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The present tense is used to talk about actions in the present. I study Italian, What time do you get up in the morning?, and We play basketball on Thursday all use the present tense. In Italian, the present (il presente) is even more versatile than the English simple present, because it can refer to habitual actions, present actions in progress as well as future actions. You can read more about its uses below. First have a look at the forms of the three classes of verbs: -are, -ere, and -ire. Whereas English verbs have little variety in the forms they adopt (think speak v. speaks), Italian verbs have six different forms, depending upon who is carrying out the action. (This agent is called the subject of the verb.) To create the verb form that matches the subject, look at the -are, -ere, or -ire verb form (called the infinitive), drop the -are, -ere, and -ire, and then add the appropriate endings, which are in bold in the chart below.

Regular Verbs

io parlo metto dormo capisco
tu parli metti dormi capisci
lui, lei, Lei parla mette dorme capisce
noi parliamo mettiamo dormiamo capiamo
voi parlate mettete dormite capite
loro parlano mettono dormono capiscono

There are two variations among -ire verbs: Some experience a stem change, inserting the letters -isc before the endings of the io, tu, lui and loro forms; others do not. There is no way to predict which verbs belong to which category. Textbooks and dictionaries often designate these verbs with an (isc) to the right of the infinitive.

There are some -are verbs which are more or less regular, except for a small change in spelling which is made to preserve the sound of the original root, (also called stem). For example:

  • cercare: io cerco, tu cerchi, lui cerca, noi cerchiamo, voi cercate, loro cercano
  • pagare: io pago, tu paghi, lui paga, noi paghiamo, voi pagate, loro pagano.
  • cominciare: io comincio, tu cominci, lui comincia, noi cominciamo, voi cominciate, loro cominciano
  • mangiare: io mangio, tu mangi, lui mangia, noi mangiamo, voi mangiate, loro mangiano

With verbs that end in -care or -gare, insert an -h right before the ending in the tu and noi forms.

With verbs that end in -ciare or -giare, drop the -i in the tu and noi forms.

Irregular Verbs

Check out the irregular conjugations of the following -are verbs:

to go
to give
to do, make
to stay
io vado do faccio sto
tu vai dai fai stai
lui, lei, Lei va fa sta
noi andiamo diamo facciamo stiamo
voi andate date fate state
loro vanno danno fanno stanno

The two most common verbs are irregular -ere verbs:

to have
to be
io ho sono
tu hai sei
lui, lei, Lei ha è
noi abbiamo siamo
voi avete siete
loro hanno sono

Check out the conjugations of these other common irregular -ere verbs:

to drink
to know
to keep
to want
io bevo devo posso so tengo voglio
tu bevi devi puoi sai tieni vuoi
lui, lei, Lei beve deve può sa tiene vuole
noi beviamo dobbiamo possiamo sappiamo teniamo vogliamo
voi bevete dovete potete sapete tenete volete
loro bevono devono possono sanno tengono vogliono

And finally, here a few very common irregular -ire verbs:

to say
to go out
to want
io dico esco vengo
tu dici esci vieni
lui, lei, Lei dice esce viene
noi diciamo usciamo veniamo
voi dite uscite venite
loro dicono escono vengono


In Italian, verbs used in the present tense can be used to connote three different types of action:

  • present habitual action, e.g. Leggo spesso il giornale. (I often read the paper.)
  • present progressive action, e.g. Ora leggo il giornale. (Now I am reading the paper.)
  • future action, when the action is planned or expected, e.g. Sabato andiamo alla festa di compleanno di Lorenzo. (Saturday we are going to Lorenzo’s birthday party.)

When you want to talk about an event in progress or a planned future event, use the present tense outlined above. Do not try to create a compound verb using a form of essere (equivalent to our English: I am going, We are reading, etc.).

When making a sentence negative, place the non right in front of the verb. e.g. Non parlo l’italiano. (I do not speak Italian.)

When asking questions, there is no Italian verb that corresponds to the English do/does as in Do you sleep late on the weekends? Rather, you have to depend upon inflection to make your utterance recognizable as a question.

When using two verbs right after each other in which the first verb produces or implies a second action (e.g. I have to go, We have fun playing sports, Andrea wants to go out), only the first verb is conjugated. (conjugated = expressed with the ending that corresponds to the subject). The second verb is left in the infinitive.

  • Devo andare.  (I have to go.)
  • Ci divertiamo a praticare sport. (We have fun playing sports.)
  • Andrea vuole uscire. (Andrea wants to go out.)

Rather, if there are multiple verbs right after another (perhaps associated but without one action producing the other (e.g. I eat, study, and work in the morning), you must conjugate each verb separately: Mangio, studio e lavoro la mattina.

There are some verbs like piacere that function a little differently. With these verbs, the things liked are the subject of the sentence. You can read more about them here. When the thing liked is an activity, the singular form of piacere is used and then the activity liked appears right after, in its infinitive form.
Modello: Mi piace guardare i film italiani. I like to watch Italian films.

There are some verbs that express actions that the subject performs to themselves (like brushing one’s hair or amusing oneself. These verbs appear in their infinitive with the pronoun si at the end (e.g. divertirsi, lavarsi, etc.), and you conjugate them regularly but include the appropriate pronoun right before them. You can read more about these reflexive and reciprocal verbs here.

Present: Practice