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Italian Conjugation Practice Made Easy – Our Favorite Tips & Tricks

Unlike English, which has basic verb conjugations that make it almost impossible to get the subject of a sentence wrong, Italian is a fickle language. As we will see, getting one conjugation wrong can completely change the subject of a sentence. This is why it is very, very important to have a consistent Italian conjugation practice.

In this article, I will give you some tips on how to approach Italian verbs and some valuable resources that can help you keep your skills fresh.

Let’s start with the fundamentals: the Italian verb system.

Basics of the Italian verb system

To be successful in your Italian conjugation practice, you first need to know the basics of how verbs work in Italian. An Italian infinitive verb is made up of:

  • a root, also called stem
  • one of three possible endings (-are, -ere, -ire)

Examples of verbs are am-are (to love), ved-ere (to see), and dorm-ire (to sleep).

The root of the verb is the action itself.

The verb ending carries all the other information:

  • subject pronoun
  • number (singular or plural)
  • tense
  • mood

For example, the ending -iamo is used with the subject noi (we), so its number is plural. It’s used in the Italian present simple tense, which falls under the indicative mood.

But when we say “iamo“… we’re not really conveying any information about what action we’re doing. This suffix alone doesn’t make sense. We need a verb root! For example, we can say:

  • camminiamo (we walk)
  • leggiamo (we read)
  • scriviamo (we write)

The same thing applies to all other endings like -avo/evo, which are used in the first-person singular (io – I) in the imperfect tense of the indicative mood:

  • camminavo (I used to walk)
  • leggevo (I used to read)
  • scrivevo (I used to write)

Endings in –are, -ere and -ire are the endings for the infinitive mood, which is the form you’ll find in dictionaries.

The Italian verb moods

Moods are tense categories, and for your Italian conjugation practice you should know which mood is ideal to use in a sentence.

There are seven verb moods in Italian, each one giving a different nuance to a sentence, just like English moods:

  • indicativo (indicative, for facts)
  • condizionale (conditional, for conditions)
  • congiuntivo (subjunctive, for possibilities)
  • imperativo (imperative, for giving orders)
  • infinitivo (infinitive)
  • participio (participle)
  • gerundio (gerund)

In your Italian conjugation practice, you should be aware of an important distinction.

The first four moods (indicativo, condizionale, congiuntivo and imperativo) convey all the information you need: subject, tense, and number.

The last three moods (infinitivo, participio passato and gerundio) give no information, so they need some context or they are used in conjunction with other verbs to form compound tenses. For example, past participles are used in the passato prossimo tense, which is roughly equivalent to the English present perfect tense.

Examples:

  • Devo prendere le chiavi.
    I have to take the keys. (devo + infinitive verb)
  • Ho preso le chiavi.
    I have taken the keys. (ho + past participle)
  • Sto prendendo le chiavi.
    I am taking the keys. (sto + gerund)

Prendere, preso, and prendendo are generic verb forms like to take, taken, and taking. There’s no subject, no number, no tense.

The Italian verb tenses

There are 18 verb tenses in Italian (yes, eighteen!), split into three different “times”: present, past, and future.

If you are a beginner in Italian conjugation practice, you want to focus on the most common tenses, which are:

  • indicativo presente (present)
  • indicativo passato prossimo (present perfect)
  • indicativo imperfetto (imperfect)
  • indicativo futuro semplice (future)
  • gerundio presente (gerund, present form)
  • imperativo (imperative)
  • participio passato (past participle)

If you are an intermediate learner, these tenses should be your priority for Italian conjugation practice:

  • indicativo trapassato prossimo (pluperfect)
  • indicativo passato remoto (past simple; you can skip this if you don’t plan to read Italian books)
  • indicativo futuro anteriore (future perfect)
  • condizionale presente (present conditional)
  • congiuntivo presente (present subjunctive)
  • condizionale passato (past conditional)
  • congiuntivo passato (past subjunctive)
  • congiuntivo imperfetto (imperfect subjunctive)

Advanced learners can tackle:

  • indicativo passato remoto (past simple; very common in books)
  • indicativo trapassato remoto (preterite perfect tense; never used in the spoken language and uncommon in books)
  • congiuntivo trapassato (pluperfect subjunctive)
  • gerundio passato (gerund, past form)
  • participio presente (present participle; some substantivized forms are very common like perdente, “loser”, others are very rare)

Of all the verbs, the conjugations of essere (to be) and avere (to have) are the most important to know because they are used as helper verbs in compound tenses.

Studying irregular verbs should also be an important part of your Italian conjugation practice. Very common verbs like bere (to drink), fare (to do), and venire (to come) are irregular. They are used very often!

Let’s not forget about the voice

Like English, the Italian verb system has two voices:

  • active (“Luca eats the apple”)
  • passive (“The apple is eaten by Luca”)

The passive voice is made up of:

  • a conjugation of essere or venire (with very rare exceptions)
  • the past participle of the verb
  • the preposition da (“by”)

Examples:

  • Luca mangia la mela. La mela viene mangiata da Luca.
    Luca eats the apple. The apple is eaten by Luca.
  • Paolo ha letto il libro. Il libro è stato letto da Paolo.
    Paolo read the book. The book was read by Paolo.

Why is Italian conjugation practice so important?

The correct use of verbs is essential to get your message across. It takes a letter to change the meaning of a sentence altogether:

  • Andava spesso a pescare.
    S/he often went fishing.
  • Andavo spesso a pescare.
    I often went fishing.

Also, if you don’t know how to conjugate verbs in Italian, locals will be able to tell right away that Italian is not your first language, even if you have a flawless accent.

Since the information about the subject pronoun is carried by the suffix, we don’t really use subject pronouns in the sentence at all. They sound redundant and are only used when you need to emphasize who the subject is, as in:

  • Tu laverai i piatti, io sparecchierò la tavola.
    You will wash the dishes, I will clear the table.

Phew, enough of our boring theory! Let’s take a look at some of the best resources out there for your Italian conjugation practice.

(And if you are one of those who do love theory, here is a comprehensive guide on the Italian verb tenses and moods!)

The best resources for effective Italian conjugation practice

Below is a list of valuable resources you can use in your Italian conjugation practice.

schoLINGUA

schoLINGUA‘s conjugation trainer features a database with thousands of Italian verbs for you to practice.

If you feel you are up to the challenge, you can click “random verbs!” on the page to add 3 or more random verbs to practice. I especially like the memory game: it’s a matching game, and each time you click on a box to reveal the information behind it, an audio track plays with the pronunciation of that word.

I especially like schoLINGUA’s trainer because you can easily add accented letters thanks to the keyboard icon you find on the page. This is very useful if you don’t know how to type special characters on a non-IT keyboard!

Clozemaster

Clozemaster allows you to do cloze exercises on thousands of Italian sentences, and sentences are key in Italian conjugation practice.

We have seen that conjugation endings are useless without the context of an action, a “root”.

Contextual learning and spaced repetition are the strengths of Clozemaster. Spaced repetition is especially useful for Italian verbs, because with so many verb endings, you can save time by learning only the moods and tenses you’re struggling with, and you can brush up on conjugations you already know. In addition, Clozemaster is very fun to use and has a very attractive pixel design.

With the free version, you’re limited to the number of sentences you can practice per day, but if you subscribe to the Pro version for just $5 per month with the annual plan, you can unlock an unlimited number of sentences per day and get access to its advanced features. If recurring payments aren’t your thing, there’s also a lifetime plan.

Memrise

This is another great addition to your Italian conjugation practice. Memrise is a language-learning platform that focuses on matching flashcards. It is a bit weak when it comes to its language courses (I find them too scattered), but it has hundreds of community courses, a spaced-repetition algorithm, and it allows you to create your very own courses for your Italian conjugation practice completely free of charge.

Memrise allows you to select special characters from a box, but few courses offer this option because it has to be enabled by the course creators on a per-course level.

For example, I created a temporary course with 5 levels and filled the first level with the present tense conjugation of essere.

Coniugazione.it

Don’t be fooled by its bare-bones design, Coniugazione.it has a ridiculously large database of Italian verb conjugations that you can consult anytime, anywhere. Just type in the verb of your choice, let’s say you want to know how to conjugate sapere (to know), and hit enter!

If you’re on the go, there’s also a cheap and handy app for iOS devices.

verbi-italiani.info

verbi-italiani.info is very similar to the schoLINGUA’s trainer, so it’s a great resource for Italian conjugation practice. The exercises are divided into beginner and advanced levels: if you are a beginner, you can choose a specific verb to practice, otherwise you can practice on random verbs.

verbi-italiani.info’s trainer also allows you to select accented letters thanks to the green character selection box on the practice page.

conjugate.in

Yet another resource for Italian conjugation practice, conjugate.in is another online verb trainer, but it’s very user-friendly and allows you to practice on a number of random verbs. On the settings page, you can configure the exercises based on your language level and which tenses you want to practice, which is very convenient!

Find out a bunch of other resources for learning Italian here!

Italian conjugation practice: Conclusion

Unlike English, Italian has a fairly sophisticated verb system. However, learning Italian verbs is anything but difficult. Of course, the theory is boring and may sound complicated, but the theory is just the first step.

As a native Italian speaker, I learned to conjugate verbs by listening to my parents and repeating what they said. I didn’t even know what conjugations were until I started primary school. I didn’t know about roots, suffixes, tenses.

You need a lot of practice. You have to focus on repetition other than rules. My little cousin went from uttering syllables to talking like a chatterbox in the span of a few years: that is the power of repetition.

If you feel overwhelmed by the number of resources available for your Italian conjugation practice, focus on resources that allow you to learn verbs along with their context. Clozemaster is a great interactive resource, but you can and must listen to music and podcasts, watch Italian movies, and subscribe to Italian YouTubers who publish vlogs like the Learn Italian with Lucrezia channel.

What are you waiting for? Start practicing Italian conjugations right away!

Challenge yourself with Clozemaster

Learning Italian conjugation might seem daunting at first, but don’t worry, it comes naturally with practice.

Test your skills and see what you’ve learned from this article by playing a selection of sentences with conjugated Italian verbs.

Sign up here to save your progress and start getting fluent with thousands of Italian sentences at Clozemaster.

Clozemaster has been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Italian.

Take your Italian to the next level. Click here to start practicing with real Italian sentences!

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