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Italian Language/When to use which tense..


I'm writing my first year final exam this week and I find myself still being confused with the  tenses.

When do I use each tense? Specially passato remoto,imperfetto,trapassato prossimo?

AND how does the subjuntive differ from the conditional?

Thank you for your time :)

I don't think we have the space or time here to thoroughly review every tense--this is at least two semesters of college level language. I will however give you at least an example of the ones you asked about.
passato remoto= remote or simple past: I spoke. Io parlai. This tense is used only for things that happened long ago, and you will find it mostly in books rather than in everyday speaking.

Imperfetto= imperfect: I was speaking. Io parlavo. Used for an action that was continuing over time in the past (also like English "used to").

Trapassato prossimo= past perfect: I had spoken. Io avevo parlato. This is used when two actions take place at different times in the past. Example: Ero stanco perche' avevo parlato tanto. I was tired because I had talked so much.

Subjunctive differs from the conditional in degrees of certainty, subjunctive being used to express the more uncertain ideas, but it is a very complex discussion requiring considerable time to go through examples and even debates. The most obvious use of subjunctive is for hypothetical situations (Se fossi ricco). At least if you keep this in mind, you won't make the common mistake of using conditional (Se sarei ricco).
I hope this sheds at least a little light on some of the tenses for you.

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Chris Platamone


I can answer all basic to advanced grammar questions. Italian is not my native tongue, but I have an excellent handle on all things grammatical and can help people bridge the gap between English and Italian by teaching Italian grammar from the English-speaker's point of view.


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