People do seem to have trouble getting their heads around them.
Part of the problem is the tense system, of course (of which more another day).
But there’s a much bigger problem, especially for beginners.
English speakers quite reasonably expect the “who is doing it” part to go right at the front of what they want to say.
It comes as quite a shock to find out that the “I, You, He, She, It, We, You or They” that they’ve been beginning sentences with since they could first talk isn’t really welcome in Italian.
And nobody even tells you WHY this is.
Probably because language teachers are clever dicks who went to university and know LOTS of foreign languages.
“It’s just so, so obvious!”
Well it isn’t. Or at least it wasn’t for me.
So, once more, I’m on my mission to ‘think Italian, like an Italian’. Today it’s verbs.
Ready? OK, hold on. Switching to thinking like an Italian…. three, two, one… now!
Today worki at home but my wife, poverina, goshe to work.
In the morning writei a couple of blog posts, then goi to the supermarket to do the shopping.
At 14.00 my two daughters comethey home from school, eatthey the lunch that preparei, and disappearthey into their rather smelly bedrooms until isit time to consume the next meal.
At 16.30 pick upi my youngest son from school and walkwe home together. Playhe outside for a bit, then dohe his homework. No, wait, isit Friday today so probably watchhe too much TV instead.
18.00 is aperitivo time at my house, so openi a beer before cooki the dinner.
After dinner, doi some more work on the computer. Gowe to bed at around 10.30.
….and phew, back to ‘normal’!
Like a lot of languages, but unlike English, Italian uses suffixes (a bit or bits stuck at the end of a word) to indicate WHO is doing an action.
That’s why the pronoun (I, You, etc.) is redundant: it’s normally only used when emphasizing (“Prepareyou the dinner this evening, cara?” “No way! YOU prepareyou the dinner.”)
Anyway, here’s an example of an Italian verb (I’m really holding your hand today). Check out the suffixes.
Andare (to go)
- vado (I go)
- vai (you singular go)
- va (he, she, it goes)
- andiamo (we go)
- andate (you plural go)
- vanno (they go)
Maybe that wasn’t such a great example, as Andare is irregular: it’s not just the ending that changes, but also the base part of the verb.
Still, if you can’t hack irregular verbs, better not try to learn Italian, which is just lousy with them.
Anyway, one of the reasons Italian is so forbidding when you’re just starting out is this pressing need to learn to conjugate verbs, both regular and irregular.
Something which came as easily to me as breathing water or sitting on my children to get them to hatch.
But there was no getting around it. Without verb conjugations, I wasn’t even able to say essential things like:
“Hey, fancy a beer?” (Senti, ti va una birra?)
There’s a reason beginners’ Italian language courses have lots of grammar in them, while beginners’ English courses don’t.
So, do what I say, not what I did.
If you’re just starting out learning Italian, believe me, you ARE going to have to learn to conjugate some verbs. Actually, LOTS of verbs.
So, better get used to the idea of suffixes.
But where to start? Here’s a post wrotei a few years ago, way back at the beginning of OnlineItalianClub.
Or couldyou take a look at the first level in our self-study series ‘Italian Workout!’ (Download a free sample chapter from the product page in our shop.)
Oops, doingi it again!