What is my level and knowledge in Italian?


The following list of grammatical topics starts from a beginner level up to intermediate, upper intermediate and advanced levels. The sequence below may not reflect what a course exam requires.

You probably are asking yourself whether you need to know 'all these' before being able to hold a conversation, but as far as you have built a good vocabulary and some knowledge of half this list, you are already on the good road to be able to hold some conversation in Italian, and surely to find your way around if you need information or help if in Italy.

Many past and current students who have studied most of, if not all, these topics along the years... may have forgotten the explanations... or the rules… but they have built enough understanding of the language and vocabulary to be able to converse. So, do not worry too much, it takes some time and practise, and some determination to become confident in language learning, and unless you want to become an Italian journalist or Prime Minister, mistakes happen and we all try our best to learn and remember.


1) Italian Alphabet and Pronunciation rules - Alfabeto Italiano e Regole di pronuncia


- Salutations and basic words (Hello, please, thank you etc)


- Introduce yourself (My name is, I live etc)



2) Nouns and Adjectives - Sostantivi (nomi) e Aggettivi  qualificativi 


- Qualifying adjectives are descriptive words that can be used to describe objects, animals or people. In English, you normally put them before a noun but in Italian they usually go after a noun, for example: red house; casa rossa.


- Nouns and Adjectives gender agreement (concordanza dei sostantivi con gli aggettivi)



3) Indefinite (a, an) and Definite Articles (The) - Articoli Indeterminativi e Determinativi


- As a general rule, 'indefinite' refers to a noun in a non-specific sense, unlike 'definite'.



4) Personal Pronouns (Subject: I, you, he/she...) - Pronomi Personali (Soggetto: io, tu, lui/lei Lei...) 


- A pronoun replaces the noun it refers to, so you do not have to repeat the noun every time.


- Formal way to address strangers and acquaintance: Lei vs lei.


- Unlike English, in Italian the subject of the verb is usually identified by the ending of the verb itself, therefore, it is useful for students to try to learn verbs without mentioning it.



5) Present tense of TO BE and TO HAVE - Verbo presente di ESSERE e AVERE 


- Two very important verbs to grasp as soon as possible as they are used to form other tenses (compound tenses).


- How to form the negative (non)



6) Demonstrative Adjectives and Pronouns (this that…) - Aggettivi e Pronomi Dimostrativi



7) Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns (my, his, mine…) - Aggettivi e Pronomi Possessivi



8) Conjunctions (linking words: and, or, that...) - Congiunzioni (parole d’unione: e, o, che...)


- Advanced Conjunctions (for examples: while, whereas, until, meanwhile, during, in spite of, at that moment...) are learned through practise together with other useful words, expressions and idiomatic forms.



9) here, there; of it, of them - qui lì..., ci; ne



10) Adverbs (usually in English ending by -ly) - Avverbi (normalmente desinenza italiana -mente)


- Adverbs are words that describe how the action of a verb is carried out, example: “My friend writes beautifully because she has a beautiful handwriting”. In this example, not always though, you can see the adjective 'beautiful' becomes the adverb 'beautifully', describing the way my friend writes).


- Other Adverbs are learned through practise (example: adverb of Time: soon, now, then, tomorrow. Manner: quickly, well. Place: here, there. Means, Cause, Result...)



11) Present Tense (3 conjugations) - Tempo Presente (3 coniugazioni)


- isc verbs


- can vs to be able to (potere vs essere capace di, riuscire a)


- know, be familiar with, be acquainted vs know, be aware, come to know (conoscere vs sapere)



At some point I introduce to students a fun part of Italian, suffixes (suffissi) that Italians may add to the end of words to render ideas, people or objects, for example: bigger, smaller etc.



12) Reflexive verbs - Verbi riflessivi 


- You probably have already come across: My name is. To call oneself, chiamarsi. It is in fact a reflexive verb, which initially sounds ‘strange’ because we never really call ourselves by name. Reflexives verbs are verbs where the action is performed by the subject and it is reflected back to the same subject, for example, Lavarsi, Vestirsi, Sedersi... To Wash oneself, Dress oneself, Sit Oneself...


- Italian reflexive verbs are more common and not necessarily reflexive in English and vice versa.



13) Present Tense of Irregular short common Verbs - Presente di Verbi corti comuni Irregolari



14) Simple Prepositions - Preposizioni Semplici



15) Partitive Article (unspecified quantity: some, any) - Articoli Partitivi



16) Combined Prepositions - Preposizioni Articolate



17) Would Could Should Conditional present verb - Volere Potere Dovere Condizionale presente


- As same as with the present of To be and To have, it is important to familiarise soon with these verbs, not only because they form the basis for future learning (modal verbs, verbi servili), but also because they are useful words to know when you are asking for information or expressing a wish or a duty.


Volere, would like, is also a courtesy verb, Vorrei un cappuccino;


Potere, could, be able to, Potrei avere un biglietto?;


Dovere, should, have to, must, Dovrei andare in Via Cairoli.



18) Present Perfect Tense - Passato Prossimo (past tense, example: I have studied, I have taken - ho studiato, ho preso)


- Past Participles (Regular and Irregular) - Participio Passato (Regolare e Irregolare).


A past participle is a verb-form required to form Perfect tenses (and Passive tenses). Regular past participle -studied, studiato. Irregular -taken, preso. Past participles can also be adjectives or even nouns.


- To be OR Not To be? Essere o non Essere (helping verbs). What auxiliary verb to use in Perfect tenses.



19) Direct Object Pronouns - Pronomi Complemento Diretto



20) Impersonal Forms (the Si particle) - Forma Impersonale (la particella Si + third person)


The subject is generic (formal or informal), examples: Si dice che Marco sia simpatico = [It is said] They say that Marco is nice. Si affittano appartamenti = Flat to let 



21) Imperfect Tense (past tense) - Verbo Imperfetto


- Passato Prossimo vs Imperfetto (ho studiato vs studiavo)


- Used to (repeated action in the past)



22) Progressive (Continuous) form of verbs - Forma progressiva dei verbi (I am studying, I was studying - sto studiando, stavo studiando)


- Verb 'stare'  


- Gerund  Gerundio



23) Simple Future - Futuro semplice


- Simple Future vs I am + ing, example: I will go vs I am going to (andrò vs vado).



24) Indefinite Adjectives and Indefinite Pronouns - Aggettivi e Pronomi indefiniti


- Remember that a pronoun replaces a noun, so you do not have to repeat it every time. English examples of the most common for the former: any, each, few, many, much, most, several, some. For the latter: everyone, another, anybody, anything, anyone, nothing, everybody, most, many people.



25) Indirect Object Pronouns - Pronomi Complemento Indiretto



26) Imperative verb Let’s study Italian! - Verbo Imperativo


- The Imperative is used to give warnings or orders or suggestions. In Italian is also used in courtesy forms. Worried students often asked me how to distinguish from when it is 'an order' or just a polite use, and I say that it depends from what you are saying, the tone of the voice, and just add a smile!



27) Relative Pronouns who, whom, which, what, their... - Pronomi relativi chi, che, cui, il quale, i quali...



28) Simple Past or Preterite or Historic Past verb - Passato remoto


- This verb is learned in time, what students can 'easily' achieve is the ability to recognise it, whether written or spoken; with practise students recognise the stem of the verb, just they may not use it, and this is perfectly fine.



29) Pluperfect verb (had studied, had taken) - TraPassato Prossimo (avevo studiato, avevo preso)


- The Italian TraPassato Prossimo is formed by the Imperfect tense of essere o avere and a past participle.


- Passato Remoto (point 27) also has its own TraPassato Remoto, still a PluPerfect tense (it is formed by the Passato Remoto of essere or avere and a past partiple), but it is often disregarded with Italian learners, even if with practice students will recognize it as they recognise the single verbal elements.



30) Future Perfect (I will have studied, taken) - Futuro Anteriore (avrò studiato, preso)



At some point, I introduce to students a Time-Line of English verbs, where students can see where they draw their own verbs, and where matches are with Italian verbs.



31) Conditional Present tense - Condizionale Presente


Previously, I mentioned the polite forms Would, and also Should, Could (point 17). These verbs are called 'modal', in Italian are called: 'verbi servili' (or even 'verbi modali').


'modal' indicates modality: likelihood, capacity, possibility, ability, advice, permission etc. For example: Today, I would study all day (a wish) but I should go (a duty) to the supermarket as well... Oggi studierei tutto il giorno ma dovrei anche andare al supermercato....



32) Conditional Perfect tense (past) - Condizionale Passato


- Other modal English verbs are: must, ought to, may might... and in time with practise Italian learners become familiar on how to express in Italian all these forms.



I also introduce to students the concept of Moods of verbs for those students who are less familiar with this idea. A grammatical mood is what distinguishes one family of verbs from another, a Mood is a feature of verbs used to express the attitude of the speakers toward what they are saying or referring to.


Main modes: Indicative mood (facts, I studied); Conditional mood (wishes, I would like a cup of coffee after all these reading); Subjunctive mood (personal attitudes, May the Power be with you); Imperative mood (Do not walk on the fresh grass).



33) Subjunctive - Congiuntivo


- For some students, this is a ‘worrying’ grammatical subject because English has a few forms of 'pure' subjunctive, examples: I wish I were at the seaside; We insist that a meeting be held as soon as possible; If I were you. In Italian (and languages like French, Spanish, German) the subjunctive mood is a family of specific tenses. However, whether there is or there is not a specific family of verbs to do the job, in time without doubts students learn how to go about expressing these ideas in Italian using some specific tenses and constructions.


The job of the Subjunctive is to express personal opinions, doubts, wishes. The subjunctive is also used to express the degree of possibility and impossibility of a situation, action or event. In English, before existing tenses you place a modal English Verb.


In Italian, the Conditional Present and Perfect work together with tenses of the Italian Subjunctives to create these ‘hypothetical’ sentences or situations, and these in English are called: 'Conditional sentences'.


One part of the sentence is characterised by the particle 'if', which in Italian is followed by a tense of the Subjunctive mood. The second part of these hypothetical sentences requires a Conditional tense.



Conditional sentences - Hypothetical Phrases (Frasi Ipotetiche)

0 Conditional - If I put a pan of water on the cooker, it boils. (a fact). Se metto una pentola d'acqua sul fuoco, bolle.

1st Conditional - If the weather is good, I will go for a walk. (possibility). Se fa bel tempo, vado (andrò) a fare una passeggiata.

2nd Conditional - If I won (I were to win) the lottery, I would buy a new car. (possible, degree of likelihood in this type of construction varies according to what it is said). Se vincessi la lotteria, comprerei una macchina nuova.

3rd Conditional - If I had won (I were to have won) the first prize, I would have bought a new car. (impossible, do not cry over spilled milk, can't change the past). Se avessi vinto il primo premio, avrei comprato una macchina nuova.


Other constructions are learned in time with practise.



34) Passive form - Forma Passiva



35) Direct and Indirect Speech - Discorso Diretto e Indiretto



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