Sentence Analysis in Italian: Main, Coordinate & Subordinate phrases!

Writing well means creating clear and well-articulated clauses, in order to convey the message properly and unequivocally. Therefore it’s good to know the rules that are the basis of the formation of the period, namely the complex sentence formed by two or more simple clauses (or “proposizione”). Thus, in the following lesson we are going to see together how to analyze a clause. At the end of the video related to this topic, you can test yourselves with some sentences to analyze.

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How to analyze a sentence in Italian

When we analyze a sentence we need to understand the functions of all the parts composing it and examine the relations that each of these have with the others, through 3 steps:

1) identifying the necessary and unmissable element: the proposizione principale (main clause), the one without which the whole sentence makes no sense. In fact, all the other clauses are optional additions that give more information on the action expressed in the main clause, but that could be left out.

2) identifying (if there are any) the proposizioni coordinate (coordinate clauses) and the subordinate (subordinate clauses).

  • the coordinate clause is a phrase that has a relationship of equality with the phrase to which it is linked and that it’s therefore at the same level. It’s possible to have coordinate clauses linked to the main clause but also to some subordinate clauses.
  • the subordinate clause is a phrase that has a relationship of dependency with the main clause or another subordinate, so it lacks its own autonomy (It doesn’t make sense on its own). It’s usually introduced by a preposition or a conjugation.

3) identifying the various characteristics of the subordinate clauses and coordinate clauses as well.

Coordinate Clauses

There are several types of coordinate clauses, depending on the conjugation they’re introduced by:

copulativa (copulative): it’s introduced by some conjugations expressing a link that’s similar to a summation, like: e, anche, pure, inoltre, né, neppure, nemmeno (and, also, as well, besides, (not) even)

Examples: “Ho cenato e sono andato a dormire” (I had dinner and I went to sleep)

Non l’ho mai fatto, né mai lo farò” (I’ve never done it, and I never will)

 

disgiuntiva (disjunctive): it’s introduced by some conjugations that indicate an alternative possibility to what is said previously, like: o, ovvero, oppure, altrimenti (or, otherwise)

Examples: “Possiamo andare al mare oppure rimanere in casa” (We could go to the sea or stay at home)

Mangialo, altrimenti finisce nella spazzatura” (Eat it, otherwise it ends up in the garbage)

 

avversativa (adversative): it’s introduced by some conjugations that express a contradiction, a contrast to the content of the previous clause, like:  ma, però, tuttavia, anzi, peraltro, piuttosto, nondimeno, eppure (but, however, rather, nevertheless, yet)

Examples: “Ci ho litigato, ma mi manca” (I had a fight with him, but I miss him)

Non è vegetariana, eppure non mangia la carne” (She is not vegetarian, yet she doesn’t eat meat)

 

esplicativa (explanatory): it’s introduced by some conjugations that are used to explain what has been said previously, like: infatti, difatti, invero, cioè (in fact, namely, indeed, because)

Examples: “Prepareremo il vitello tonnato, cioè il piatto che i nostri nipoti preferiscono” (We are going to the veal with tuna sauce, namely our grandchildren’s favorite dish)

Ho mal di testa, infatti ho bevuto molto ieri sera” (I’ve a headache, because I drank a lot last night)

 

conclusiva: it is held by some conjugations that are used to introduce logical deductions or conclusions like: quindi, dunque, perciò, pertanto, ebbene (so, thus, therefore, well)

Examples: “Ho sonno, quindi andrò a dormire” (I’m sleepy, so I’m going to sleep)

Abbiamo vinto la lotteria, pertanto faremo un viaggio alle Maldive!” (We’ve won the lottery, therefore we’ll go on a trip to the Maldives)

 

correlativa (correlative): it’s introduced by some conjugations that come in pairs and link the phrases with each other like: e… e, sia… sia, né… né, o… o, non solo… ma anche (both… and, (n)either… (n)or, not only… but also)

Examples: “Scegli: o finisci questo lavoro o non ricevi lo stipendio di questo mese” (Choose: you either finish your work or you won’t receive your monthly salary)

Ti ho chiamato non solo per salutarti, ma anche per chiederti un favore…” (I’ve called you not only to say hello but also to ask you a favor)

 

sostitutiva (substitution): it’s introduced by some conjugations that are used to assert a concept contrasting the previous one (enough to propose the substitution), like: bensì, invece, semmai (but, instead, rather)

Examples: “Non vogliamo organizzare la festa, bensì assumere una ditta che lo faccia per noi” (We don’t want to plan the party, but to hire a company that does it for us)

Dopo l’abbuffata di ieri, oggi pranzo non mangio nulla, semmai bevo solo un caffè” (After yesterday’s binge, I won’t have anything for lunch, but I’ll have just a coffee)

 

Subordinate Clauses

Of these clauses we must determine:

1) the level of dependency

  • first level: if it depends directly on the main clause or on a coordinate clause linked to the main clause
  • second level: if it depends on a first level subordinate clause
  • third level: if it depends on a second level subordinate clause and so on

2) the form

that can be:

  • explicit (formed by a verb in the indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative form)
  • implicit (formed by a verb in the infinitive, gerund and participle form).

In most cases, in order to identify the function of an implicit clause, we must change it into an explicit one;

3) the function

in the clause, namely its meaning.  In this regard, a subordinate clause can be:

–  soggettiva (as subject): it plays the role of subject of the main clause and it’s always introduced by impersonal verb forms.

The explicit form is formed by  che + indicative, subjunctive or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by (di) + infinitive verb

Examples: “È importante che il paziente sia qui 2 ore prima dell’intervento” (It’s important that the patient is here 2 hours before the operation)

Bisogna comprare una nuova macchina” (We need to buy a new car)

Sembrava di essere su una nave da crociera” (It seemed like to be on a cruise ship)

 

oggettiva (as object): it plays the role of object in the main clause.

The explicit form is formed by che + indicative, subjunctive or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by  di + infinitive verb

Examples: “Pensavo che ti saresti offeso per la battuta” (I thought you’d be offended by the joke)

Hanno deciso di venire in vacanza con noi” (They’ve decided to go on holiday with us)

 

finale (final): it indicates the purpose of the action expressed in the main clause.

The explicit form is formed by perché, affinché (so that, in order to) + subjunctive verb,

The implicit form is formed by per, di, a or locutions like al fine di, con lo scopo di, nell’intento di (in order to, with the purpose of) + infinitive verb

Example: “L’ho chiamato affinché potesse arrivare in tempo all’appuntamento” (I called him so that he could arrive on time)

Il sindaco gira per la città con lo scopo di raccogliere voti” (The major is driving around the city in order to gather votes)

 

relativa (relative): it specifies or expands the meaning of a word in the main clause.

The explicit form is formed by a relative pronoun (che, cui, il quale, la quale, i quali, le quali,
chi) (that) + indicative, conditional or subjunctive verb;

The implicit form is formed by participle or (da) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Ho letto il libro che mi avevi consigliato” (I read the book you recommended)

Vorrei un fidanzato che mi riempisse di complimenti” (I’d like to have a boyfriend that filled me  with compliments)

Sono state arrestate tutte le persone facenti (che facevano) parte dell’organizzazione criminale” (All the people that were part of the criminal organization have been arrested)

Questo è il modulo da compilare (che deve essere compilato) per la richiesta del mutuo” (This is the (This is the application that must be complied…)

 

temporale: it indicates the moment or the circumstance in which the action expressed in the main clause occurs.

The explicit form is formed by conjugations/temporal locutions (quando, mentre, prima, dopo, nel momento in cui, non appena, fino a che…) (when, while before, after, as soon as, until)+ indicative or subjunctive verb;

The implicit form is formed by participle, gerund or dopo/prima di (after/before)+ infinitive verb

Example: “Raggiungeteci appena finite di lavorare” (Meet us as soon as you finish working)

Cambia atteggiamento prima che sia troppo tardi!” (Change your attitude before it’s too late)

Finite le vacanze (dopo che le vacanze erano finite), siamo tornati alla nostra vita monotona” (After our vacation was over, we went back to our monotonous life)

Ci sono passata tornando (mentre tornavo) da casa di mia sorella” (I passed by while I was on my way home from my sister’s home)

Dopo essere stato attaccato, il presidente lasciò l’aula” (The president left the courtroom after being attacked)

 

causale (causal): it indicates the cause of the action expressed by the main clause

The explicit form is formed by perché, poiché, siccome, dal momento che (because, since, given that) + indicative verb;

The implicit form is formed by past participle, gerund or per + infinitive verb

Examples: “Siccome abbiamo preso l’aereo, siamo arrivati prima degli altri” (Since we’ve missed the plane, we’ve got there before them)

Avendo ricevuto (siccome aveva ricevuto) la promozione, ha deciso di comprare una casa più grande” (Since he’s got a promotion, he’s decided to buy a larger house)

(Poiché era stato) Incoraggiato dai suoi genitori, il bambino è riuscito a camminare” (The baby has been able to walk alone, since he had been encouraged by his parents)

Lo hanno rimproverato per aver portato il cellulare in aula” (They reproached him for bringing his cellphone in the classroom)

 

concessiva (concessive): it indicates the fact despite which the action in the main clause occurs.

 The explicit form is formed by benché, nonostante, sebbene, malgrado (although, despite, even though) + subjunctive or anche se + indicative verb;

The implicit form is formed by pur + gerund or benché, sebbene (although, despite) + past participle

Examples: “Ho mangiato anche se non avevo fame” (I ate something even though I wasn’t hungry)

Andò a lavorare nonostante avesse la febbre” (He went to work despite having the fever)

Pur essendo molto ricco, Luca non ha donato nemmeno un euro” (Despite being very rich, Luca didn’t donate a single euro)

Benché stremati, i bambini hanno continuato a giocare fino al tramonto” (Although they were exhausted, the children kept playing until sunset)

 

consecutiva (consecutive): it expresses the consequence of the action that’s in the main clause which has, among its elements, an adverb that announces it.

The explicit form is formed by (così/ tanto/talmente/a tal punto…) che (so, much, to such an extent that) + indicative or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by  (tale, a tal punto) da (to the point, such as to) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Pioveva così forte che non si riusciva a vedere nulla” (It was raining so hard we couldn’t see a thing)

Il caldo era tale da far perdere i sensi” (The heat was such as to make someone unconscious)

Gli ho scritto una lettera commovente a tal punto da farla piangere” (I wrote a moving letter to the point that she started crying)

 

modale (modal): it indicates the way in which the action of the main clause occurs.

The explicit form is formed by come, come se, nel modo in cui, quasi che (as, as if, in the way that, almost as if) + indicative, subjunctive or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by gerund or con, a + infinitive verb

Examples: “Mangiava come se fosse l’ultimo giorno della sua vita” (He was eating as it if were the last day of his life)

Mi disturba con il suo parlare a voce alta” (He bothers me by speaking loudly)

 

dichiarativa (declarative): it explains something about a word in the main clause.

The explicit form is formed by che + indicative, subjunctive or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by di + infinitive verb

Examples: “Ho la sensazione che tu stia sbagliando tutto” (I’ve got the feeling you’re doing everything wrong)

Ho il timore di non concludere nulla nella mia vita” (I fear I can’t do anything good with my life)

 

condizionale (conditional): it indicates the necessary requirements or conditions so that the action of the main clause can occur.

The explicit form is formed by se, qualora, purché, ammesso che, nel caso in cui (if, so long as, assuming, in the event that) + indicative or subjunctive verb;

The implicit form is formed by  gerund or a + infinitive verb

Examples: “Se mangi cibo poco salutare, avrai mal di stomaco” (If you eat unhealthy meals, you’ll have a stomachache)

Lo pagheremo ammesso che finisca i lavori in tempo” (We’ll pay him assuming he finishes the work on time)

Qualora ce lo avessero detto, avremmo potuto fare qualcosa per evitare il disastro” (If they had told us, we could have done something to prevent the disaster)

Prendendo (se prendi) l’aereo, arriverai prima” (If you take the plane, you’ll get there sooner)

 

comparativa (comparative): it makes a comparison with what is expressed by the main clause.

The explicit form is formed by come, più… di quanto, meglio… di quanto, meno… di quello, peggio… di come, tanto… come, tanto… quanto, piuttosto che, … (as, more… than, less… than, as… as, worse than, rather than) + indicative or subjunctive verb;

The implicit form is formed by più che, piuttosto che (more than, rather than) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Non c’erano tante persone quante ce ne aspettavamo…” (There weren’t as many people as we expected)

È stato meglio di quanto credessi!” (It was better than I thought)

Più che parlare, urlava” (He was screaming rather than talking)

 

avversativa (adversative): it expresses a concept that’s in contrast to what is said in the main clause

The explicit form is formed by mentre (invece), laddove (invece), quando (invece) (whereas, even though, when) + indicative or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by anziché, invece di, al posto di (rather than, instead of)  + infinitive verb

Examples: “Dice di essere famosa quando invece non la conosce nessuno…” (She says she’s famous when actually nobody knows her)

Fecero tutto in fretta mentre avrebbero potuto prendersela comoda” (They rushed when they could have taken their time)

Comincia a darti da fare al posto di lamentarti!” (Start doing something instead of complaining)

 

strumentale: it indicates the means by which the action expressed in the main clause occurs.

The implicit form is formed by gerund or con, a furia di, a forza di (by, by dint of) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Da piccola, mia sorella riusciva sempre a ottenere quello che voleva a forza di fare i
capricci” (As a child, my sister could always get what she wanted from throwing tantrum)

Lo ha convinto ripetendoglielo tante volte” (They convinced him by repeating it over and over)

 

interrogativa indiretta (indirect interrogative): it’s nothing but an indirect question introduced by some pronouns or interrogative adjectives (who, how much, what), interrogative adverbs (where, how) or interrogative conjunctions

The explicit form is formed by indicative, subjunctive or conditional verb;

The implicit form is formed by infinitive verb.

Examples: “Ci hanno chiesto dove fossimo andati” (They asked us where we had gone)

Non sapevamo cosa fare” (We didn’t know what to do)

Si chiedono se parlare o no” (They’re wondering if they should talk or not)

 

limitativa (limitation):  it indicates the area, the limit in which what is said in the main clause is valid.

The explicit form is formed by per quello che, per quanto, a quanto (as far as, for all) + indicative or subjunctive verb;

The implicit form is formed by  (in) quanto a (when it comes to, in terms of) + infinitive verb 

Examples: “Per quanto mi riguarda, non voglio più continuare” (As far me, I don’t want to continue anymore)

A quanto ne so, si sono lasciati” (As far I know, they broke up)

Quanto a raccontare balle, Christian è il campione assoluto!” (In terms of telling lies, Christian is the absolute champion)

 

esclusiva (exclusivity): it expresses a circumstance that is excluded, a fact that didn’t occur.

The explicit form is formed by senza che (without) + subjunctive verb;

The implicit form is formed by senza (without) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Si è presentato senza che qualcuno lo avesse invitato”  (He showed up without anyone having invited him)

È educato mangiare senza fare rumore” (It’s polite to eat without making a sound)

 

eccettuativa (exception): it expresses an exception to what is said in the main clause.

The explicit form is formed by fuorché, eccetto che, tranne che, tranne se, a meno che, salvo che (except, other than, unless)  + subjunctive or indicative verb;

The implicit form is formed by fuorché, eccetto che, tranne che, a meno che, salvo che (except, other than, unless) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Non gli parlo più, a meno che non mi chieda scusa” (I won’t speak to him anymore, unless he apologizes)

Non disse più niente, eccetto che era molto felice” (He didn’t say another word, except he was very happy)

Siamo disposti a fare qualsiasi cosa tranne che ferire qualcuno” (We’re ready to do anything except hurting someone)

 

aggiuntiva: it indicates a fact that is added to what is expressed by the main clause.

The implicit form is formed by oltre a, oltre che (in addition to, other than, besides) + infinitive verb

Examples: “Oltre a essere buoni, sono anche poco calorici!” (In addition to being good, they’re also a bit caloric)

Cos’altro sai fare oltre che lamentarti?” (What else can you do besides whine?)

 

Well, we hope this lesson on the analysis of the sentence might be helpful to you. Let us know if you have doubts and your results. In addition, we remind you to take a look at our video on the grammatical analysis and on the logical analysis. Instead, if you want to relax, watch our video-summaries on the Divine Comedy by Dante and the Betrothed by Manzoni.

One thought to “Sentence Analysis in Italian: Main, Coordinate & Subordinate phrases!”

  1. Ho letto questo frase: “Presto in molti si convinsero che il fascismo avrebbe potuto placare le rivolte delle classi inferiori…” il autore ha usato il conjunctivo del verbo convincere. Come Lei analisi questo frase?

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