Expressing the future in the past.

I don’t often bore you with my language studies, but this one is too great a concept not to post!


Did you know that you use the imperfect subjunctive, or the congiuntivo imperfetto in italiano, to express the future in the past?

Per esempio: Mi faceva piacere che tu mi invitassi alla tua festa (I was pleased that you invited me to your party).

Well, now you know!

You’re welcome.  Di niente!  Now, go out in the world and conquer with your new Italian language weapon!

How Italian works.

Ha ha!  I can’t help you here.  I have no idea how Italian works.  I’ve been studying it for a long time and I am still almost completely clueless!

But, I persevere.

I thought I’d share with you on this sunny Sunday afternoon, something about how Italian is explained to me on a daily basis by my Italian teachers and textbook.  It’s extremely confusing.  Maybe its just me.

OK, so Intermediate Level, book 1.  We shall discuss how to decide to use which of 2 auxiliary verbs when forming the past tense.  That sounds simple enough.  Ready?


My book explains that

  1. some verbs use (or “take” in Italian) only AVERE (to have)

2. Some verbs use only ESSERE (to be)

3. Some verbs use both interchangeably

4. Reflexive verbs always use ESSERE

But then the fun stuff starts:

5. The passive form in the past tense is created using ESSERE even when the verb normally takes AVERE

6. Some verbs use AVERE when transitive and ESSERE when intransitive

Here my textbook veers off the complicated path to remind us what a TRANSITIVE Verb is, and what INTRANSITIVI VERBI are like.  I won’t bore you with the details since I barely grasp the concept anyhow.


Then my textbook goes back to the complicated path and reminds:

  1. The first group of verbs only uses AVERE**

**But remember, all transitive verb use ESSERE when

a. passive or

b. reflexive


2. The 2nd group uses ESSERE

3. The 3rd group uses either ESSERE or AVERE

4. The 4th group uses AVERE when transitive and ESSERE when intransitive

5. The 5th group involves the “verbi modali” which is 3 verbs: POTERE (to be able to); VOLERE (to want to); and DOVERE (to have to).

You’ll be relieved to know that the 3 modal verbs always use AVERE

except: when making the past tense, then you use whatever auxiliary verb the infinitive of the verb you are using normally takes.

So, for example, you might normally say Loro non sono rimasti. But if you want to use a model verb to give nuance to your phrase, then you might say Loro non sono voluti (see that! the normal past participle is voluto, but you needed to change it to plural male or voluti) rimanere.

So, to recap, you could happily say Loro non sono rimasti (they didn’t stay), but if you want to say They didn’t want to stay, then you have to make some adjustments.  In that case you would say, Loro non sono voluti rimanere (they didn’t want to stay).

My advice is just to skip the subject and accept that they didn’t stay but you have no idea what their motive was.




Aprile in italia

Aprile, apriletto, un dì freddo un dì caldetto” –(April, oh April, one day you’re cold, the next you’re warm.)


The weather has been all over the place lately, exactly like it is supposed to be in April! Sunny and almost hot and then windy, rainy and cold.  Infatti, Aprile is quite notorious and has a pretty wild reputation in Italy. There are an astounding number of old Italian proverbs devoted to this wily month:

Aprile e Maggio son la chiave di tutto l’anno (April and May are the keys to the whole year).


And then: Aprile fa il fiore e maggio si ha il colore (April brings the flower and May the color.)


One I really like is: Aprile carciofaio, maggio ciliegiaio. (In April, artichoke. In May, cherries.)


April rains are their own category of proverbs. To wit:

*Aprile piovoso, maggio ventoso, anno fruttuoso” — Rainy April, windy May, fruitful year.


*L’acqua d’aprile, il bue ingrassa, il porco uccide, e la pecora se ne ride” — The water of April, the ox grows fat, the pig dies, and the sheep laughs.



*Quando tuona d’Aprile buon segno per il barile’ — When it thunders in April, it’s a good sign for the barrel (of wine).


And the weather can be a guide to men as well:  “Gli uomini sono aprile quando fanno all’amore, dicembre quando hanno sposato.“– (Men are like April when they flirt/court; like December once they are married.)

Hang on, May is almost here!