Easter Sunday afternoon.
Having enjoyed a good lunch of tagliatelle al salmone affumicato followed by parmigiana di melanzane (do take a look at the recipes and videos), my wife has departed down the street to drink coffe with her cousin, leaving me alone at the computer to write about…
And specifically, why they are much less important in Italian than you might imagine.
I teach English to Italians as my day job.
Students will often ask me “But are all these (English) tenses really necessary?”
Hoping I’ll say something like:
“Chill. They’re just details. Use the present for everything, like you do in Italian. It’ll be fine!”
But instead I have to disappoint them when they lament that, with such subtle differences in meaning, it really can’t matter (can it?) whether they choose one verb form or the other.
For example, the difference between ‘I went to London’ and ‘I’ve been to London’.
“That’s basically the same thing, right?”
You could say that English is ‘long’ on tense forms (has lots of them) while being ‘short’ on verb conjugations (thank goodness.)
Italian is the opposite: Italians have verb conjugations coming out of their ears but use fewer tense forms than we do.
Here’s a list of English tense forms that I often write up on the whiteboard for my more advanced students.
I’ve annotated next to it whether similar forms exist in Italian.
Premise, I’m not a linguist, and it IS just a quick, Sunday afternoon, list…
Present simple – exists in Italian, but has a much greater variety of uses. This is THE tense.
Present progressive – exists, but is much less used
Present perfect – not in so many words…
Present perfect progressive – nothing similar exists
Past simple – exists in Italian, but is often confused with the English ‘present perfect’ or Italian ‘passato remoto’
Past progressive – exists and is basically the same
Past perfect – exists and is basically the same
Past perfect progressive – nothing similar exists
Future simple – exists and is basically the same, though poorly understood…
Future progressive – nothing similar exists
Future perfect – exists and is basically the same
Future perfect progressive – nothing similar exists
Count the gaps.
It’s mostly the progressive form that’s absent without leave.
The Italian progressive aspect is a 90-pound weakling.
Our English ‘Mr Universe’ kicks sand in its face.
The pefect aspect also makes life tricky.
While it exists in the past, present and future, in the present it’s expressed using other tenses, rather than having a dedicated form all to itself.
Well, instead of using a perfect tense form to say ‘I’ve lived in Bologna since 1998’, Italians would use the present:
‘Abito a Bologna da 1998.’
And ‘L’ho fatto’ could mean ‘I did it’ or ‘I’ve done it.’
You’d work out which from the context.
Insomma, the tense systems in the two languages are NOT EQUIVALENT.
Italy has the weather, the food, the pretty girls and the fashion.
The anglosphere has the tenses!
Try translating from tense A in Italian to tense A in English, or vice versa.
The chances are that you’ll fall into a pit and be impaled on sharpened spikes.
Nevertheless, while the situation might be bleak for Italians learning English, for those of us doing it the other way around, it’s not nearly as hard as it looks.
Lesson no. 1: forget trying to express complex meanings with tenses, as you would do in English.
Lesson no. 2: learn the present and past, then go sit in the sun with a beer.
Which brings me nicely up to the commercial break…
If you hadn’t already guessed, today I’m trying to flog our best-selling ‘The Tenses You Need To Speak Italian‘, which I think was our first or possibly second ebook, from way back in 2013!
Just as the title says, it’s an explanation of the Italian tenses you need to get by, and only those.
It’s written in English and comes with a few .mp3s for the listening practice exercises.
There’s a free sample chapter here.
N.B. both the free sample chapter and the paid-for full version come in zipped folders, which means that you download an attachment that contains multiple files (the ebook and the accompanying audio files).
You can’t therefore just click on it and expect to see a preview.
First, click the link to download the zipped folder.
Then find it in your downloads folder.
Extract the contents – normally right clicking on it and choosing ‘extract all’ will do the job, but it’s different with a Mac.
Finally, save the opened files some place safe on your computer.
And Bob’s your uncle, it’s time to study tenses!
Did I mention that, despite the primitive graphics, The Tenses You Need To Speak Italian is one of our best-sellers?
There are recent reviews in our new shop here.
Other, older ones can be found in the club shop here.
And of course, if you get it with the Easter Sale coupon code (see below), you’ll be able to master Italian tenses for 20% less!
Allora, hope you enjoy the recipes, the sample chapter, and the rest of your Sunday!
I’m off to locate my wife and organise an ‘aperitivo’ in the sunshine.
Feedback from a club member about the ‘Pay with Amazon’ option, only available in our new shop:
I just bought another ten lessons via the easyreaders.org site using Amazon for payment. Wow, that was the quickest way I ever spend £100 — thank you for making it so simple!
Stock up today on online Italian lessons and/or ebooks for learning Italian to save 20%!
Copy and paste this coupon into the box in your shopping cart (where it says ‘Apply coupon’):
easter offer 2017
Italian lessons / ebooks can be bought in EUROS from onlineitalianclub.com, with payment through Paypal, here:
Or from easyreaders.org in British pounds, with payment through Paypal, Amazon or bank transfer (if you have a UK bank account) here:
If you’re unsure what to do, check out the ‘how to use the coupon code’ page.
The explanations, pictures and links are for the club shop, but the process is identical in the new shop.
(Note that, once you’ve applied the coupon code and pressed the button, you won’t see the actual item cost change – you need to scroll down the page to see that your order total has been discounted.)
- Coupon code easter offer 2017 gets you a 20% discount on lessons and ebooks
- It’s valid through 23/04/17
- There’s no min. or max. spend
- It can be used multiple times until the end of the offer on 23rd April 2017
- It applies to items on sale too (but cannot be used with other coupons you may have)