The Italian Subjunctive Mode – Il Modo Congiuntivo

The Subjunctive is a mode frequently used to connect (check the Italian verb "congiungere") subordinate clauses to main clauses featuring verbs that express opinions, wishes, hope and expectations, assumptions, emotions, feelings, doubts, hypotheses and so on. In other words, the Subjuncitve marks any subjective and personal approach, and consists of four tenses.

The Present Subjunctive – Il Congiuntivo Presente

ABITARE (to live) VENDERE (to sell) SENTIRE (to hear)
























The Present Subjunctive has the same ending for all the singular persons (io, tu, lui/lei) and so, in order to help us distinguish them,  we often use the pronoun as well as the conjugated form of the verb: 

A Scuola si dice che io parli bene francese / At school they say that I speak French well

Credo che tu parli bene francese / I think that you speak French well

Penso che Paola parli bene francese /I think that Paola speaks French well

The first plural person “noi” is the same in both the Present Indicative and the Present Subjunctive!

Noi torniamo a Firenze domani  (INDICATIVE) / We’re coming back to Florence tomorrow

È meglio che noi torniamo a casa presto stasera (SUBJUNCTIVE) / It’s better that we come home early tonight


  • Verbs ending in -CARE and -GARE add an “H” before all the Present Subjunctive endings:


















È meglio che Pietro cerchi un’altro lavoro più appropriato alle sue capacità / It’s better that Pietro looks for another job more appropriate for his skills

Non voglio che tu paghi la cena per tutti / I don’t want you to pay for everyone’s dinner


  • When a verb is irregular in the Present Indicative, it is often irregular in the same way in the Present Subjunctive:



PRESENT SUBJUNCTIVE: (io/tu/lei-lui) CAPISCA; (io/tu/lei-lui) FACCIA; (io/tu/lei-lui) VADA


  • Here are some of the most important irregular verbs conjugated in their Present Subjunctive form:

Andare (to go): vada, vada, vada, andiamo, andiate, vadano

Bere (to drink): beva, beva, beva, beviamo, beviate, bevano

Dare (to give): dia, dia, dia, diamo, diate, diano

Dire (to say): dica, dica, dica, diciamo, diciate, dicano

Dovere (to have to): debba, debba, debba, dobbiamo, dobbiate, debbano

Fare (to do): faccia, faccia, faccia, facciamo, facciate, facciano

Potere (to be able): possa, possa, possa, possiamo, possiate, possano

Rimanere (to remain): rimanga, rimanga, rimanga, rimaniamo, rimaniate, rimangano

Salire (to go up): salga, salga, salga, saliamo, saliate, salgano

Sapere (to know): sappia, sappia, sappia, sappiamo, sappiate, sappiano

Scegliere (to choose): scelga, scelga, scelga, scegliamo, scegliate, scelgano

Stare (to be) : stia, stia, stia, stiamo, stiate, stiano

Tenere (to hold): tenga, tenga, tenga, teniamo, teniate, tengano

Togliere (to take off): tolga, tolga, tolga, togliamo, togliate, tolgano

Uscire (to go out): esca, esca, esca, usciamo, usciate, escano

Venire (to come): venga, venga, venga, veniamo, veniate, vengano

Volere (to want): voglia, voglia, voglia, vogliamo, vogliate, vogliano


Penso che Marta non esca il prossimo fine settimana / I think that Marta won’t go out this weekend

Sebbene non faccia molto freddo, accendo il riscaldamento / Even though it’s not very cold, I’ll turn on the heating

Il direttore vuole che (io) vada al lavoro anche sabato mattina /The director wants me to go to work on Saturday morning too


  • “ESSERE” and “AVERE” also have irregular forms, but as with the other irregulars they have the same form for all the singular persons:


















Penso che tu sia un bravo ragazzo / I think that you are a good boy

Spero che voi stiate bene in vacanza! / I hope that you are well on holiday

Pare che Luca abbia la febbre / It seems that Luca has a fever

Ho l’impressione che Maria abbia problemi al lavoro / I have the impression that Maria has problems at work


Pay attention: The subjunctive is used in a secondary phrase which is connected to another. The use of the Subjunctive depends on the verb in the main phrase (¹), therefore we can form it in different ways according to the main verb. 

Subjunctive is the grammar mode of uncertainty, in that it expresses opinions, doubts, will, expectation, desires, emotions, impersonal expressions, whereas Indicative is a mode expressing certainty.

So¹ che tu sei ² un bravo studente / I know that you are a good student

(SAPERE¹ in the main phrase expresses certainty, it does not trigger the Subjunctive and so we use the Present Indicative of ESSERE = “tu sei”)

Penso¹ che tu sia² un bravo studente / I think that you are a good student

(PENSARE¹ in the main phrase triggers the Subjunctive in the subordinate clause as it expresses uncertainty and so we use the Present Subjunctive of ESSERE = “tu sia”)

Per me Claudio è molto intelligente (INDICATIVE) / For me Claudio is very intelligent

Credo che Claudio sia molto intelligente (SUBJUNCTIVE) / I think that Claudio is very intelligent

Secondo te Joe capisce quando parlo italiano? (INDICATIVE) / Do you think that Joe understands when I speak Italian?

Ti sembra che Joe capisca quando parlo italiano? (SUBJUNCTIVE) / Does it seem to you that Joe understands when I speak Italian?


The construction CHE + SUBJUNCTIVE verb is only used when the subjects of the two phrases are different:

Io penso che tu abbia ragione / I think that you are right

Noi crediamo che Paolo arrivi presto / We think that Paolo will arrive early


If subjects are the same, we use the construction DI + INFINITIVE:

Cristina crede di essere molto bella / Cristina thinks that she is very beautiful

NO! Cristina crede che (lei/Cristina) sia molto bella

Marco e Luca sono contenti di andare in vacanza / Marco and Luca are happy that they are going on holiday

NO! Marco e Luca sono contenti che (Loro/Marco e Luca) vadano in vacanza.

The Past Subjunctive- Il Congiuntivo Passato

The Past Subjunctive is made up of the Present Subjunctive of “ESSERE” or “AVERE” + the Past Participle of the verb:

 PARLARE          PRENDERE       USCIRE           






abbia         parlato

abbia         parlato

abbia         parlato

abbiamo    parlato

abbiate      parlato

abbiano     parlato

abbia         preso

abbia         preso

abbia         preso

abbiamo    preso

abbiate      preso

abbiano     preso

sia         uscito/a

sia         uscito/a

sia         uscito/a

siamo    usciti/e

siate      usciti/e

siano     usciti/e

Remember the compound tense consistency when “ESSERE” is used as auxiliary.


Just as with the Present Subjunctive, the Past Subjunctive depends on a main phrase, but it expresses something that happened previously:

Penso che Luca abbia già mangiato / I think that Luca already ate

Dopo tutte quelle ferie immagino che Luca abbia riposato abbastanza / After all that holiday I imagine that Luca relaxed enough

Non credo che Pietro abbia già risposto a tutte le domande dell’esame / I don’t think that Pietro has already answered all the questions in the exam

Lucia è strana, non so cosa le sia successo / Lucia is strange, I don’t know what happened to her

Dubito che Marco sia riuscito a prendere il treno delle 14:00 / I doubt that Marco managed to catch the train at 14.00

Spero che Mattia abbia finito i suoi compiti di matematica / I hope that Mattia finished her maths homework.

The Imperfect Subjunctive – Il Congiuntivo Imperfetto

The Imperfect Subjunctive is made up taking -ARE, -ERE, -IRE off and adding the appropriate ending:

























The first and the second persons singular are the same!


The verb ESSERE is irregular:














These are some more common irregulars:

Bere: Io bevessi, tu bevessi, lui/lei bevesse, noi bevessimo, voi beveste, loro bevessero

Dare: Io dessi, tu dessi, lui/lei desse, noi dessimo, voi deste, loro dessero

Dire: Io dicessi, tu dicessi, lui/lei dicesse, noi dicessimo, voi diceste, loro dicessero

Fare: Io facessi, tu facessi, lui/lei facesse, noi facessimo, voi faceste, loro facessero

Stare: Io stessi, tu stessi, lui/lei stesse, noi stessimo, voi steste, loro stessero

Tradurre: Io traducessi, tu traducessi, lui/lei traducesse, noi traducessimo, voi traduceste, loro traducessero


The Imperfect Subjunctive usually agrees with the Indicative Imperfect:

Pensavo che Luca non mangiasse carne / I thought that Luca didn’t eat meat

Il capo non voleva che noi uscissimo a fumare durante la pausa / The boss didn’t want us to go out to smoke during our break

Marta credeva che Lucia parlasse bene francese / Marta thought that Lucia spoke French well


The Imperfect Subjunctive is used in hypothetical phrases, talking about possible or impossible hypothesis in the present, together with the Present Conditional:

  • Possible hypothesis: IF + Imperfect Subjunctive [hypothesis] + Present Conditional [consequence

Se io possedessi dei vestiti di Valentino sarei molto felice / If I had some Valentino’s dresses, I would be very happy

Se il tempo domani fosse bello andrei al mare / If the weather were good tomorrow, I would go to the seaside

Se fossi ricco, mi comprerei una Ferrari / If I were rich, I would buy a Ferrari

Se non fossimo Italiani, ci piacerebbe essere Americani / If we were not Italians, we would like to be American.  

The Past Perfect Subjunctive – Il Congiuntivo Trapassato

The Past Perfect Subjunctive is made up of the Imperfect Subjunctive of “ESSERE” or “AVERE” + the Past Participle of the verb:







avessi       comprato

avessi       comprato

avesse      comprato

avessimo  comprato

aveste       comprato

avessero   comprato

avessi        venduto

avessi        venduto

avesse       venduto

avessimo   venduto

aveste        venduto

avessero    venduto

fossi        uscito/a

fossi        uscito/a

fosse       uscito/a

fossimo   usciti/e

foste        usciti/e

fossero    usciti/e








fossi        stato/a

fossi        stato/a

fosse       stato/a

fossimo   stati/e

foste        stati/e

fossero    stati/e

avessi       avuto

avessi       avuto

avesse      avuto

avessimo  avuto

aveste       avuto

avessero   avuto

  • The Imperfect and Past Perfect Subjunctive are used in the same way and in the same situations as the Present and Past Subjunctives, with the only difference that the main phrase is in the past tense, which can be the Present Perfect, Imperfect, Historic or Past Perfect.

Desideravo che tu partecipassi alla festa / I wanted you to come to the party

Credevo che Claudia volesse venire a cena da me / I thought that Claudia wanted to come to dinner at mine

L’insegnante ha preferito che stessimo in silenzio / The teacher preferred for us to be silent

  • The Past Perfect Subjunctive is used in  hypothetical phrases when talking about something impossible in the past: 

          IF + Past Perfect Subjunctive [hypothesis] + Past Conditional [consequence]

Se ieri avessi preso l’autobus, non sarei arrivata in ritardo / If I had taken the bus yesterday, I wouldn’t have arrived late

Se non mi fossi ammalata, avrei fatto sport nel pomeriggio / If I hadn’t been ill, I would have done some sports in the afternoon 

Se fossi nata in Giappone, avrei abitato a Tokyo / If I had been born in Japan, I would have lived in Tokyo

The use of the Subjunctive – L’uso del Congiuntivo

The Subjunctive is used in phrases that depend on another, and in particular after verbs or expressions that indicate:

  • Personal opinions or uncertain situations, for example with verbs like pensare (to think), credere (to believe), immaginare (to imagine), ritenere (to retain), essere sicuro/certo (to be sure), avere l’impressione (to have the impression), supporre (to support), dubitare (to doubt), sembrare (to seem), parere (to seem)

Ho l’impressione che Lucia sia molto stanca ultimamente / I have the impression that Lucia is very tired lately

Lucia pensa che Giulia e Matteo siano molto simpatici / Lucia thinks that Giulia and Matteo are very kind

Dubito che Maria venga alla cena / I doubt that Maria will come to dinner

  • Feelings, worries, or emotional states,  with verbs like essere felice/contento (to be happy), avere paura (to be scared), dispiacersi (to be sorry), temere (to fear), preoccuparsi (to be worried)

Sono contenta che tu vada finalmente in vacanza / I am happy that you are finally going on holiday

Mi dispiace che tu stia male / I’m sorry that you are ill

Temo che Luca non arrivi in tempo per l’inizio dello spettacolo / I’m afraid that Luca won’t arrive in time for the start of the show

  • Desires, orders or hopes  with verbs or expressions like volere (to want), preferire (to prefer), è meglio (it’s better), è preferibile (it’s preferable), è necessario (it’s necessary), bisogna (need), sperare (to  hope), desiderare (to desire), augurarsi (to congratulate), aspettare (to wait), pretendere (to hope)

Spero che non faccia troppo freddo domani / I hope it’s not too cold tomorrow

Preferisco che Lucia non vada a casa da sola / I prefer that Lucia doesn’t go home by herself

É necessario che Emanuela telefoni prima delle 11:00 / It’s necessary that Emanuela phones before 11.00

La mamma vuole che tu pulisca la tua stanza / Mum wants you to tidy your room

  • Impersonal expressions like è necessario (it is necessary), occorre (need), bisogna (need), è probabile (it’s probable), è possibile (it’s possible), si dice (it is said)

Dicono che in quel ristorante si mangi bene / They say that in that restaurant you eat well

È possibile che Matteo sia malato / It’s possible that Matteo is ill

  • Verbs in the negative form like non so (I don’t know), non credo (I don’t believe), non penso (I don’t think

Non credo che Laura abbia già fatto la spesa / I don’t believe that Laura has already done the shopping

L’insegnante non pensa che lo studente sia in grado di superare l’esame / The teacher doesn’t think the student is ready to pass the exam


The Subjunctive is also used after some particular words like:

  • Sebbene (even though), nonostante (although), a meno che (unless/as long as), senza che (without), prima che (before), a patto che (on the condition that), a condizione che (on the condition that), qualunque (whatever), qualsiasi (whatever); affinché/perché (in order to)  

Domani io e Tatiana andiamo al mare, a meno che non piova / Tomorrow Tatiana and I are going to the sea, as long as it doesn’t rain

Qualsiasi cosa io dica, Marco mi dà sempre torto / Whatever I say, Marco always argues with me

Nonostante Marco mi piacesse, ho preferito uscire con Matteo / Even though Marco liked me, I preferred to go out with Matteo.

Ho regalato a Rossana quel libro perché lo leggesse / I gave that book to Rossana so that she read it


Sometimes it is used in standard phrases, and in these cases it can express:

  • Doubts (and it’s phrased as a question)

Laura non è venuta al lavoro oggi! Che sia malata? / Laura didn’t come to work today! Is she ill?

Paolo e Luca non escono più insieme. Che abbiano litigato? / Paolo and Luca don’t go out together anymore? Have they had a fight?

  • Desires

Magari potessi vivere alle Maldive! / If I only could live in the Maldives!

Ah…se solo avessi ancora 20 anni! / Ah…if only I was 20 again!

The Subjunctive Tenses Consistency – La consecutio temporum del Congiuntivo

After a main phrase in Indicative Present we use:

Penso che Marco parta / partirà domani / I think that Marco leaves/will leave tomorrow

Dubito che la mamma facciafarà la spesa oggi / I doubt that mum does/will do the shopping today

Pare che Silvia traslochitraslocherà presto fuori città / It seems that Silvia is moving/will move out of the city soon


  • The Present Subjunctive or the Present Progressive in the Subjunctive form, if we want to express a simultaneous action

Penso che Marco parta stia partendo in questo momento / I think that Marco leaves/is leaving right now

Dubito che la mamma faccia stia facendo la spesa ora / I doubt that mum does/is doing the shopping now

Pare che Silvia traslochi / stia traslocando adesso / It seems that Silvia moves/is moving now


  • Past or Imperfect Subjunctive to express a previous action (according to the typical function of each tense)

Penso che Marco sia partito sabato scorso / I think that Marco left last Saturday

Dubito che la mamma abbia fatto spesa ieri / I doubt that mum did the shopping yesterday

Para che Silvia abbia traslocato lo scorso mese / It seems that Silvia moved last month  

Penso che Marco, da bambino, andasse spesso in Francia / I think that Marco used to go to France often when he was a kid


After a main phrase with verb in any Indicative Past (Present Perfect, Imperfect, Past Perfect or Historic Past) we use:

Avevo immaginato che mangiasse / avrebbe mangiato al ristorante dopo il lavoro / I had imagined that he would have eaten at the restaurant, after work

Ho pensato che Marta andasse / sarebbe andata in discoteca sabato sera / I have thought that Marta would have gone to the disco


Pensai che mangiasse/stesse mangiando al ristorante quel pomeriggio / I thought that she was eating at the restaurant that afternoon

Pensavo che Marta andasse/stesse andando in discoteca / I thought that Marta was going to the disco


  • Past Perfect or Imperfect Subjunctive to express a previous action (according to the typical function of each tense)

Ho pensato che Paola avesse mangiato al ristorante sabato scorso / I have thought that Paola had eaten at the restaurant, last Saturday

Ho pensato che Paola, da bambina, andasse spesso al mare / I have thought that Paola went to the sea often, when she was a child


  • Sometimes we can use Imperfect Subjunctive also after a main phrase with Indicative Present to express an action who would typically be expressed in Imperfect Indicative

Penso che Paola da bambina fosse molto vivace (habit in the past) / I think that Paola was very lively, when when she was a child

Credo che lo scorso fine settimana piovesse a Firenze (atmospheric description) / I think that last weekend rained in Florence.

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