Thursday, October 31, 2013

Italian present tense: -ARE verbs


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Regular and spell-change in the present tense -ARE verbs by ab for

As I said in: How Italian verbs work, (Start there if you missed it!— UPDATE: redirects to same post on the new site, Via Optimae) Italian verbs are all about knowing how to identify the stem, and add the appropriate ending for each subject/tense.  

Today, we're going to look at the Simple Present Tense and in particular, -ARE verbs: 

[We'll cover -ERE and -IRE forms at a later date —Again, review How Italian verbs work (redirects you to the same post on the new site, Via Optimae) in case you're not sure what that means]

To conjugate -ARE verbs in the simple present tense, just drop the -ARE from the infinitive form, and add one of the following endings:

Present tense -are endings in Italian by ab for

So, if I wanted to conjugate the regular verb: 'parlare' in the first person singular or 'io' it would look like this:

parlare -> parl -> parlo  Conjugation of parlare in 1st person singular present tense by ab for

I speak

Parlo l'italiano.
I speak Italian.

Applying the same conjugation process to all the other subjects, I end up with this chart:

-ARE present tense endings in Italian by ab for

Present tense of PARLARE by ab for

-Parli l'italiano?
Do you speak Italian?
-Sì, parlo l'italiano.
Yes, I speak Italian.
-Parlano l'italiano?
Do they speak Italian?
-No, parlano l'inglese.
No, they speak English.

Using the above examples as clues, how would you say:  "We speak Italian." ? ("We" is "noi", review subject pronouns if needed in: How Italian Verbs Work)

[Highlight below to reveal answer]

Parliamo l'italiano.

Here are some other regular -ARE verbs:

portare - to bring
amare - to love
arrivare - to arrive
trovare - to find

Can you write out the present tense conjugations for each?  

-ARE present tense endings in Italian by ab for

~ I recommend writing them out in a two column, three row table format so that you can refer back to them easily…   You can also use one of the following free printable PDFs… Choose either blank or with a quick summary:

UPDATE:  Worksheet links will redirect you to this post on the new site, Via Optimae
Preview of Blank Conjugation Table printable by ab for
Blank conjugation tables
(Blank so you can use them to practice any tense conjugation)

Preview of -ARE present tense review and Blank Conjugation Tables printable by ab for
Italian simple present tense -ARE Summary and tables 
(A summary of this lesson next to blank tables to help you practice.)

You can verify your answers or look up the conjugation for any verb/tense in Word Reference's handy conjugator:

.Screenshot of Word Reference's Italian verb conjugator as seen on
The simple present tense is the first column of the first row labeled "presente."

Spell-change verbs

There are other verbs that are regular, except when you add the regular endings, it creates weird letter combinations or sounds in Italian.  These are called Spell-change verbs.

One example is mangiare.  If you simply drop the -ARE as you are supposed to and conjugate, you will get the following forms:

io mangio
tu mangii  (why so many i's?, should be mangi)
lui/lei mangia 

noi mangiiamo ✗ (again, why so many i's? should be mangiamo)
voi mangiate 
loro mangiano 

To avoid the "too many i's syndrome", you just drop one of them… A quick spelling change so that you're left with normal forms:

Other Spell-change verbs add an "h" to some of the forms so that the verb maintains its original sound.  This is because of how "c" and "g" are pronounced depending on the vowel that follows.

"C" when followed by an "o", "a", or "u" makes a hard sound, like a "k" in English:

giocare  /dʒoˈkare/  (listen to pronunciation on wordreference) 
to play

"C" when followed by an "i" or an "e" makes a sound like "ch" in English:


When you conjugate 'giocare' in the present tense following the normal rules, you'll get the following:

io gioco✓  (the "c" maintains its "k" sound)
tu gioci  (oops the "c" is like "ch" we need an h! giochi)
lui/lei gioca 

noi giociamo ✗ (again, our "c" is now "ch" we need an h! giochiamo)
voi giocate 
loro giocano 

The "h" in the above examples tells readers: "Say this like a k!"  By adding the "h" we maintain the original sound of the verb.  All the correct forms:

gioco giochi gioca giochiamo giocate giocano GIOCARE present tense conjugations by ab for
Now with the "h" all the forms maintain the same "k" sound as the original infinitive "giocare"

Similarly, "g" also makes a "hard" sound (like the "g" in "great) when followed by "a", "o", or "u":

to pay

When followed by a "e" or "i" the "g" becomes "soft" like the "j" in English 'judge'.

giusto     /ˈdʒusto/    (listen to pronunciation on wordreference)
just, fair

When you conjugate 'pagare' in the present tense following the normal rules, you'll get the following:

io pago✓  (the "g" maintains its hard sound)
tu pagi  (oops the "g" is now like "j" of judge we need an h! paghi)
lui/lei paga 

noi pagiamo ✗ (again, our "g" has changed, we need an h! paghiamo)
voi pagate 
loro pagano 

The "h" in the "tu" and "noi" forms tells us to keep the hard sound, so now all the forms have the same "g" sound as the original infinitive:

pago, paghi, page, paghiamo, pagate, pagano: PAGARE in the simple present tense by ab for

Here are some more spell-change -ARE verbs.  Using the rules above, can you conjugate and incorporate the appropriate spelling changes?

[Again, you can use either the blank conjugation tables or the conjugation tables plus -ARE present tense review as worksheets, if desired.]

elogiare   [check your answers]
to praise 

mancare  [check your answers]
to be missing 

legare     [check your answers]
to tie, fasten

That's it for now on -ARE verbs... keep practicing until the forms become natural to you.  Use the words in the image at the beginning of the post- they're all regular or spell-change -ARE verbs!

Happy Conjugating!

Ready to move on to the next lesson in this series?
TRY:  Italian Present Tense: -ERE verbs (redirects you to new site, Via Optimae)

Try this free online -ARE verb conjugation exercise:

See also: