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Ci vuole: Italian grammar lesson 70

Ci vuole: Explained

Many students struggle with understanding when and how ci should be used in Italian, because this particle has several different meanings. This lesson focuses on a very common use of ci: the idiomatic expressions ci vuole / ci vogliono (the infinitive form is volerci).

This can be confusing, because the original meaning of the verb volere is “to want”, but this idiomatic expression has nothing to do with expressing a want or desire.

Instead, ci paired with the verb volere is used when we want to talk about a period of time that is needed to do something (such as completing an action) or go somewhere (get to a destination). In this case, it usually corresponds to the English translation “it takes”, as in “how long does it take?”.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

Da Milano a Roma ci vogliono 3 ore di treno.

It takes 3 hours by train to get from Milan to Rome.

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Ci vuole solo un attimo.

It only takes a moment.

Per andare in centro in autobus ci vogliono 20 minuti.

It takes 20 minutes to get to the city center by bus.

Per andare in centro in autobus ci vogliono 20 minuti.

It takes 20 minutes to get to the city center by bus.

Ci vuole: Conjugation

The present tense (ci vuole and ci vogliono) is used to describe the period of time it typically takes to reach a destination. This has a general meaning and does not refer to any specific instance. For example:

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Per andare in centro in autobus ci vogliono 20 minuti.

This sentence means that it usually takes 20 minutes to get to the city center by bus. It is a general estimation.

But when do we use ci vuole, and when do we use ci vogliono? To understand which one to use, we need to remind ourselves that the sentence subject is the period of time needed to get to the destination. Therefore, if the period of time has a singular meaning we use ci vuole, and if it has a plural meaning we use ci vogliono.

Examples of periods of time with a singular meaning:

  • un minuto (=one minute)
  • un attimo/un momento (=one moment)
  • un’ora (=one hour)
  • un giorno (=one day)
  • una settimana (= one week)
  • tempo (= time)

Quanto tempo ci vuole per completare questo corso di Italiano?

How long does it take to complete this Italian language course?

Examples of periods of time with a plural meaning:

  • 20 minuti (=20 minutes)
  • tre ore (=three hours)
  • cinque giorni (=five days)
  • sette anni (= seven years)
  • mesi (= months)
  • settimane (= weeks)

Quante settimane ci vogliono per completare questo corso di Italiano?

How many weeks does it take to complete this Italian language course?

To practice Ci vuole: Italian grammar lesson 70, take lesson
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