Italian Essentials: Congiuntivo Imperfetto (Imperfective Subjunctive)

It’s subjunctive week. We've already looked at exactly what the subjunctive mood is, and how it is used, and yesterday we took our first look at using the subjunctive in Italian with il congiuntivo presente. Today, we're going to look at il congiuntivo imperfetto.

Il congiuntivo imperfetto

The congiuntivo imperfetto, or imperfect subjunctive, describes an uncertain verb action that was ongoing in the past. It is formed with the following endings:

 -are-ere-ire
che io-assi-essi-issi
che tu-assi-essi-issi
che lui/lei-asse-esse-isse
che noi-assimo-essimo-issimo
che voi-aste-este-iste
che loro-assero-essero-issero

This is one of the easiest conjugations yet. You really only have four endings: -assi, -assimo, -aste, and -assero. The only other detail is to make sure to swap the a for an e or an i according to the verb's ending.

Examples

avere
Credevo che avessero ragione.
capire
Non c'era nessuno che ci capisse.
potere
Era un peccato che tu non potessi venire
smettere
Vorrei che tu smettessi di furmare.

The -ss in the endings is significantly different from any other verb forms we've encountered, so it should be easy to remember that this is a special form of the verb. If you have trouble remembering which special form, just think of the s as standing for "subjunctive", and there are two of them because it is ongoing!

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the perfective counterpart, the congiuntivo passato.


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  • Did you mean 'fumare' in your last example?

  • Oops! Yes, that's a typo. :)

  • che lui/lei -assi -essi -issi is not correct, should be
    asse - esse - isse

  • oops! thanks!

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