Italian is driving me crazy #1

Hi guys,

I wanted to thank you for all the support and nice messages that you send me. Since many of you asked me questions about these topics, I decided to write the answers in this article. Today’s questions are:

  1. Do I really need to study the subjunctive?
  2. What is the difference between volerci and metterci?
  3. When do I use passato prossimo and when imperfetto?
  4. What does “allora/quindi/dunque/comunque mean?

1.Do I really need to study the subjunctive ?

 

I’m an Italian teacher so I would say Yes!
The truth is that depends on why you are learning the Italian language. If you are learning Italian just because you’re going to travel to Italy, you don’t need the subjunctive, your focus is to communicate and be understood, you can achieve this goal without using the subjunctive mood.
However, if you’re studying Italian because you love the language and you want to become fluent, the answer is yes, you need to study it. Not only we use the subjunctive in the hypothetical period, but we use it to express opinions, desires and doubts.

4
Every time you use expressions like
penso che…
credo che…

sono contento che…
mi dispiace che…
non sono sicuro che…
Then you need the subjunctive.

2. What is the difference between volerci and metterci?

They are both used to express time. The difference is that volerci is used for general concept, a time required for everybody. Metterci is more personal. Let’s see some examples:

Per andare a New York ci vogliono  7 ore.
It takes 8 hours to go to New York.

Why do we use volerci? because we are in Italy so all the people living in Italy require the same time to go to New York. Of course it depends also on the city you live in and the airline company that you choose but we talk about general concepts.

Per cuocere la pasta ci vogliono 7 minuti.
It takes 7 minutes to cook pasta.

Ci vogliono 8 ore di sonno per sentirsi riposati.
It takes 8 hours of sleep at night to feel rested.

Ci metto un’ora per andare in ufficio.
It takes me 1 hour to go to the office.

I’m talking about me, my work and the distance between my house and my office. This is the reason why metterci is used.

Ci metto 20 minuti a fare gli esercizi di italiano.
Luca ci mette mezz’ora a venire a casa mia.

3. When do I use passato prossimo and when imperfetto?

Let’s make it easy: when you talk about the past in Italian, you will use passato prossimo 90% of the time.

Therefore, the question is “when do I use the imperfetto?”

The imperfetto is used to:

-describe people, animals, objects, places and situations in the past.
Examples:
Mia nonna si chiamava Maria.
Ieri c’era il sole.

-talk about habits in the past. (I used to…)
Examples:
Quando ero piccola andavo sempre in vacanza al mare.
L’anno scorso facevo yoga tutti i venerdì.

You may have a situation where there are 2 different actions, in this case you will use:

1.passato prossimo – passato prossimo

if the 2 actions happened one after the other:
ieri ho stirato e poi ho guardato la televisione
yesterday ho stirato and then ho guardato la televisione

2. imperfetto – imperfetto

if the 2 actions happened at the same time:
mentre stiravo, guardavo la televisione
while stiravo, guardavo la televisione

3. imperfettopassato prossimo

the action that happened first is the setting (or the context in which the other action happened) and it is expressed with the imperfetto form.
The second action represents the fact (what happened) and it is expressed with the passato prossimo form:

mentre tornavo a casa, ho incontrato Marco

4. What does allora mean?

This word has several meanings and no meaning at all.

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I’ll explain myself:
1. Allora is the Italian”well, so”. We say it all the time but it has no real definition.

Examples:

Allora ci vediamo – so see you soon
Allora andiamo! – so let’s go!
E allora? – So what?

2. Di allora = del passato (back then, of the past)
I prezzi di oggi sono diversi da quelli di allora
Prices today are different from prices of the past

3. Allora = a quel punto (then – referring to a future action)
Quando sarai in Italia, allora potrai mangiare la vera pizza
When you are in Italy, then you’ll eat the real pizza.

4. Da allora = da quel momento (ever since, from that moment)
Ho mangiato i funghi per la prima volta 3 anni fa e da allora li mangio sempre.
I ate mushrooms for the first time 3 years ago and I have always eaten them ever since.

5. Allora = dunque, se è così (then, in that case)
Se non ti va, allora non andare al parco.
If you don’t want to, then don’t go to the park.

 

What is driving you crazy about Italian?
Write it in a comment so we can solve the mystery together! 🙂

 

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