Basic Italian Grammar rules that every Foreign Student should know!

In the following lesson we’ll deal with the most important grammar rules in Italian (taken from our previous lessons) that every foreign student should know to perfection. Stay with us to refresh your skills!

The 26 grammar rules you should definitely know 

Ok, let’s get started!

1) The verbs with double auxiliary and the use of “essere” (to be) and “avere” (to have)

Some verbs with double auxiliary are: Alcuni verbi con doppio ausiliare sono: Aumentare (to increase), Cambiare (to change), Cominciare (to begin), Crescere (to grow), Cuocere (to cook), Esplodere (to explode), Finire (to finish), Guarire (to heal), Salire (to climb), Fallire (to fail)…

According to the meaning of the sentence, if the verb has:  In base al significato della frase, se il verbo ha:

  • an intransitive use, meaning that it is not followed by an object complement, then the auxiliary will be “essere
  • transitive use, meaning that it is followed by an object complement, then the auxiliary will be “avere

Examples: “Il mondo è cambiato negli ultimi anni”.  (The world has changed in recent years.)

“La tecnologia ha cambiato il mondo”. (Technology has changed the world.)

If you want to learn all the verbs you can use with both auxiliaries or you want to see more in detail the use of “essere” and “avere”, then don’t miss our lesson on this topic.

2) Meaning of the word “prendersela” 

Prendersela means “to be offended or to get angry at someone for something”.

Example: “Sono un po’ permalosa: me la prendo quando qualcuno mi offende o mi fa uno scherzo (I am a little bit touchy: I get angry when someone insults me or pranks me)

If you want to know all other pronoun verbs and their classes of belonging, don’t miss our lesson devoted to this topic.

3) Imperfetto and Passato Prossimo: use and differences

Il passato prossimo tense is used:

  • to indicate an action that’s occurred, one or more times, in a certain moment in the past (yesterday, two months ago, last year, in that moment, ecc.) but also time-bounds events, with a defined beginning and end

The imperfetto tense is used:

  • to indicate a habitual action, occurring in an indefinite time frame, in the past, of which
    we don’t know the beginning, the end or the duration (every day, every summer, always, as a child, usually…)

In order to know when to use the passato prossimo tense and the imperfetto tense, don’t miss our lesson!

4) Use of the particle CI (A+ qualcosa)

CI can replace A + qualcosa (something)

Example: “– Hai pensato a cosa fare questa sera? – Sì! Ci ho pensato! Mangiamo sushi!” (- Have you thought about what to do tonight? – Yeah! I’ve thought about it! We will eat sushi!)

(→ Sì! Ho pensato a cosa fare questa sera! Mangiamo sushi!) (→ Yeah! I’ve thought what to do tonight! Let’s eat sushi!)

If you’d like to know when and how to use the particle CI, don’t miss our lesson on this topic!

5) The rules you should follow to use the indirect pronouns in the same sentence 

1) The indirect pronoun always goes before the direct pronoun;

2) The indirect pronouns miticivi followed by the direct pronouns lolalile become meteceve;

3) The indirect pronouns gli and le followed by the direct pronouns lolalile join together by means of an “e” and form one single word: glieloglielaglieligliele (these are valid for both men and women: even “le” becomes “gli”).

Don’t miss our lesson on how to use the direct and indirect pronouns, it’s really useful!

6) The false friend “educazione”

The word “education” means “getting a regular cultural preparation“, usually at school; however in Italian, in this case, we’ll talk about “istruzione” and we’ll say that the person who receives is “istruita” (educated).

Educazione” actually exists in Italian, but it indicates the transfer of moral and cultural values (“good manners”, “politeness” in English).

If you want to know the various false friends, don’t miss our lesson!

7) Alternative to “Sto bene” (I’m fine)

If you’re feeling particularly good, you can reply to questions “come stai/come butta (how are you/how you doing) (ecc.)?” with the  expressions Da dio! or Alla grande!(I’m doing great!)

Example:  “– Ciao! Come butta? – Alla grande! Ho vinto alla lotteria!” (Hi! How you doing? – I’m doing great! I just won the lottery!)

If you want to know the alternatives to the common formula “Come stai? Sto bene!”, then don’t miss our lesson!

8) Giving information (indirect speech)

A peculiarity of Italian language is that when we want to express the future tense in the past we use the  condizionale passato (Past Conditional)

Example: “Ha detto che avrebbe mangiato” (He said he would have eaten)

If you want to know everything about the indirect speech in Italian, don’t miss our lesson: è really useful and!

9) Use of the particle CI (SU + qualcuno/qualcosa)

CI can replace SU + qualcuno / qualcosa (someone/something)

Example: “– Ho bisogno di una mano per finire questo progetto! Posso contare su di te?” – Certo che ci puoi contare! ( I need a hand to complete this project! Can I count on you?)

(→ Certo che puoi contare su di me!) (→ Of course you can count on me!)

Find out when and how to use the particle CI, thanks to our lesson!

10) Describing the height (slanciato vs allampanato)

Slanciato (slender) → it’s used in a positive way to indicate that a person is not just tall, but also that they’re agile and elegant in appearance.

Allampanato (lanky) → it’s used in a negative way in reference to a person who is very, very tall and very, very skinny as well and also slightly curved, just like a lamppost!

If you have achieved a high level in Italian don’t miss our lesson on how to describe a person (advanced level)!

11) Meaning of the word “farcela”

Farcela means “to succeed, to win, to carry out a task or mission successfully”.

If you want to know all the other pronoun verbs and their classes of belonging, don’t miss our lesson devoted to this topic.

12) How to use “anzi”

Anzi has several meanings and it’s used:

  • to contradict a negative sentence previously said with the meaning of al contrario (on the contrary)

Examples: “Non fa freddo, anzi (= al contrario) ci sono 35 gradi!”  (It’s not cold, on the contrary, it’s 35 degrees!)

“Stefania non è brava a giocare a tennis, anzi (= al contrario) è proprio negata!” ( Stefania isn’t good at playing tennis, on the contrary, she is really bad!)

  • with the meaning of o megliopiuttosto (rather), when you change your mind

Example: “Prendo una pizza… anzi, prendo un primo!” (I’ll have a pizza or, rather, a main course)

  • to strengthen what said before, to insist on a notion, to give more emphasis!

Example: “L’Italia è bella, anzi bellissima!” (Italy is nice, no, actually it’s beautiful!)

If you want to learn how to use anzi, anziché, anzitutto and innanzitutto, don’t miss our lesson on this topic!

13) Meaning of the word “fregarsene” 

Fregarsene means “not to worry, to feel indifference for something

If you want to know all the other pronoun verbs and their classes of belonging, don’t miss our lesson devoted to this topic.

 14) Imparare vs Insegnare 

  • insegnare (to teach): means “having people apprehend, sharing knowledge, leading in learning through teaching methods”. Usually teachers or professors are the ones who teach.

Example: “Io insegno italiano” (I teach Italian)

  • imparare (to learn): means “acquiring knowledge or skills through study or exercise”, therefore the students, or in general any person who something is taught to, are the ones who learn

WATCH OUT: you can’t say: “Ho imparato a mio figlio ad andare in bici!”, but:

Ho insegnato a mio figlio ad andare in bici” (I taught my kid how to ride a bike) or “Mio figlio ha imparato ad andare in bici” (My kid learned how to ride a bike).

Don’t miss our lesson on the 7 most common doubts among those who study Italian language, it’s very useful!

15) When NOT to use the Subjunctive

The subjunctive is not used:

  • when the subject of the main clause and the subject of the subordinate clause are the same → we use the infinitive (introduced by “di“)

Examples: “(io) Spero che (iovada a Firenze a maggio →  Spero di andare a Firenze a maggio” (I hope that I go to Florence in May → I hope to go to Florence in May)

(voi) Credete che (voi) siate in ritardo →  Credete di essere in ritardo” (You think that you are late → You think to be late)

  • with the expressions such as: secondo meprobabilmenteforseanche se 
  • with the expressions such as: poiché, siccome, dopo che, dato che
  • with declarative verbs (affermare, confermare, dichiarare, dire, giurare, promettere, rispondere, scrivere, sostenere, spiegare)

Don’t miss our full lesson on when not to use the subjunctive (thus using l’indicative).

16) Use of the particle CI (qui/lì) (here/there)

CI can indicate “qui / in questo luogo” (here/ in this place) or “lì / in quel luogo” (there/ in that place)

Examples: “– Hai visto la nuova casa di Davide? – No! Ci vado questa sera! (Have you seen Davide’s new house? – No! I’m going there tonight!) 

(→ Vado questa sera lì, in quel luogo) (→ Tonight I’m going there, in that place) 

“– Sapevi che ai nostri studenti piace molto Bari? – Sì! Lo so! Infatti molti di loro ci vengono ogni anno!” (Do you know our student really enjoy Bari? – Yes! I know! In fact come here every year! )

(→ Vengono spesso qui, in questo luogo) (They often come here, to this place)

Find out when and how to use the particle CI, thanks to our lesson!

17) The meaning of the word “Bordello”

The word bordello is used to describe a problematic, chaotic, confusing situation.

Example: “La mia stanza, come sempre, è un vero bordello!” (As always, my room is a mess!)

Don’t miss our lesson on Italian slang, it’s very interesting!

18) The pronoun “Cui” 

The pronoun cui (who, whom, whose, which) replaces any other complement, thus it is always introduced by a preposition, according to the verb used.

Example: “Maria è la persona a cui penso sempre” (→ Pensare A qualcuno) (Maria is the person of whom I always think. → Think of someone)

If you want to learn how to use the relative pronouns in Italian, take a look at our lesson.

19) The false friend “Annoiante”

This word  doesn’t exist in Italian because it it comes from the English “annoying”which is translated in Italian as “fastidioso”!

The adjective “noioso“, on the other hand, is translated with as”boring“, while the word “annoiato” is translated as “bored

If you want to know the various false friends, don’t miss our lesson!

20) Italian gesture: Calma! (Easy!)

Gesto italiano calma

If you’d like to know the meaning of all Italian gestures, don’t miss our funny lesson!

21) The meanings of DAI!

Be careful to not mistake it with the second person singular of the verb DARE!

  • It expresses surprise for something we have just seen or heard, something we don’t almost think to be possible.

Example: “– Ho visto Sara e Luca di nuovo insieme! Dai! Ma veramente?” (- I’ve seen Sara and Luca together again! – Come on! For real?)

  • It can be used  to encourage someone to do something

Example: “Dai! Vieni anche tu alla festa!” (Please! You come to the party too!)

  • It can be used to invite someone to stop doing something, as synonym of “Basta!”, “Smettila!” (Enough!)

Example: “Dai! Dobbiamo lavorare! Lascia stare quel cellulare!” (Enough! We have to work! Forget about that phone!)

If you want to know the things Italians always say, besides DAI, don’t miss our lesson!

22) Contexts in which you can use TU and LEI/VOI

1) two young people that don’t know each other generally use TU;

2) two adults that don’t know each other generally use Lei, no matter their economic and social condition;

3) young people use Lei with adults and old people, but adults and old people tend to use TU with young people…

4) … with the exception of schools and universities, where the reciprocal Lei between students and professors is used;

5) in family, between parents and children, or relatives in general, we generally use TU.

In any case, don’t forget that, during a conversation, if you want to create a more informal situation, you can always ask your interlocutor: “Possiamo darci del tu?

In the same way, if someone uses Lei with you but you think it’s too much and you prefer to reduce the formality, you can tell them: “Dammi del tu!” or “Mi dia del tu!

Don’t miss our lesson on courtesy pronouns to learn to use them properly.

23) NE with things or people

NE can replace DI / DA + una cosa o una persona (something or someone) (previously mentioned)

Example: “– Hai conosciuto il nuovo fidanzato di Sara? Che ne pensi?” (Have you met Sara’s new boyfriend? What do you think about him?)

 → Che pensi (di chi?) del nuovo fidanzato di Sara / di lui (What do you think (about whom?) about Sara’s new boyfriend?)

24) NE with quantity

NE is also used to indicate parte di quantità (part of quantity)

Example: “ Quanti biscotti hai mangiato? – Ne ho bevuti solo due.” → Ho mangiato solo due (di cosa?) di biscotti. (- How many biscuits did you eat? – I just had two)→ I had only two (of what?) of biscuits

If you want to find out when and how to use NE, don’t miss our lesson on this topic.

25) Italian gesture: “No! Non mi interessa! Non lo voglio!” (I don’t care, I don’t want it!)

gesto italiano non ne voglio

If you’d like to know the meaning of all Italian gestures, don’t miss our funny lesson!

26) Invariable nouns

nouns ending with an accented vowel 

If a noun ends with a vowel and on that vowel there’s an accent, then it will remain unchanged in the plural

Example: la città – le città (city/cities)

Don’t miss our lesson if you want to know all the other invariable noun and adjectives (and the various categories).

Well, we hope that our summary-lesson might be useful to you; but if you want to achieve a high level in Italian and speak like a native, don’t miss our course Italiano in Contesto and our book Italiano Colloquiale! Results guaranteed!

Let’s see if you’ve mastered the contents of this class. Have a go at completing the exercises!

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