Adam!


    Absolutely brilliant, so clear and concise and well explained. Thank you so much


    I'm not even talking Italian (yet), however I'm bookmarking this! ~frankieb


    Thank you. It will really help me to understand the Italian language.


    You're welcome :)


    Very helpful! Would love to see it one day formulated into a guideline for the relevant topic, as it has been done with other topics along the three in the "tips and notes" section


    Thank you. It's quite a lot of text so I don't know if it would fit, but it's stickied :)

    • 2060

    Thanks for share


    You're welcome :)


    Are other people seeing the images? I just see a broken picture symbol. Great guide! Definitely worth a lingot.


    Hmm, it should be working, I'm not sure why it isn't for you...


    This could be the case when you are behind a firewall or on a VPN


    Since I am following this active discussion I have looked at the thread from several different computers and devices in different locations over the last week. I have looked from home (no vpn/firewall), work (very limited internet filter for pornographic websites) and over the verizon cellular network on my phone and tablet. I have used explorer, chrome, firefox and safari on various windows and mac computers. I have tried both chrome and dolphin on android. Same result. Broken picture links. I'm in the U.S.. I'm surprised that I'm alone on this issue, but it would appear that I am.


    Helps alot~! <3


    Thank you - since I have started learning Italia all the grammar is my one area of weakness and you have taken away a little of the confusion - Inez


    You're welcome :)

    [deactivated user]

      Grazie per le spiegazioni! C'è una ragione perché "fare" in congiuntivo diventa come se fosse -ere: viene del latino facere! Viva (congiuntivo) l'italiano! Vivat (subjunctivus) lingua latina!


      Maybe this would be the reason because the Italians always use (voi) facete instead of fate XD ..In italian language isn't correct use facete instead of fate


      You're welcome :)


      "Nonostante che" is rarely used, "nonostante" is a lot more common. Even though they're both correct, "nonostante" without "che" is what every Italian would use easily ;) Good guide!

      Edit: "Nonostante che" is used when there is another element (like a complement) between the expression and the verb.


      Really very usefull. Thanks.


      Molto grazie


      Thanks! This has been so helpful!




      Thanks, I too could have used when I first started subjunctives but still it is a great learning tool for me and one which I will use and learn from.


      Everything we wanted to know about the subjunctive but were afraid to ask. Could you copyright this and make it printable somewhere (as well as the Spanish guide)? Either way, grazie, molto gentile!


      it is really great thanks you encourage me to learn italian, I am waiting more nice topics from you


      grazie - molto bene!


      I am sure all those who arrive at this lesson will visit this discussion and rejoice in the discovery. Thanks for all your work.


      Thank you very much. It will come in handy when I take that lesson as I am just starting! Grazie mile!!!


      grazie mille!, good information!


      Thanks again. Take 10 lingots.


      What a great help. Thank you very much!


      This really helped me! I should have read this when I just started learning Italian. It's a beautiful language and I'm studying it so I can go to my favorite country-Italy! Thanks for the amazing guide! Grazie mille!


      Brilliant! Thanks ever so much. I have been trying to figure out how to translate the subjunctive when it doesn't really work that way due to its almost total non existence in English. The whole idea of trigger phrases has created a light bulb moment for me. Thank you so much.


      Good job! Are you also planning to write a French Subjunctive Guide? :-)


      Hi, I have some doubt about your statement: " statements like “È certo che...“ (It's certain that...) wouldn't be used with the subjunctive". It's not clear and it's changing with the time because fewer Italians can use the congiuntivo correctly, but phrases that follow "che" (When the verb is the subject of the main verb) sound really weird in simple present. With exceptions of course.

      For the students: Italians have a lot of problems with the congiuntivo, if you can use it as foreigner it will really impress us!!!


      Gio, the expression "È certo che..." can be used in the indicative and subjunctive: È certo che lui viene and È certo che lui venga", both are correct. I personally would not use the subjunctive if I were talking about a friend coming. However, if I were speaking about my professor Umberto Eco coming to meet me at the University of Bologna I would probably use the subjunctive. I prefer to add a little doubt to the expression just in case Umberto doesn't show :-)


      Hi, I don't know where to go. I just want to ask if there's any translate of City of Water in Italian aside from Città di acqua? thanks :) -newbie


      What's the context? Venice is the "City of Water" = Venezia è la "Città sull'acqua" (both over the sea or near the seashore) -
      During the World Water Summit Rome begun the "City of Water" = ...Roma è diventata la "Città dell'acqua" -
      The mermaid empire's capital was "The City of Water" = ...era "La Città delle acque" (like the seven seas) -
      All the buildings made of Ice, that was a "City of Water" = ...era una "città d'acqua"

      "Città di Acqua" is not used, at least is "d'acqua".


      It's about Venice. I just want to translate it in Italian for research purposes thank you so much :)


      Isn't it. Io parlo , tu parli, Lui parle, noi parliamo, voi parlete, loro parlono.


      Io parlo, tu parli, lui parla, noi parliamo, voi parlate, loro parlano... by the way when we decline a verb by heart we use "egli" instead of lui (same meaning, ancient form), and "essi" instead of loro (like the other, but "essi" is still good if you are speaking about inanimate objects or animals). When uncertain you can skip the pronoun, we do it a lot.


      Hai ragione, ad ogni modo come già sai nella vita di tutti i giorni non vengono mai usati.


      Really very usefull. Thanks.


      Thank you so much for this useful information. I tried to study this from other sources I found but your explanation is much more extensive and detailed which helps understand the topic better. Thank you. :-)


      grazie. molto bene. due lingots.


      I dont understand....

      Learn Italian in just 5 minutes a day. For free.