Italian Verbs: An Introduction

All Italian verbs can be divided into three groups and are classified according to the ending of their infinitive forms into three groups (conjugations): – are, – ere, or – ire. Distinctions between these groups are important to learn how to form verb tenses in Italian, such as the regular present tense.

First conjugation verbs end in – are. For example: mangiare (= to eat), lavorare (= to work), studiare (= to study), imparare (= to learn).

Second conjugation verbs end in – ere. For example: leggere (=to read), perdere (= to lose), vivere (= to live).

Third conjugation verbs end in – ere. For example: dormire (= to sleep), capire (= to understand), preferire (= to prefer).

How do you conjugate verbs in Italian? Conjugation is simply the act of changing a verb to suit the way it’s being used inside the sentences, in the same way that the verb “to be” in English changes according to the subject and verb tense and becomes “I am”, “you are”, “he is”, or “I was”, “they were”, and so on.

Italian regular verbs conjugate according to:

  • the subject
  • the verb tenses
  • the verb group (or conjugation): – are, – ere, or – ire

When you conjugate a regular verb, you take the first part of the infinitive version of the verb and then add on the ending that correlates to the subject, the tense, and the ending of the infinitive version. Depending on the groups of verbs you’re conjugating (– are, – ere, or – ire) the endings will be different. Most Italian verbs use regular conjugations, which means that most verbs from each of the three groups follow a pattern that is the same every time.

Still, some very common verbs in Italian are irregular verbs, which means they do not exactly follow these rules.

Regular Present Tense: Conjugation

First conjugation regular verbs (ending in – are) conjugate as follows by adding different endings to the verb root, depending on the subject. Please note that the verb root is what is left after the suffix “– are” is removed from the infinitive form.

Present Tense (First Conjugation)
io lavoro
tu lavori
lui/lei lavora
noi lavoriamo
voi lavorate
loro lavorano

 

Second conjugation regular verbs (ending in – ere) conjugate as follows by adding different endings to the verb root, depending on the subject. Please note that the verb root is what is left after the suffix “– ere” is removed from the infinitive form.

Present Tense (Second Conjugation)
io vivo
tu vivi
lui/lei vive
noi viviamo
voi vivete
loro vivono

 

Third conjugation regular verbs (ending in – ire) conjugate as follows by adding different endings to the verb root, depending on the subject. Please note that the verb root is what is left after the suffix “– ire” is removed from the infinitive form.

Important: some regular verbs in this group (ending in – ire) also add the suffix –isc between the root and the declination. The suffix -isc is only added for the subjects: io, tu, lui/lei, loro, and not for noi and voi.

Present Tense (Second Conjugation)
Without suffix –isc With suffix –isc
io dormo capisco
tu dormi capisci
lui/lei dorme capisce
noi dormiamo capiamo
voi dormite capite
loro dormono capiscono

 

Present Tense: Explained

In Italian, the present tense is used in the following cases:

  • To talk about ongoing actions happening in the present:

Lucia vive a Bologna.

Lucia lives in Bologna.

Oggi lavoro da casa.

I’m working from home today.

  • To talk about general truths:

L’acqua bolle a 100 gradi.

Water boils at 100 degrees.

Le tigri non vivono in Africa.

Tigers don’t live in Africa.

  • To talk about habits and recurrent actions still happening in the present:

Mangio due piatti di pasta al giorno.

I eat pasta twice a day.

Tutte le sere leggo un po’ prima di andare a dormire.

Every evening I read for a bit before I go to sleep.

  • Sometimes, the present tense is used to talk about the future, if the time of the action is clear from other elements in the sentence, meaning if other words refer to a future time or event.

Domani torno a casa.

I’m going back home tomorrow.

Audio lessons to practice the present tense of regular verbs

To practice the present tense of regular verbs, take Lesson 7 of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“.

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