Italian Congiuntivo

The Subjunctive, or congiuntivo in Italian, is a mood that you can find in many situations, mostly used to connect subordinate clauses to main clauses. Unlike in Italian language, the subjunctive is rarely used in English.

Knowing how to use the subjunctive will help you sound more like a native and communicate a bit more accurately. In this lesson we will take a look at all the different subjunctive tenses and their use in Italian.

What Is Congiuntivo? 

While the indicative is the mood of reality, subjunctive is the mood of possibility. The congiuntivo in Italian is used to talk about hopes, fears, doubts and other uncertain situations.
It usually follows the marker word “che” (that). The Italian subjunctive has four tenses that can have different translations in English.

The Subjunctive Present Tense corresponds to the English subjunctive, although it is used more often in Italian than in modern English.

The Present tense of congiuntivo is the equivalent of the English subjunctive structures such as:

  • God save the Queen! – Dio salvi la regina
  • God bless you! – Che Dio ti benedica
  • Heaven help us! – Che il cielo ci aiuti

When Do I Use The Italian Congiuntivo?

The Italian indicative mood tells us about the world as it is, no matter if we’re talking about the past, the present or the future. The Italian subjunctive, however, is used to talk about situations that are unreal, uncertain or that we have feelings about.

  • Hai fatto uno sbaglio (Indicative mood)
    You made a mistake
  • Penso che tu abbia fatto uno sbaglio (Subjunctive mood)
    I think that you made a mistake

Congiuntivo in Italian is often used in a subordinate clause to talk about events that are not certain to happen, or when expressing hopes or a wish.
Depending on the situation and tense used, the subjunctive can be translated in English with present tense, past tense or sometimes even with the construction would + verb.

Our advice is to not to rely too much on the English translation to understand the use of congiuntivo in Italian, since it does not always (or even often) correspond to the English subjunctive.

Here are some examples to help you understand the circumstances when subjunctive is used:

  • Spero che domani non piova
    I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow
  • Speravo tanto che ce la facesse a venire alla festa
    I really hoped he would make it to the party
  • Dobbiamo partire prima che faccia buio
    We need to leave before it gets dark
  • Che tu venga o meno, io andrò lo stesso
    Whether you will come or not, I’ll go anyway

Marker Words With Congiuntivo

In Italian language, marker words such as che (that), nonostante, così che (so that), affinché (in order to) and similar phrases trigger the use of subjunctive.

  • Farò di tutto affinché tu sia felice
    I’ll do anything in order for you to be happy
  • Nonostante piova, Luca è uscito lo stesso
    Luca went outside despite the rain

How Do I Make Congiuntivo In Italian?

The Italian congiuntivo has four different tenses:

  • presente (present),
  • passato (perfect),
  • imperfetto (imperfect) and
  • trapassato (pluperfect).

Presente and imperfetto are simple tenses, while passato and trapassato are compound tenses.

Similar to the indicative mood, when forming the subjunctive you need to change the endings of the verb and add the congiuntivo suffixes. We will see how to conjugate each tense one by one.

Congiuntivo Presente – Present Subjunctive

When forming the congiuntivo presente (Present Subjunctive) in Italian, you will add different endings for the three different verb groups (-are, -ere, -ire).

parl-are (to talk) cred-ere (to believe) part-ire (to depart)
io parl-i io cred-a io part-a
tu parl-i tu cred-a tu part-a
lui/lei parl-i lui/lei cred-a lui/lei part-a
noi parl-iamo noi cred-iamo noi part-iamo
voi parl-iate voi cred-iate voi part-iate
loro parl-ino loro cred-ano essi part-ano

The singular persons of the present subjunctive are the same. In fact, when we use the subjunctive with first, second or third person singular, it’s better to indicate the right pronoun (I, you, he, she or it), to avoid misunderstandings.

  • È meglio che io vada – I’d better go
  • È meglio che tu vada – You’d better go
  • È meglio che lui/lei vada – He/she’d better go

The verb in the first plural person noi (we) is the same of the Indicative present tense.

  • Domani parliamo con Maria (Indicative – Present tense)
    Tomorrow we talk (we’ll talk) with Maria
  • È meglio che domani parliamo con Maria (Subjunctive – Present tense)
    It’s better that tomorrow we talk with Maria

Other than expressing beliefs or doubts, the Present subjunctive is also used in the following cases:

1. To give polite orders when using the third person form:

  • Parli più lentamente, per favore
    Speak slowly, please (referred to you, singular)
  • Mi dica pure di cosa ha bisogno
    Ask me whatever you need (referred to you, singular)

2. After impersonal verbs followed by the conjunction che, such as bisogna che (it’s necessary that), basta che (it’s enough that)

  • Bisogna che tu studi di più
    It’s necessary that you study more
  • Non portare un regalo alla festa, basta che tu venga
    Do not bring any gift to the party, it’s enough that you come

Congiuntivo Passato – Perfect Subjunctive

The perfect subjunctive, or congiuntivo passato, is a compound tense formed with the auxiliary verbs essere (to be) or avere (to have) conjugated in the Subjunctive Present and the past participle of the verb indicating the action. essere and avere are irregular verbs, so let’s see first how to form their present subjunctive.



(to be)

(to have)
io sia io abbia
tu sia tu abbia
lui/lei sia lui/lei abbia
noi siamo noi abbiamo
voi siate voi abbiate
essi siano essi abbiano

So what you need to do is just pick the right auxiliary and add the past participle. The Subjunctive Perfect will eventually look like this:

parl-are cred-ere part-ire
io abbia parlato io abbia creduto io sia partito/a
tu abbia parlato tu abbia creduto tu sia partito/a
lui/lei abbia parlato lui/lei abbia creduto lui/lei sia partito/a
noi abbiamo parlato noi abbiamo creduto noi siamo partiti/e
voi abbiate parlato voi abbiate creduto voi siate partiti/e
loro abbiano parlato loro abbiano creduto essi siano partiti/e

Remember that with the verb essere (to be), you need to change the verb endings whether it refers to a man or a woman (or a group of men or women).

The congiuntivo passato is similar to the congiuntivo presente as you use it when talking about possibilities, opinions, desires, doubts. The difference is that the perfect subjunctive is used in the subordinate clause to express something that happened before the action expressed in the main clause.

  • Temo che abbia parlato troppo
    I’m afraid I said too much
  • Credo che siano partiti ieri
    I believe they left yesterday
  • Nonostante abbia studiato molto, non ha superato l’esame
    Despite studying a lot, he didn’t pass the test

Congiuntivo Imperfetto – Subjunctive Imperfect

The congiuntivo imperfetto is a simple conjugation (not composed). The Subjunctive Imperfect is also used to talk about hypothetical situations or to express a wish.

parl-are (to talk) cred-ere (to believe) part-ire (to leave)
io parl-assi io cred-essi io part-issi
tu parl-assi tu cred-essi tu part-issi
lui/lei parl-asse lui/lei cred-esse lui/lei part-isse
noi parl-assimo noi cred-essimo noi part-issimo
voi parl-aste voi cred-este voi part-iste
loro parl-assero loro cred-essero essi part-issero

It is used in the subordinate clause when the main clause has past tense, conditional tense or imperfect tense. The congiuntivo imperfetto can be used to express contemporaneity in the past or in the present between main and secondary clause.

  • Speravo che Marco parlasse con me
    I hoped that Marco would talk to me
  • Sarei felice se tu partissi in viaggio con me
    I would be happy if you left for a trip with me
  • Vorrei che mi aiutassi
    I would like you to help me

Congiuntivo Trapassato – Pluperfect Subjunctive

The congiuntivo trapassato is the fourth and last subjunctive tense. In order to construct the pluperfect subjunctive you simply use the imperfect subjunctive of the auxiliary verbs essere and avere, followed by the past participle of the main verb. Here is the imperfect subjunctive of essere and avere:



(to be)

(to have)
io fossi io avessi
tu fossi tu avessi
lui/lei fosse lui/lei avesse
noi fossimo noi avessimo
voi foste voi aveste
essi fossero essi avessero

And here is how we use them to form the pluperfect subjunctive of the regular verbs belonging to the three groups:

parl-are (to talk) cred-ere (to believe) part-ire (to leave)
io avessi parlato io avessi creduto io fossi partito/a
tu avessi parlato tu avessi creduto tu fossi partito/a
lui/lei avesse parlato lui/lei avesse creduto lui/lei fosse partito/a
noi avessimo parlato noi avessimo creduto noi fossimo partiti/e
voi aveste parlato voi aveste creduto voi foste partiti/e
loro avessero parlato loro avessero creduto essi fossero partiti/e

The congiuntivo trapassato is used when talking about the past to refer to things that had happened. It is used to describe a past action that occurred before another action described in the sentence. The verb in the main clause will be used in its past tense form, or conditional.

The congiuntivo trapassato is normally used to talk about a possibility or a necessity that didn’t happen. It corresponds to the English “I had left” structure. It is used to say what you thought, wished or hoped about something in the past, to talk about the past after impersonal verbs or after impersonal constructions:

  • Ho sperato fino all’ultimo che Marco fosse partito con te
    I hoped until the last moment that Marco had left with you
  • Sembrava che ci avesse creduto
    It seemed that he had believed that
  • Sarebbe stato meglio se ne aveste parlato
    It would have been better if you had talked about that

Expressions Used With Congiuntivo

Confused? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! The Italian Congiuntivo is a mystery to many, but the good news is that there are some key phrases triggering the subjunctive that you can learn to recognize.
If the sentence starts with a verb followed by “che”, you will need to use the subjunctive after:

expression translation in English Example
Credo che I believe that Credo che oggi faccia troppo freddo


I believe that it’s too cold today

È necessario che It’s necessary that È necessario che tu studi molto per passare l’esame


It’s necessary that you study a lot to pass the test

Ho l’impressione che I have the feeling that Ho l’impressione che tu non sia felice


I have the feeling that you’re not happy

Immagino che I imagine that Immagino che sia stata una bella esperienza


I imagine that it has been a nice experience

Mi piace che I like that Mi piace che tu sia così tenace


I like that you are so tenacious

Penso che I think that Penso che ognuno abbia ciò che merita


I think that everyone has what he deserves

Spero che I hope that Spero che tu abbia più fortuna di me


I hope that you’re luckier than me

Può darsi che Perhaps Può darsi che tu abbia ragione


Perhaps you’re right

Useful Irregular Verbs

We’ve seen how to form the subjunctive of regular verbs in all tenses: presente, passato, imperfetto and trapassato. However, Italian has many irregular verbs that are widely used and you need to know if you want to form the subjunctive properly and sound more like a native.

The first two irregular verbs that we’ll see are the auxiliary essere and avere.



(to be)

Subjunctive Present Subjunctive Perfect
io sia io sia stato/a
tu sia tu sia stato/a
lui/lei sia lui/lei sia stato/a
noi siamo noi siamo stati/e
voi siate voi siate stati/e
loro siano loro siano stati/e
Subjunctive Imperfect Subjunctive Pluperfect
io fossi io fossi stato/a
tu fossi tu fossi stato/a
lui/lei fosse lui/lei fosse stato/a
noi fossimo noi fossimo stati/e
voi foste voi foste stati/e
loro fossero loro fossero stati/e


(to have)

Subjunctive Present Subjunctive Perfect
io abbia io abbia avuto
tu abbia tu abbia avuto
lui/lei abbia lui/lei abbia avuto
noi abbiamo noi abbiamo avuto
voi abbiate voi avete avuto
loro abbiano loro abbiano avuto
Subjunctive Imperfect Subjunctive Pluperfect
io avessi io avessi avuto
tu avessi tu avessi avuto
lui/lei avesse lui/lei avesse avuto
noi avessimo noi avessimo avuto
voi aveste voi aveste avuto
loro avessero loro avessero avuto

These irregular verbs also happen to be the most important and frequently used:

  • Andare (to go): io vada, tu vada, lui/lei vada, noi andiamo, voi andiate, loro vadano
  • Dare (to give): io dia, tu dia, lui/lei dia, noi diamo, voi diate, loro diano
  • Dire (to say): io dica, tu dica, lui/lei dica, noi diciamo, voi diciate, loro dicano
  • Dovere (to have to): io debba, tu debba, lui/lei debba, noi dobbiamo, voi dobbiate, loro debbano
  • Fare (to do, to make): io faccia, tu faccia, lui/lei faccia, noi facciamo, voi facciate, loro facciano
  • Potere (to be able to): io possa, tu possa, lui/lei possa, noi possiamo, voi possiate, loro possano

You can always look up for the right conjugation for the Italian congiuntivo on a conjugator online like .

Conclusions: Do I Really Need To Know Congiuntivo?

After studying congiuntivo in Italian, most learners just want to avoid it: the good news is, you can sometimes do that (but now always!). Especially in spoken language, you can use the indicative mood instead of the subjunctive:

  • I didn’t know you arrived already
    Non sapevo che fossi già arrivato (subjunctive)
    Non sapevo che eri già arrivato (indicative)

  • Do you think that dress fits me well?
    Pensi che questo vestito mi stia bene? (subjunctive)
    Pensi che questo vestito mi sta bene? (indicative)

Congiuntivo can be hard to master, even Italian people sometimes use Indicative over subjunctive, although it is grammatically wrong.

Subjunctive is so tricky even for native speakers that there’s a common joke in Italy, saying that being able to use the congiuntivo right makes you sound sexier! So now you have one good reason more to study and practice it!

This song, presented at the Sanremo Music Festival, can give you the idea on how often even Italian speakers butcher the congiuntivo:

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.