Italian Language/verbs


When addressing the singular second person "you formal", is the present tense acceptable. I've seen translations that use the present plural second person. Example: "Avete famiglia negli stati uniti?" instead of using "Lei ha." Or "sapete" instead of "Lei sa."
Thank you for your insight.

Hi Ron,

Many thanks for your question.

This particular use of the 2nd person plural when used in formal situations (e.g. avete, sapete etc) used to be quite a common feature of Italian, used specifically when talking to those of higher authority much in the same way that the 2nd person singular (Lei) is used nowadays. It is only in the last 30 years or so in Italy that there has been quite a shift in modernity and this form has been generally dropped with the 2nd person singular (e.g. ha, sa) favoured instead.

The only time that you will chiefly come across this antiquated form nowadays is in old literature texts. It may also be heard in very rare and unlikely situations such as meeting a King/Queen or Pope/high members of the clergy as a form of respect.

However, when talking about everyday usage, Lei is what you will hear so I recommend that you focus on practising this usage in particular. The previous form mentioned is actually now known as the 'historical plural' which is a reflection really of how little it is used today.

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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