Italian Verb Conjugation Made Simple

Learn how to conjugate Italian verbs in the present, past and future.

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By Laura Pennacchietti · February 6, 2024 · 21 minute read

Using Italian conjugation correctly is one of the most basic parts of speaking Italian fluently. In Italian, the verb is the only word that cannot be missing from a meaningful phrase. So in order to communicate effectively, it is essential to learn how to use verbs correctly.

Verb conjugation is the process of changing verb forms so that they make sense in different phrases. Specifically, verbs need to change to match the subject of the sentence (‘I,’ ‘you,’ ‘he,’ ‘she,’ and so on), convey the right tense (present, past, or future), and express the ‘mood,’ or function, of the verb (for example, whether it’s a statement, a command, or a possibility).

Every language has a variety of tenses and moods. Italian has seven moods, each with a set of tenses. Does it sound scary? Maybe a bit, but don't worry! You don't need to master all of them in order to be conversational. We’ll start with the indicative mood, which is used to state facts. It’s the most basic one and also the most used in day-to-day conversation.

While the indicative mood has eight tenses, in this article we will just introduce the main ones: the present tense (presente), the future tense (futuro semplice), and the two principal tenses in the past – the passato prossimo and the imperfetto.

You can go a long way when you are able to use these four tenses alone, as you can comfortably talk about the past, present and future. Learning Italian verb conjugation in these four tenses will definitely advance your communication skills and prepare you for more complex grammar.

Feeling a little tense with Italian tenses?

conjugation busuu

No need to! You will soon be “felice” (happy) to learn that the verb "sono" is the first person singular conjugation of the verb "essere" (to be) in Italian. Start practising and become a master of Italian conjugation with Busuu’s free online courses!

Present, past and future

First, let's take a quick look at these four essential tenses. The presente is similar to the present tense in English – for example, 'I eat,' 'you do,' 'she goes,' and so on. In Italian we use it in the same way to talk about actions or things that do not have a specific time frame, but are true now and at any time. However, we also use it to talk about the here and now, and in this sense it is similar to English present continuous ('I am doing').

Here are a few examples:

  • Vivo a Milano. (I live in Milan.)
  • Sofia beve un caffè. (Sofia is drinking a cup of coffee.)
  • Roma è la capitale dell’Italia. (Rome is the capital of Italy.)

The futuro semplice is the equivalent of English future simple – for example, 'I will make,' 'we will see,' 'they will go' – and is similarly used to talk about the future in Italian. Interesting fact: Italians also use the present a lot to talk about the future, when they refer to things that are definitely going to happen.

Here are a couple examples of the futuro semplice:

  • L’anno prossimo farò un viaggio in Turchia. (Next year I’ll take a trip to Turkey.)
  • Carlo arriverà più tardi. (Carlo will arrive later.)

The imperfetto and the passato prossimo don't map neatly onto English tenses – they can be translated with simple past (‘I did’) or present perfect (‘I’ve done’) depending on the context.

In Italian, they are used in combination to talk about the past, with complementing functions. The imperfetto is used mainly for descriptions, past habits, and repeated actions in the past, and the passato prossimo is used for one-off events or actions that happened at a specific point in the past.

Look at these examples, where the imperfetto is underlined and the passato prossimo in bold:

  • Quando ero bambina, andavo sempre in vacanza in Spagna. Una volta, però, sono andata in Portogallo. (When I was a child, I used to go on holiday to Spain. Once, though, I went to Portugal.)
  • Mentre cucinavo, è arrivata Laura. (While I was cooking, Laura arrived.)

For a more detailed explanation of the passato prossimo and its uses, check our guide to passato prossimo.

Italian verb conjugation step by step

In order to conjugate a verb, there are two basic steps you need to follow: (1) find the stem of the verb in question and (2) add the correct ending corresponding to the mood, tense and person that fit your sentence.

The stem comes from the base form of the verb, called the infinitive. In order to obtain the stem, you need to remove the ending of the infinitive (-are, -ere and -ire for Italian regular verbs).

In the next section you'll find a practical example of this process, and then a guide on how to apply it to different types of verbs.

Stem + ending in practice

Here’s a practical example of Italian verb conjugation. I want to say 'I speak' in Italian. The verb ‘to speak’ in Italian is parlare. I remove the ending -are from the infinitive to obtain the stem of the verb, which is parl- . The subject of my sentence is ‘I’ – in Italian this is io.

I want to state a fact (indicative mood) in the present (present tense), so I need the first person ending for the present indicative – this is -o. I add it to the stem to obtain my conjugated verb: ‘io parlo.’

Maybe you haven’t thought about this, but the English language requires verb conjugation as well, although not as much. Matching the verb with the subject is simpler because most subjects have the same verb form. Here’s an example of the present tense:

  • I speak
  • You speak
  • He/she speaks
  • We speak
  • You (plural) speak
  • They speak

As you can see, all persons have the same ending apart from ‘he/she,’ which needs an extra -s.

Grammatical person

But what does the word ‘person’ mean in grammar terms? It is an abstract category, which quite simply refers to the subject of a sentence and its characteristics. Like English, Italian has three persons in the singular and three in the plural. But in Italian, usually each person has a different verb form.

In the table below you will find a brief explanation of the characteristics of each person along with examples.

Italian verb conjugation: Singular persons

Italian English Number Use Example
io I first to talk about myself Sono americano/a. (I am American.)
tu you (informal) second to address one single person informally Quanti anni hai? (How old are you?)
lui he third to talk about someone else (one single person) who identifies with male gender Lui non mangia carne. (He doesn’t eat meat.)
lei she third to talk about someone else (one single person) who identifies with female gender Lei camminava. (She was walking.)
Lei you (formal) third to address one single person formally Lei ha un appuntamento, signora? (Do you have an appointment, madam?)

Italian verb conjugation: Plural persons

Italian English Number Use Example
noi we first to talk about myself and someone else Siamo sposati. (We are married.)
voi you second to address more than one person directly Ragazzi, venite al cinema? (Guys, are you coming to the cinema?)
loro they third to talk about other people (more than one person) Loro lavorano qui. (They work here.)

The words in the Italian and English columns above are called ‘subject pronouns’ because they represent the subject in sentences. However, in the third person, the subject of the sentence could also be the name of the person or thing that the sentence is about, as in the following examples:

  • Cristina va al lavoro in bici. (Cristina cycles to work.)
  • Tua madre è molto gentile. (Your mother is very kind.)
  • Oggi il cielo è grigio. (The sky is gray today.) *I miei amici vivono qui vicino. (My friends live nearby.)

Why verb conjugation is so important in Italian

You might have noticed that in some examples in the table above the ‘person’ (or subject pronoun) of the sentence (words like io, tu, lui, lei) is stated, but in some sentences it’s missing. This is because in Italian, unlike in English, the subject of the sentence – the person or thing that performs the action – can be implied, and does not have to be expressed.

To go back to our previous example, ‘I speak’ could be translated as “io amo il cibo italiano” but also just “amo il cibo italiano.” In the second case, the subject is implied by the verb, because amo is the verb form that corresponds to the first person singular.

Because of this, verb conjugation is even more crucial for Italian, because in the absence of the subject pronoun, the only part of the sentence that gives out key information about the subject (who performs the action or who the sentence is about) is the verb.

Consider these sentences:

  • Oggi mangio la pizza. (Today I eat pizza.)
  • Oggi mangi la pizza. (Today you eat pizza.)
  • Oggi mangia la pizza. (Today he or she eats pizza.)

The three sentences are almost exactly the same apart from one letter of the verb, but this tiny change makes all the difference, as it tells us who performs the action – who eats the pizza. Do you see now why verb conjugation is so important, and even more so in Italian?

Now that you know how Italian conjugation works, and why it is so key, next you need to know what endings to select from when forming verbs. You'll find these in the next section. But first, let’s look into the difference between regular and irregular verbs.

Regular and irregular verbs

Italian verbs are grouped into three categories: -are verbs (like amare), -ere verbs (like prendere), and -ire verbs (divided into two sub-groups, like dormire or finire). The vast majority of Italian verbs fall under one of these categories. This classification is based on how the base form of the verb (the infinitive) ends, therefore it is key to keep in mind the infinitive when conjugating.

The good news is that all the regular verbs in the same group follow the same conjugation pattern, meaning that they all have the same endings in all the tenses. So you only need to learn it once!

Unfortunately, some verbs do not follow the regular patterns, which is why they are called 'irregular' verbs. Their conjugation is often unique or shared with smaller groups of verbs.

However, it is often possible to find similarities with the regular patterns, which helps when memorizing these unique systems. We will present the most important ones later on in this article. But first, let’s look at the three groups of regular verbs.

One note about reflexive verbs: We will not deal with them specifically in this article. They follow the same rules as any other verb, and only need the addition of the correct reflexive pronouns. If you need a refresher, check our easy guide to reflexive verbs in Italian.

-are verbs conjugation

Verbs belonging to the first group have an infinitive ending in -are. This is called the ‘prima coniugazione’ (‘first conjugation’) and is by far the largest category of verbs. It also has the smallest number of irregular verbs.

This group includes very frequently used verbs such as amare (to love), parlare (to speak), mangiare (to eat), arrivare (to arrive), lavorare (to work), studiare (to study), viaggiare (to travel), comprare (to buy), and entrare (to enter).

To conjugate these verbs, you need to find the stem first. The stem of -are verbs is obtained by removing the three letters -are from the infinitive. The stems of the verbs listed above would be am-, parl-, mangi-, arriv-, lavor-, studi-, viaggi-, compr-, and entr-.

Once you have the stem, you need to add the endings that match the person and tense you need in your sentence (and the mood, which we don’t consider here, as we are dealing only with the indicative mood).

In the table below you’ll find the sets of endings for the presente, the futuro semplice and the imperfetto.

Italian conjugation chart for verbs ending in -are

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto
io parlo parlerò parlavo
tu parli parlerai parlavi
lui / lei parla parlerà parlava
noi parliamo parleremo parlavamo
voi parlate parlerete parlavate
loro parlano parleranno parlavano

Learn how to conjugate Italian verbs in the past tense!

conjugation busuu

You will learn that the Italian verb "ha studiato" is the third person singular conjugation of the verb "studiare" (to study) in the passato prossimo tense. Continue learning Italian conjugation via Busuu’s free online courses!

Compound tenses: il passato prossimo

What are simple and compound tenses? Simple tenses are made of a single word, while compound tenses are made of more than one. The presente, futuro semplice and imperfetto are simple tenses, while the passato prossimo is a compound tense because it is made of two words, so its conjugation works differently.

The first part of a compound tense is always the auxiliary verb, which in Italian can be either essere (to be) or avere (to have). The second part is the past participle form of the verb. (In English, this is also the second word in most compound tenses, like 'talked,' 'gone,' and 'done').

In compound tenses, the first word (the auxiliary verb) has to be conjugated, while the past participle is either the same for all persons, when avere is the auxiliary verb, or changes only to match the subject in gender and number, when the auxiliary verb is essere. You can find an example of this in the table below.

Like all verb forms, the past participle of a regular verb is derived from the stem. For regular verbs ending in -are, you need to remove -are and add -ato. With verbs that take auxiliary verb essere, you will also need to turn the -o at the end of the past participle into an -a if the subject is feminine, an -i if the subject is masculine plural or mixed, and an -e if the subject is feminine plural.

Italian conjugation chart for verbs ending in -are: Passato prossimo

Person Verb conjugation: parlare Verb conjugation: arrivare
io Verb conjugation: parlare ho parlatosono arrivato/a
tu hai parlato sei arrivato/a
lui / lei ha parlato è arrivato/a
noi abbiamo parlato siamo arrivati/e
voi avete parlato siete arrivati/e
loro hanno parlato sono arrivati/e

For a detailed explanation of how to conjugate and use the passato prossimo, check out our practical guide. From now on in this article, we will group the passato prossimo together with the other tenses in order to give a comprehensive overview of the present, past and future tenses.

Spelling-changing -are verbs

There are a few -are verbs that, while following the regular conjugation, need some spelling adjustments in a few tenses for the sake of phonetic consistency. We will briefly present these cases in this section.

Verbs ending in -care and -gare

Verbs ending in _-care and -gare, like toccare_ (to touch) and pagare (to pay), need some spelling adjustments in the presente and futuro semplice in order to maintain the correct 'hard' c and g sound, where the letters -c and -g in the stem come before an -i or -e in the ending. In this case, an h is added in between the two letters, as you can see in the tables below.

Italian conjugation chart for verbs ending in -care

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io tocco toccherò toccavo ho toccato
tu tocchi toccherai toccavi hai toccato
lui / lei tocca toccherà toccava ha toccato
noi tocchiamo toccheremo toccavamo abbiamo toccato
voi toccate toccherete toccavate avete toccato
loro toccano toccheranno toccavano hanno toccato

Italian conjugation chart for verbs ending in -gare

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io pago pagherò pagavo ho pagato
tu paghi pagherai pagavi hai pagato
lui / lei paga pagherà pagava ha pagato
noi paghiamo pagheremo pagavamo abbiamo pagato
voi pagate pagherete pagavate avete pagato
loro pagano pagheranno pagavano hanno pagato

Verbs ending in -ciare and -giare

Verbs ending in -ciare and -giare, like lanciare (to throw) and mangiare (to eat), lose the -i of the stem when the ending starts with an -i or an -e, as the -i is no longer needed to get the correct soft c and g sounds.

Italian conjugation chart for -ciare verbs

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io lancio lancerò lanciavo ho lanciato
tu lanci lancerai lanciavi hai lanciato
lui / lei lancia lancerà lanciava ha lanciato
noi lanciamo lanceremo lanciavamo abbiamo lanciato
voi lanciate lancerete lanciavate avete lanciato
loro lanciano lanceranno lanciavano hanno lanciato

Italian conjugation chart for verbs ending in -giare

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io mangio mangerò mangiavo ho mangiato
tu mangi mangerai mangiavi hai mangiato
lui / lei mangia mangerà mangiava ha mangiato
noi mangiamo mangeremo mangiavamo abbiamo mangiato
voi mangiate mangerete mangiavate avete mangiato
loro mangiano mangeranno mangiavano hanno mangiato

-ere verb conjugation

The second group of verbs (‘seconda coniugazione’) has an infinitive ending in -ere, like ripetere (to repeat).

Some high-frequency verbs belonging to this group are prendere (to take or to get), leggere (to read), scrivere (to write), credere (to believe), vedere (to see), accendere (to turn on), spegnere (to turn off), rompere (to break), ridere (to laugh), ricevere (to receive), perdere (to lose), and vendere (to sell).

To obtain the stem of these verbs, you need to remove -ere from the infinitive and add the correct endings, which you’ll find in the table below.

Italian conjugation chart for -ere verbs

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io ripeto ripeterò ripetevo ho ripetuto
tu ripeti ripeterai ripetevi hai ripetuto
lui / lei ripete ripeterà ripeteva ha ripetuto
noi ripetiamo ripeteremo ripetevamo abbiamo ripetuto
voi ripetete ripeterete ripetevate avete ripetuto
loro ripetono ripeteranno ripetevano hanno ripetuto

This group has the greatest number of irregular verbs, which means that many verbs ending in -ere have some irregularity in their conjugation pattern. In many cases, the irregular tense is the passato prossimo, or more precisely, the past participle.

Here’s a list of the irregular past participles of the -ere verbs listed above. These verbs follow the regular conjugation pattern for the other tenses:

prendere → preso
leggere → letto
scrivere → scritto
vedere → visto
accendere → acceso
spegnere → spento
rompere → rotto
ridere → riso
perdere → perso

Note: ‘Vedere’ is also irregular in the futuro (‘vedrò’).

-ire verb conjugation

The third group of verbs ends in -ire. This is called the ‘terza coniugazione.’

Some common verbs belonging to this group are aprire (to open)*, dormire (to sleep), partire (to leave), sentire (to hear or to feel), riempire (to fill), servire (to serve or to be necessary), vestire (to dress), and seguire (to follow).

In order to obtain the stem of these verbs, you need to remove -ire and add the correct endings, which you can find in the table below.

Note: ‘Aprire’ has an irregular past participle, ‘aperto.’

Italian conjugation chart for -ire verbs

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io dormo dormirò dormivo ho dormito
tu dormi dormirai dormivi hai dormito
lui / lei dorme dormirà dormiva ha dormito
noi dormiamo dormiremo dormivamo abbiamo dormito
voi dormite dormivate dormivate avete dormito
loro dormono dormiranno dormivano hanno dormito

Something unique about this verb group is that there is a subgroup of verbs which need the insertion of the letters -isc- between the root and the endings, but only in some tenses and for some persons. You can find these highlighted in red in the table below.

The most common verbs that follow this pattern are finire (to finish), capire (to understand), pulire (to clean), preferire (to prefer), spedire (to send or to mail), gestire (to manage), gradire (to appreciate or to like) costruire (to build), sparire (to disappear), proibire (to forbid), and definire (to define).

Italian conjugation chart for -ire verbs, second type

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io finisco finirò finivo ho finito
tu finisci finirai finivi hai finito
lui / lei finisce finirà finiva ha finito
noi finiamo finiremo finivamo abbiamo finito
voi finite finirete finivate avete finito
loro finiscono finiranno finivano hanno finito

Great! Now you’ve seen how to conjugate all three groups of regular verbs in the present tense, future tense, imperfetto and passato prossimo. Time to move on to a new challenge – irregular verbs!

Irregular verbs

Irregular verbs have an irregular infinitive or, more often, have a ‘regular’ infinitive but their conjugation is partially or completely different from the regular patterns. The endings are often similar to the regular ones, if not the same (which is good news!). However, they can combine with the stem in a unique way, or the stem might not be consistent in different verb tenses.

It is usually best to approach these verbs individually, although it’s useful to try to find patterns shared with other verbs. It is not possible to give a complete list of all irregular verbs here, so we will only introduce a small but handy selection.

The most relevant irregular verbs are undoubtedly avere and essere. Not only are they used all the time, but also, as we said above, they serve as auxiliary verbs, so they are necessary to construct compound tenses (like the passato prossimo). They are absolutely irregular, especially in the present tense – you will simply have to learn them by heart!

Essere conjugation chart (to be)

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io sono sarò ero sono stato/a
tu sei sarai eri sei stato/a
lui / lei è sarà era è stato/a
noi siamo saremo eravamo siamo stati/e
voi siete sarete eravate siete stati/e
loro sono saranno erano sono stati/e

Avere conjugation chart (to have)

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io ho avrò avevo ho avuto
tu hai avrai avevi hai avuto
lui / lei ha avrà aveva ha avuto
noi abbiamo avremo avevamo abbiamo avuto
voi avete avrete avevate avete avuto
loro hanno avranno avevano hanno avuto

Can you see how the endings are very similar to those of regular verbs, even for these extremely irregular verbs? This will definitely help you memorize them! Our brief list of irregular verbs continues with andare (to go) and fare (to do or to make).

Andare conjugation chart (to go)

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io vado andrò andavo sono andato/a
tu vai andrai andavi sei andato/a
lui / lei va andrà andava è andato/a
noi andiamo andremo andavamo siamo andati/e
voi andate andrete andavate avete avuto
loro vanno andranno andavano sono andati/e

Fare conjugation chart (to do or make)

Person Presente Futuro semplice Imperfetto Passato prossimo
io faccio farò facevo ho fatto
tu fai farai facevi hai fatto
lui / lei fa farò faceva ha fatto
noi facciamo faremo facevamo abbiamo fatto
voi fate farete facevate avete fatto
loro fanno faranno facevano hanno fatto

You might have noticed that some tenses tend to be more regular than others. While the presente has a lot of irregularities, the imperfetto is nearly always regular.

There are so many irregular verbs in the Italian language that it’s impossible to list them all here, but hopefully you have a better idea of what irregular verbs are, as well as how to conjugate the most important ones.

Wrapping up

Mastering Italian verb conjugation is an essential part of learning a language, and it will definitely up your game in terms of using Italian confidently and effectively.

It can feel daunting, but as you’ve learned in this article, you can reduce it to two simple steps – just find the stem and add the ending that fits the mood, tense and person you need. As usual, it becomes easier with practice!

Now it’s time to practice. Try learning with us!

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