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Italian Language/translation of modal verbs


Hi Lauren,  

I have one last question about this same sentence -   “Mi dispiace di non poter venire” (I am sorry for not being able to come).

My question is about the translation of the modal verb “potere”.

If it is true that modal verbs can be used in their infinitive form to modify the infinitive form of another verb, can you please now verify that such a  modal infinitive verb can also be translated into English as a gerund (form ending in -ing) as “potere” (being able)  has been translated in this sentence.

If "yes", could the example sentence from my previous question - “È importante volere imparare” also be translated as - “Wanting to learn is important” ?

Thank you very much for your help and patience with my questions.



Hi Rich,

This is an interesting question - yes, I would say that the majority of times when you are faced with a modal verb in the infinitive, followed by a general verb in the infinitive after, the modal example can be translated with the gerund -ing.

"Wanting to learn is important" is an excellent translation of the sentence because it gives the sentence an English feeling to it, rather than the literally translated, "It is important to want to learn", which I am sure you will agree, sounds rather clumsy albeit not incorrect.

To give another example to aid understanding:
Sono stufa di dovere pulire la casa - I am fed up of having to clean the house
E' necessario potere guidare - Being able to drive is necessary

Hope this helps,
Kind regards,

Italian Language

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Lauren O' Hagan


Although not my mother tongue, I have spoken Italian fluently for more than 12 years so I am very confident to answer any questions about the Italian language. I am also competent in Roman Dialect if there are any questions relating to this.


MA Applied Linguistics First Class Honours in Modern Language Studies (Linguistics, Italian, Spanish) Received the top grade in the whole of UK for GCSE Italian, receiving a letter of congratulations from the Italian Consulate Completed my two-year A Level in 1 year with a grade A country. Carried out many translation jobs for a wide range of clients and topics including self-help, literature and exam papers. For personal reference, I have also translated Federico Moccia's Tre Metri Sopra Il Cielo and 2 of Francesco Totti's book.

El Pensador, University of Bristol

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