How to Learn Italian Verbs and Basic Italian Grammar

How to Learn Italian Verbs and Basic Italian Grammar

Grammar, along with vocabulary, is an important tool in learning a language. Italian grammar is not the most difficult of grammars and learning its rules will help you learn Italian. Below, we have a guide to Italian grammar for beginners—enough grammar to allow you to master the basic points of Italian grammar without being overwhelmed by detail. We will look at Italian verbs in particular, as they are the most important grammar item for beginner Italian learners.

Boats on Venetian Canal

Parts of Speech:

Before learning about Italian grammar, you need to know about the parts of speech, the different types of words that we use. Italian parts of speech are the same as the ones we use in in English.

Here is an example sentence in English to illustrate the different parts of speech:

You (pronoun) noisily (adverb) ate (verb) the (article) old (adjective) banana (noun) with (preposition) Bob (noun) and (conjunction) Karen (noun).

Nouns: Nouns give a name to a specific thing or group of things (e.g. “banana”, “Bob”, “people”). Names of people and places are a type of noun called proper nouns.

Verbs:  A verb is used for actions (e.g. “you ate”, “to run”) or to help describe something (e.g. “I am”).

Adjectives: Adjectives describe nouns (e.g. “old”, “happy”).

Adverbs: Adverbs describe or alter verbs (e.g. “noisily”, “easily”, “well”).

Pronouns: Pronouns can be used to replace nouns. The type of pronouns that you need to know at this point are personal pronouns, i.e. pronouns that correspond to the different grammatical persons (i.e. “I”, “you”, “we”, etc.).

Conjunctions: A conjugation joins two phrases or words with each other (e.g. “and”, “or”, “but”).

Prepositions: A preposition links two nouns, pronouns or phrases with each other (e.g. “with”, “in”, “into”).

Italian Verbs:

Verbs in both English and Italian can change their endings to indicate grammatical person (i.e. “I”, “you”, “we”, “you (pl.)”, “they”) and **tense** (e.g. past, present future).

This is called conjugation. For example, the verb “talk” in English conjugates like:

Person Form
1st Person Singular I talk
2nd Person Singular you talk
3rd Person Singular he/she/one talks
1st Person Plural we talk
2nd Person Plural you all talk
3rd Person Plural they talk

In English, the different persons are indicated by pronouns (i.e. “I”, “you”, etc.) before the verb and not usually by a change in ending. Italian, however, changes for every different person, not just the third person singular (i.e. "she talks" versus "you talk"), and doesn’t need to use pronouns, for example the verb parlare (“to talk”) conjugates like:

Parlare-"to talk"

Italian English
parl-o I talk
parl-i you talk
parl-a he/she/one talks
parl-iamo we talk
parl-ate you all talk
parl-ano they talk

The Three Regular Conjugations:

Most Italian verbs have the same endings, with only the beginning of the verb, the root, changing. There are three different types of Italian verb conjugations, which can be distinguished by their ending in the infinitive, the form of the verb meaning “to do something” (e.g. “to talk”, “to ask”).

The three conjugations are:

  1. First conjugation: endings in -are (e.g. parlare-“to speak”, amare-“to love”, arrivare-“to arrive”)
  2. Second conjugation: endings in -ere (e.g. chiedere-“to ask”, prendere-“to take”, mettere-“to put”)
  3. Third conjugation: endings in-ire (e.g. partire-"to leave", offrire-"to offer")


First Conjugation:

Parlare-to talk

Italian English
parl-o I talk
parl-i you talk
parl-a he/she/one talks
parl-iamo we talk
parl-ate you all talk
parl-ano they talk

Second Conjugation:

Chiedere-to ask

Italian English
chied-o I ask
chied-i you ask
chied-e he/she/one asks
chied-iamo we ask
chied-ete you all ask
chied-ono they ask

Third Conjugation:

Partire-to leave

Italian English
part-o I leave
part -i you leave
part-e he/she/one leaves
part-iamo we leave
part-ite you all leave
part-ono they leave

Third Conjugation in -isc-:

Some -ire verbs add an -isc- onto the stem of all the forms expect for the first person and second person plural (i.e. “we and “you all” forms):

Capire-to understand

Italian English
cap-isco I understand
cap-isci you understand
cap-isce he/she/one understands
cap-iamo we understand
cap-ite you all understand
cap-iscono they understand

As these verbs look the same as other -ire verbs in the infinitive, it pays to learn them off by heart.

Common Endings:

However, all three conjugations are more similar than they are different. For example, the “I”, “you” and “we” forms are exactly the same for all these verbs:

Italian English
-o I [verb]
-i you [verb]
-a/e he/she/one [verbs]
-iamo we [verb]
-te you all [verb]
-no they [verb]

Irregular Verbs:

Italian, like English, has irregular verbs, i.e. verbs that don’t conform to the normal rules about endings. In irregular verbs, the whole word, not just the ending, can change when the verb is conjugated.

Essere and Avere:

The two most important irregular verbs are essere(“to be”) and avere (“to have”). These are vital to know as they are used to form some of the other Italian tenses.

Like “to be” in English, essere is irregular:

Essere-“to be”

Italian English
sono I am
sei you are
è he/she/one is
siamo we are
siete you all are
sono they are

Avere-“to have”

Italian English
ho I have
hai you have
ha he/she/one has
abbiamo we have
avete you all have
hanno they have

Other Irregular Verbs:

Apart from the two main ones, here are some other common irregular verbs you need to know:

Andare-“to go”

Italian English
vado I go
vi you go
va he/she/one goes
andiamo we go
andate you all go
vanno they go

Fare-“to do”, “to make”

Italian English
faccio I do
fai you do
fa he/she/one does
facciamo we do
fate you all do
fanno they do

Potere-“to be able to”, “can”

Italian English
posso I can
puoi you can
può he/she/one can
possiamo we can
potete you all can
possono they can

Dovere-“to have to”

Italian English
devo I have to
devi you have to
deve he/she/one has to
dobbiamo we have to
dovete you all have to
devono they have to

Volere-“to want ”

Italian English
voglio I want
vuoi you want
vuole he/she/one wants
vogliamo we want
volete you all want
vogliono they want

Examples of verbs in a sentence:

Verbs in Italian are used in practically the same way as in English, usually after the subject of the sentence (i.e. the thing doing the verb) and before the object (i.e. the thing that the verb is being done to), for example:

Il treno parte alle otto-“The train leaves at eight”
Mangiamo la pasta-“We are eating pasta”
Compri le scarpe nuove-“You buy new shoes.”
Sono neo-zealandese-“I am a New-Zealander”



Gender is something that you need to learn before understanding how nouns, adjectives and articles work in Italian. Many English nouns change endings in the plural (e.g. “car” becomes “car-s”, “mouse” becomes “mice”) but Italian nouns, adjectives and articles change endings according to gender as well as number.

Grammatical Gender is where some types of words having different endings according to whether they are “masculine” or “feminine”. English does not have grammatical gender, but there are exceptions (for example, “actor” and “actress”). When talking about people, grammatical gender is based on real life gender (e.g. Marco would be “masculine”), but all nouns in Italian have genders set by custom.


Nouns have a fixed gender. For example, pasta is always feminine, whereas biglietto is always masculine.
The masculine gendered ending in Italian is -o in the singular (e.g. biglietto-“ticket”) and -i in the plural (e.g. biglietti-“tickets”).


Singular bigliett-o
Plural bigliett-i
The feminine gendered ending is -a in the singular (e.g. macchina-“car”) and -e in the plural (e.g. macchine-“cars”).


Singular macchin-a
Plural macchin-e

Masculine/Feminine Nouns:

Italian also has nouns that end in -e in the singular and -i in the plural which can be either gender. For example, regione (“region”) is feminine and dottore (“doctor”) is masculine.


There a few rules for the gender of nouns ending in -e:

  1. Nouns ending in -ione (e.g. regione-“region”, conclusione-"conclusion") are usually feminine.
  2. Nouns ending in -ore, -ale and -ile are masculine (e.g. dottore-"doctor", giornale-"newspaper").

Nouns without plural forms:

There are some nouns in Italian which don’t have a different ending for the plural (like the English “fish”). However, the plural can be expressed by using the plural definite article.

Two types of these nouns you are likely to see are:

  1. English loanwords (e.g. sport-“sport”, jogging-“jogging”) which are always masculine.
  2. Words with an accent on the last letter (e.g. caffé-“coffee”, cittá-“city”) which are always feminine.

For other exceptions in Italian plurals, please see here.

Pencil on Notebook
Pencil on Notebook


Italian adjectives change their gender and number to match the noun they describe, to "agree" with it (e.g. la macchina bella-“the nice car”; i ragazzi belli-“the handsome boys”). Most adjectives have the same endings as standard masculine and feminine nouns:

Bello-“pretty”, “nice”, “handsome”

Masculine Feminine
Singular bell-o bell-a
Plural bell-i bell-e

This means that sometimes the noun and adjective which agrees with it have the same endings (e.g. il ragazzo bello-“the handsome boy”).

However, there are also adjectives ending in -e, which have the same forms for masculine and feminine:


Singular ingles-e
Plural ingles-i

It is important to be careful when combining nouns and adjectives in -e with nouns and adjectives with the standard endings. For example, it is il ragazzo inglese (“the English boy”) and la ragazza inglese (“the English girl”) instead of il ragazzo ingleso and la ragazza inglesa.

Books open
Books open


Italian, like English, has the articles “the” and “a”. In Italian, articles must agree in number and gender with the noun they go with just like adjectives.

Definite articles:

The basic masculine of “the”, the definite article, in Italian is il in the singular and i in the plural. The basic feminine is la in the singular and le in the plural:

Masculine Feminine
Singular il la
Plural i le

However, nouns of either gender beginning with a vowel use l’ in the singular (e. g. l’olivo-“the olive”; l’arancia-“the orange”). In the plural, masculine nouns beginning with a vowel take gli (e.g. gli olive-“the olives”). So, the articles for nouns beginning with vowels are:

Masculine Feminine
Singular l’ l’
Plural gli le

Masculine nouns beginning with z, or s-blends (e.g. “sp”, “squ”) use lo in the singular (e.g. lo zaino-“the back-pack”) and, like nouns beginning with a vowel, gli in the plural (e.g. gli zaini-“the back-packs”).
A full summary of the rules would be:

Masculine Masculine (beginning with a vowel) Masculine (beginning with z, gn or s blends) Feminine Feminine (beginning with a vowel)
Singular il l’ lo la l’
Plural i gli gli le le

Indefinite Articles:

“A”, the indefinite article, is usually un in the masculine and una in the feminine:

Masculine Feminine
un una

However, the feminine becomes un’ before a noun beginning with a vowel (e.g. un’arancia-“an orange”) and the masculine becomes uno before a z or s blend (e.g. uno zaino-“a back-pack”).

So, a full summary of the rules would be:

Masculine Masculine (beginning with z or s blends) Feminine Feminine (beginning with a vowel)
un uno una un’

The indefinite article does not have a plural form.


Just as English adverbs usually end in “-ly” (e.g. “usually”, “early”, nearly”), Italian also has a special ending for adverbs: -mente. This is added to the feminine singular of the adjective the adverb comes from, for example:

ovvia-“obvious (feminine)" becomes the adjective ovvia-mente-“obviously”

Italian, like English, has irregular adverbs. The most important are:


Two old books, one open
Two old books, one open


Like English pronouns, Italian pronouns have different forms according to their role in the sentence. For example, “I love cats” is said when “I” is the subject of the sentence, but “cats love me” is said if “I” is the object of the sentence. “I” and “me” are respectively called the subject pronoun and the direct (object) pronoun. Italian also has a different pronoun for the indirect object, which is used when a pronoun is preceded by a preposition in English (e.g. “to me”, “for you”).

Subject Pronoun Direct Pronoun Indirect Pronoun
Italian English Italian Italian Italian English
io I mi me mi to me
tu you ti you ti to you
lui he lo him/it gli to him/it
lei she la her le to her
noi we ci us ci to us
voi you all vi you all vi to you all
loro they li/le them gli to them

Direct and indirect pronouns in Italian are a bit difficult for English speakers because they need to be placed before the verb and after the subject (if it is expressed), e.g.
Marco te amo-“Marco loves you”
Lo so-“I know (it)”

The “Lei” form

Italian has a formal form of “you” that can be used in formal situations. This form is not the second person plural form (i.e. "you all") as in French, but the third person singular with feminine pronouns, capitalized to distinguish it (i.e. Lei). Therefore, we have the pronoun forms:

Subject Pronoun Direct Pronoun Indirect Pronoun
Italian English Italian English Italian English
Lei Sir/Ma’am La Sir/Ma’am Le to Sir/Ma’am
Books on bookshelf, including Dante's The Divine Comedy
Books on bookshelf, including Dante's The Divine Comedy

Tips for learning Italian verbs and grammar

Italian grammar is not too difficult to pick up. However, you might need some tools and resources to help you along the way:


  • A time-honoured way of learning verbs is to repeat all the forms over and over aloud or by writing them out again and again.
  • You may be able to find songs on Youtube specifically made to help learn verbs (e.g. this one), though there aren’t as many as for French. Some existing songs, however, contain helpful examples of different verb forms.

Grammar in general: