Italian Verb Conjugation: An Easy Guide

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If you’ve ever heard the phrase “Italian verb conjugation” before, you might be a little nervous about this topic. Verbs can get easily frustrating for Italian learners, but verbs are “action” words and they’re important to expressing what someone or something is doing.

Don’t worry. Today, we’re going to explain what verb conjugation is and what it looks like in Italian, all in this easy-to-understand guide. By the end, you’ll know the steps to conjugating Italian verbs, plus the basics of the present tense in Italian.

Basics of Italian verbs

First off, remember that a verb is the part of the sentence that describes an action or state of being. Some examples in English are:

  • Run
  • Jump
  • Speak
  • Eat

In English, when the word is in the “to + verb” form, it hasn’t been changed to agree with a subject (I, you, they, etc.). When a verb is in this basic form, it’s called an infinitive. Examples of infinitives in English:

  • To run
  • To jump
  • To speak
  • To eat

Conjugated means that the verb has been changed to fit the subject.

  • Is” or “are” are the conjugated forms of the verb “to be” in English.
  • He speaks” shows a conjugated form of “to speak” — we add an “s” because it’s agreeing with the third person singular subject “he”.
  • Eat”, “eating”, and “will eat” are all examples of a conjugated verb in different tenses.

The three steps to conjugating a verb in Italian:

  1. Figure out what the subject of the sentence is (that is, who’s doing the action).
  2. Look at the verb’s infinitive form (the base form) and then take away the last three letters. This will leave you with the verb stem.
  3. Add the right ending to the verb.

That’s it! So let’s begin with the first step.

Step 1: Finding the subject in Italian

To conjugate a verb, you must know what the subject is. That is, who or what is doing the action. For this, let’s review Italian pronouns:

Italian pronouns

English pronoun Italian pronoun
I io
you tu
he/she/it lui/lei/esso/essa
we noi
you (plural) voi
they loro

Pro-tip: In formal situations, like when speaking to a professor or boss, you might use the formal “you” pronoun, Lei. While it looks like the female pronoun lei, they’re not the same. You can use the formal “you” Lei for both men and women, but it follows the same conjugation rules as lui/lei.

There are six Italian pronouns, which means we’ll have six conjugated forms for every Italian verb. Each subject will get its own special conjugation. Why?

In English, we always include the subject (I, we, they, etc.) in our sentences because our verbs don’t demonstrate the subject by themselves. For example, you would never say “speak Italian”. If you said that, no one would know who you’re talking about. Instead, you’d say, “I speak Italian.”

But in Italian, speakers often drop the subjects entirely. This is because verbs in Italian are always conjugated to their subject, so we inherently know what the subject is based on the ending of the verb. In short, Italian verbs express who the subject is.

  • Parlare (to speak) -> parlo (I speak).
  • Mangiare (to eat) -> mangi (you eat).

Step 2: Finding the Italian verb stem

There are three types of Italian verbs, and you can tell based on their endings.

Italian verb types

Italian verb endings Examples
-are lavorare (to work) parlare (to speak) abitare (to live/reside)
-ere vedere (to see) vivere (to live) leggere (to read)
-ire dormire (to sleep) sentire (to feel/taste/hear) partire (to leave)

When you see a verb that ends in -are, -ere or -ire, that’s an infinitive (the base verb, which means “to + any verb” in English). Luckily, regular Italian verbs with the same ending will follow the same rule, so all regular -are verbs will be conjugated the same way.

To conjugate verbs in Italian, find the verb stem. This is easy: drop the last three letters of the infinitive verb, and that’s the verb stem!

  • Mangiare (to eat) -> mangi-
  • Vivere (to live) -> viv- * Dormire (to sleep) -> dorm-

Once you have the verb stem, you can add various endings to demonstrate different subjects or tenses:

  • Abit-o (I live)
  • Abit-avo (I was living or I used to live)
  • Abit-erò (I will live)
  • Abit-i (you live)
  • Abit-avi (you were living or you used to live)

And so on. For today, let’s focus on how to create the present tense (presente indicativo) in Italian.

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Step 3: Adding the right endings to the Italian verb

-are verbs in Italian

Let’s look at how we can conjugate regular Italian verbs ending in -are using mangiare (to eat). If the verb ends with -are, the -are is dropped and we’ll add our new ending.

How to conjugate verbs ending in -are

English pronoun Italian pronoun Conjugation ending Present tense
I io -o mangio
you tu -i mangi
he/she/it lui/lei -a mangia
we noi -iamo mangiamo
you (plural) voi -ate mangiate
they loro -ano mangiano

Quick tip: If the verb stem already ends in an “i”, as in “mangi-” then it’s not necessary to add a second “i”

For example:

  • Mangiiamo X
  • Mangiamo ✓

-ere verbs in Italian

Let’s use the example vedere (to see). Take off the last three letters and the verb stem is ved-.

How to conjugate verbs ending in -ere

English pronoun Italian pronoun Conjugation ending Present tense
I io -o vedo
you tu -i vedi
he/she/it lui/lei -e vede
we noi -iamo vediamo
you (plural) voi -ete vedete
they loro -ono vedono

As you can see, the rule is pretty similar to verbs ending in -are, but the differences are bold. Only the third person singular (he/she/it), third person plural (they) and the second person plural (you all) will change.

-ire verbs in Italian

Last but not least, we have -ire verbs. In the present tense, drop -ire and add the following endings. Let’s see how this looks with the verb sentire (to feel, taste, hear, or smell

How to conjugate verbs ending in -ire

English pronoun Italian pronoun Conjugation ending Present tense
I io -o sento
you tu -i senti
he/she/it lui/lei -e sente
we noi -iamo sentiamo
you (plural) voi -ite sentite
they loro -ono sentono

The only difference between -ere and -ire verb endings is in the second person plural (you all) ending. There, it will change from -ete into -ite.

And that’s it! Now you know the three major patterns to conjugating Italian verbs into the present tense. Once you know the pattern, you can conjugate hundreds of verbs.

Irregular Italian verbs

Of course, there’s always exceptions to any rule. Some verbs won’t follow these rules of conjugation. In those cases, unfortunately the only thing to do is to memorize their forms and practice them.

Fear not — as frustrating as this sounds, you really only need to start by memorizing the most common irregular verbs. And with time, they’ll become second-nature.

Here are the most useful irregular Italian verbs to memorize:

Italian singular pronouns Present tense Italian plural pronouns
io (I) sono noi (we) siamo
tu (you) sei voi (you plural) siete
lui/lei (he/she) è loro (they) sono

Avere (to have)

Italian singular pronouns Present tense Italian plural pronouns
io (I) ho noi (we) abbiamo
tu (you) hai voi (you plural) avete
lui/lei (he/she) ha loro (they) hanno

Fare (to make/do)

Italian singular pronouns Present tense Italian plural pronouns
io (I) faccio noi (we) facciamo
tu (you) fai voi (you plural) fate
lui/lei (he/she) fa loro (they) fanno

Potere (to be able to/can)

Italian singular pronouns Present tense Italian plural pronouns
io (I) posso noi (we) possiamo
tu (you) puoi voi (you plural) potete
lui/lei (he/she) può loro (they) possono

Dire (to say)

Italian singular pronouns Present tense Italian plural pronouns
io (I) dico noi (we) diciamo
tu (you) dici voi (you plural) dite
lui/lei (he/she) dice loro (they) dicono

Andare (to go)

Italian singular pronouns Present tense Italian plural pronouns
io (I) vado noi (we) andiamo
tu (you) vai voi (you plural) andate
lui/lei (he/she) va loro (they) vanno

How to begin making Italian verb conjugations as a beginner

For now, don’t try to learn all the verb tenses at once. Start with the present simple (presente indicativo) and that will have you making successful conversations in Italian!

With time and reinforcement, the right conjugation will come naturally to you. You’ll begin saying the right verb ending without hesitation. It takes practice: writing them down, hearing them spoken, and saying them out loud, over and over.

But practice doesn’t have to be boring. A great tool for studying Italian verb conjugations is Busuu. As a language learning app, Busuu teaches Italian through its award-winning online courses and supportive Italian-speaking community.

Need help remembering Italian verbs?

At Busuu, we believe practice makes perfect. Reinforce your skills using Italian verbs with our free award-winning online courses, and start conversations with our growing community of Italian speakers