How to say need in Italian: avere bisogno di and bisognare

The English verb “need” is often translated in Italian with either the impersonal verb bisognare or the verbal expression avere bisogno di: avere + bisogno + di + noun/verb. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two.

Bisognare: When to use and examples

Bisognare is exclusively used as an impersonal verb (meaning that it does not need a grammatical subject). It exists just in simple tenses (simple future, simple conditional, etc..) and is used only in the third person singular: bisogna. An infinite verb always follows it when the subject is not identified. Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the verb bisognare.

  • To express a need or an obligation for some action to be performed, when there is no subject (it refers to a general rule or something that applies to everyone). In this case, bisognare is followed by a verb in the infinitive form:

Bisogna fare silenzio al cinema durante il film.

It is necessary to be quit at the cinema during the movie.

  • To express a need or an obligation for some action to be performed, when a subject is determined. In this case, bisognare is followed by che + subjuntctive

Bisogna che gli studenti si impegnino di più.

It is necessary that the students work harder.

Avere bisogno di: When to use and examples

The verbal expression avere bisogno di can be broken down as follows:

The verb avere: it is conjugated as usual according to the mood and tense which fit the sentence

+ the noun bisogno

+ preposition di

+ a noun the indicates the object or person that is needed or a verb in the infinitive form that indicates the action that needs to be performed.

Note on the verb avere: like other frequently used verbs, avere is an irregular verb, meaning that it does not follow the same pattern as other second conjugation verbs and presents many different forms for each tense.

Note on the preposition di: when di is followed by a verb (in the infinitive form), it is always left as is. For nouns instead it might be left as is or conjugated according to the noun immediately following it. It is left as is if the noun requires no article or if it requires an indefinite article. It is conjugated if the noun requires a definitive article. In that case one of the following seven forms is used: del, dello, dei, degli, della, delle, or dell’.

Avere bisogno di: Examples

Let’s look at some sentences to see when it’s suitable to use the expression avere bisogno di.

  • With a noun, to express the need for something (physical)

Ho bisogno di una macchina nuova.

I need a new car.

  • With a noun, to express the need for something (abstract or metaphorical)

Noi abbiamo bisogno del tuo aiuto.

We need your help.

  • With a verb, to express the need to do something

Ho bisogno di fare una vacanza.

I need to go on a vacation.

  • With the pronouns me/te/lui/lei/noi/voi/loro.

Hai bisogno di me?

Do you need me? (= do you need my help?)

Audio lessons to practice bisogno (need)

To practice bisogno ( need), take Lesson 24 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.


For a printable version, register or login.

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