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Italian Language/meaning of: "dovere"


Dear Maria,

Can you please help me to better understand how to translate the modal verb – “dovere”.

My dictionary states that “dovere” can be translated as: “to have to”, “must”, or “should”.

In English (it seems to me), that “should” has a different meaning than “to have to” or “must”.   To me - “should” implies - a choice, while “to have to” and “must” imply -  no choice.

Therefore, when I see a sentence such as the following:  “Devo andare dal dentista alle 3” - how can I know if this means - “I have to go to the dentist’s at 3 o’clock” or “I should go to the dentist’s at 3 o’clock.”

I would really appreciate your help.   Thank you very, very much.



Dear Rich,

The sentence “Devo andare dal dentista alle 3” corresponds exactly to “I have to go to the dentist’s at 3 o’clock” or “I must go to the dentist’s at 3 o’clock”, not to  “I should go to the dentist’s at 3 o’clock” which in Italian would sound as “Dovrei andare dal dentista alle 3”, where we use the conditional mood that implies a choice, while the present indicative “Devo” implies an obligation and then corresponds to “I must”/ “I have to”.

To sum up, we use the indicative mood of the verb “dovere” when we have no choice.
Otherwise we use the conditional mood.

See also:”Dovrei partire”, “Deve uscire di casa alle cinque del pomeriggio”, “Dovresti venire a trovarmi più spesso”, “Dovettero affrettarsi a prendere il treno”, etc.

Buon Natale e Buon Anno a te e alla tua famiglia.


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Italian is my mother tongue and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning Italian Language.


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I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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