Beginner Italian Guide: Il Futuro Semplice (Future Tense)

After one month, I found I was already able to say a lot in Italian, but I lamented that it was all in the present tense! Last week, we started to fix that by learning il passato prossimo, the most common way to form the past tense in Italian. Now, it's probably time to learn how to use the future tense. As always, everything is easy to find on Google.

Il futuro semplice

The simple future tense is easy to form in Italian. As with everything, you start by dropping the verb's ending, and then adding the future ending. There is one form for -are and -ere verbs, and a second form for -ire verbs.

For -are and -ere verbs, the simple future endings are -erò, -erai, -erà, -eremo, -erete, and -eranno. So, for instance, to form the future tense of parlare, you have:

1st personparleròparleremo
2nd personparleraiparlerete
3rd personparleràparleranno

For -ire verbs, the simple future endings are -irò, -irai, -irà, -iremo, -irete, and -iranno. Thus, to form the future tense of partire, you have:

1st personpartiròpartiremo
2nd personpartiraipartirete
3rd personpartiràpartiranno

Look at it in a different way

That's already not so difficult, but let's look at it in a different way to highlight just how easy it is. When I look at those conjugations above, I see the same endings we already learned for present tense verbs — they just have an extra syllable.

So in reality, the secret to forming the il futuro semplice is just to create a stress shift by adding a syllable to the end of the verb stem. The stress shift happens automatically though the normal rules of pronunciation. The 1st person and 3rd person singular forms also require adding the stress to the final syllable, no doubt to differentiate them from nouns which might have the same endings.

When learning a new language, it is important to learn the grammar rules and learn the proper way to form words. But there is a detail which is inherent in all natural speakers, that often gets lost in the process of learning a foreign language — understanding why.

Knowing the grammatical rules of dropping an ending and adding another are important, but they're too complicated for fluent speech. Understanding a stress shift, however, is easy to use and comes naturally with a little practice. And knowing both, of course, helps to weave the web of knowledge that makes everything easier!

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  • I would like to point out something about the effective use of "futuro semplice" on daily basis.
    When we use the future in common spoken italian, we usually refers to something that is somewhat detached from the present. So it is relatively little used.
    Credo che domani mangerò una torta. (I believe that tomorrow I will eat a cake)
    If I say this way I imply that, even if I'm planning to eat a cake tomorrow, it's not my concern at the moment. I will think tomorrow about the details.
    If I say:
    Domani mangio una torta
    I mean that not only I'm planning of eating a cake, but it's something about I'm thinking right now and maybe I'm even thinking about where to buy it or whatever.
    So the present form is definitely more used in daily spoken italian because in an ordinary conversation is more involving for eachother to speak about closer matters than about something distant in the future.

    Maybe this would seems trivial but if you go in Italy and you use a lot of future in your sentences, you could get people thinking "why is he telling me that, even if he doesn't care too much himself?"

    Ciao ciao

  • Great write up! Just note that Italian favours the present tense for a lot of situations that require the future in other languages, especially if you already indicate with a time factor (domani, sabato ecc.). You would use Italian future conjugation more for emphasis or to avoid confusion, or for more distant futures based on my experience.
    Still, it's a great point that you are only really adding an extra syllable, makes learning an extra conjugation that bit easier :)

  • Thanks!
    Yeah, I had kind-of gathered that, about the less common usage of the future tense. I didn't really feel the need to mention it since it seems to match the way we speak in English pretty well. I think it only stands out to people like you and I because of our experience with other languages. :)

  • Good point! I compare languages to one another so often that sometimes I forget to compare them to English... :P

  • Yeah, I've picked up on that as the year has progressed. I suppose I should go back and update this post.Good comment. Thanks for the clear example and explanation.

  • I must point out that you should not use "il futuro semplice" in the sentence "credo che domani..." because this phrase (credo che) introduces uncertainty and therefor, you should use "il congiunivo presente"

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