Even after going through months of learning the conjugation of the four tenses of the subjunctive mood in Italian and also learning how to use it and when to use it, we are still left with a lot of questions regarding the italian subjunctive (questions that even italians often ask). In this lesson, we are going to see 5 DOUBTS (about the SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD) that everybody had at least once in their life and for which they never had an answer. Get your pen and paper! You’re going to need to take notes!
FREQUENT Questions About the Italian Subjunctive Mood
1 – Is it true that the italian subjunctive mood is dead (or is about to be)?
As a matter of fact, as time goes by we use it more and more rarely, especially in spoken italian. The main reason for this is the complexity of its rules, which make it difficult to use for many speakers.
It is a shame, because the subjunctive gives more nuances to the language, it makes it much more intresting and refined.
Then why do we foreigners have to study it, if even italians use it so seldom?
The subjunctive mood has to be learned because it offers a more complete and broad view on the language, a larger range of expressions and a much deeper understanding and mastery of Italian.
Once you have studied and comprehended it, you can choose whether to use it or not! Pretty cool, right?
LearnAmo is not the only one to say this, these are also the words of Maria Luisa Altieri Biagi, an italian linguist, expert in grammar and history of the italian language.
2 – Why isn’t the subjunctive used with expressions like “forse”,”probabilmente”,”secondo me” even though they express doubt, uncertainty or subjectiveness?
Because subjunctive can never be the main verb in a sentence.
What are we referring to when we say “main verb”? The main verb is what supports the whole sentence and from which all the other verbs depend. The main verb has meaning on its own, so it can also be the only verb in a sentence.
On the contrary, the subjunctive can only depend from an another verb. Hence, it is true that the subjunctive is the mood of uncertainty, doubt, subjectiveness, but it is only used if it depends on another verb that expresses these concepts (that would be: thinking, believing, needing, being happy/sad… If you don’t know all the verbs and expressions that support the subjunctive, go take a look at our lesson about when to use the subjunctive mood).
Instead, “forse“, “probabilmente“, “secondo me“, “dal mio punto di vista“ (and so on) are expressions that do not carry a verb, so there is nothing that can support the subjunctive.
For example, we will say:
Forse hai ragione.
Probabilmente dovevamo andare via prima.
Secondo me hanno avuto una bella idea.
Dal mio punto di vista, siamo al sicuro.
In these sentences, the underlined verb is the main one, as well as the only verb, thus we would have never had a subjunctive in its place.
3 – Are there any instances where the subjunctive is the main verb of the sentence? Which are they?
Yes, there are some cases in which the subjunctive can be the main verb of the sentence, but they are very specific cases.
To be precise, in those sentences where these instances occur, the subjunctive has different functions:
- exhortative, which is formal imperative
- dubitative, expressing a doubt in the form of a question introduced by CHE…?
Non è venuto a lavoro oggi. Che sia malato?
Si è comprato una Ferrari! Che abbia vinto la lotteria?
In these cases, with this meaning, CHE + subjunctive can also be replaced by the future tense:
Non è venuto a lavoro oggi. Che sia malato? → Non è venuto a lavoro oggi. Sarà malato?
Si è comprato una Ferrari! Che abbia vinto la lotteria? → Si è comprato una Ferrari! Avrà vinto la lotteria?
- exclamation, to express a wish, a hope, concern or to give emphasis to what we want to say
Ah… Avessi tanti soldi… Ora vivrei in un attico a Dubai! → speranza, augurio
Sapessi quanto mi costa ammetterlo! Ma avevi ragione! → enfasi
4 – Do “Sono certo che“, “Sono sicuro che“, “È chiaro che“, “È evidente che” and similar expressions support the indicative mood or the subjunctive mood?
Usually, expressions formed by the verb “ESSERE” + an adjective, an adverb or a noun take the subjunctive.
È importante che tu non faccia ritardo.
Sono felice che loro siano qui.
È bene che i bambini vadano al parco.
What happens when the adjective (or the adverb or the noun) expresses certainty? Will it be necessary to use the subjunctive (to follow the rule we just saw) or the indicative (which is the mood of certainty)?
Let’s make things clear!
The subjunctive, as all books say (and as, more or less, everybody knows), is the mood of subjectiveness (among other things).
For this reason, in the cases we saw, we will use the subjunctive with those personal forms that tell us about someone in particular (because that is their subjectiveness).
Sono convinto che lui abbia avuto un buon motivo per farlo.
Siamo certi che lui sia un gran lavoratore.
Instead, we will use the indicative mood with those impersonal forms that express evidence and certainty in a general sense.
È sicuro che Luca è stato licenziato.
È evidente che i bambini amano giocare in questo parco.
5 – Why does the same verb sometimes take the indicative mood and other times the subjunctive?
In Italian, some verbs can support both the indicative and the subjunctive mood, depending on the different meanings those verbs can express.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
- It takes the indicative when it means “acknowledge“→ Ammetto che non mi ero preparata bene per l’esame
- It takes the subjunctive when it means “suppose“→ Ammettendo che sia come dici tu, perché dovrei parlarne io?
- It takes the indicative when it means “observe“→ Non badare ai capelli che ho questa mattina, non li ho pettinati!
- It takes the subjunctive when it means “be careful” → Dobbiamo badare che niente di male accada ai nostri figli.
- They take the indicative when they mean “realise” → Ho capito che non mi hanno invitato al matrimonio perché la sposa ce l’ha con me da anni.
- They take the subjunctive when they mean “find [something] natural” → Comprendo che tu voglia andare via dopo quello che è successo, ma spero che potremo riparlarne con più calma.
We hope that all your questions about the subjunctive mood were answered. If you have more, leave a comment! And don’t forget to study all the cases when to NOT use the subjunctive as well!