In this blog I am trying to cover topics that are somehow related to my role as an Italian man who is married to a Filipina.
I talk about mindset topics, because, in order to make an interracial relationship work, psychology is more important than learning a bunch of facts about the language and the culture of my foreign spouse.
Because I am suspended between 3 cultures (the Filipino culture, the Italian one and the American/English one, as English is the language my wife and I use the most in our deep conversations) I share facts about my country and my wife’s and I mostly do so in the language my wife and I use the most, namely English.
I talk about the Filipino mentality from the standpoint of a Westerner.
And, because I speak Tagalog, there are friends of mine who are married to Filipinas who ask me to teach them Tagalog, there are Filipino immigrants who ask me to teach their children Tagalog, there are Filipino parents who ask me to teach them the structure of the Tagalog language so that they can teach it to their kids and there are Filipinos who ask me to teach them Italian.
So, in my blogs (this one and http://www.filipitaly.com) I try to cover all of that (when I have time to do so).
In this post I am going to build on top of what I have already shared in my post entitled “Italian for Foreigners: a Brief Introduction” and I am going to (at least try) to kind of put myself in the shoes of a foreigner who is trying to learn Italian but struggles to figure out where to start.
In my previous post I have mentioned a very important feature of the Italian language, namely word gender and the fact that all the other related words in a sentence need to agree with the gender of a noun.
Today I am going to attempt to explain a few basic information about the trickiest part of the Italian language, namely verbs.
Italian verbs have a very high degree of inflection.
What is inflection? Inflection is a fancy word used to talk about how a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood and so on. The inflection of verbs is called conjugation.
In Italian there are 3 common patterns of conjugation and the infinitive (the basic form) ends in 3 possible ways:
Verbs ending in -are (example: “andare”=to go)
Verbs ending in -ere (example: “leggere”=to read)
Verbs ending in -ire (example: “dormire”=to sleep)
Before I talk about stuff like tenses, moods and so on, let me share a couple of fundamental differences between verbs in English and verbs in Italian.
Italian verbs change based on the person
In English the verb doesn’t really change based on the person [the word “person” refers to the distinction between the speaker (first person), the addressee (second person), and others (third person)].
In English, only at the simple present, the singular subject (he, she, it) requires an -s at the end of the word.
A typical example is the verb “to go”
Not so in Italian: in Italian, the verb changes for each pronoun in all tenses!
Not only that: many Italian verbs also have crazy and absolutely unpredictable patterns.
Let’s take the Italian version of the verb “to go”.
“To go” in Italian is an “-are” verb and it’s basic form is “andare”.
Now, notice what happens when I conjugate it based on the person:
Io (I) vado (yes, you heard it right: “andare” turns into something completely different from the basic form and becomes “vado”
Tu (you) vai
Egli/lui/lei (he/she) va
Noi (we) andiamo
Voi (You) andate
Essi/loro/esse (they) vanno
Crazy irregular verbs in Italian
In English verbs definitely have more predictable patterns which make it a lot easier for a foreigner to study them.
Basically in English there are:
Regular verbs in English create the past simple and past participle by adding -ed to the base form.
I have studied
Irregular verbs have endings that are other than ed and these are divided into 4 main categories:
Verbs which have the same base form, like the verb “to cost” (base form: cost/ past simple: cost/past participle:cost)
Verbs which have the same past simple and past participle (bring/brought/brought)
Verbs which have the same base form and past participle (come/came/come)
Verbs which have a different base form, past simple and past participle (be/was or were/been)
And these verbs can (relatively) easily be learned by becoming familiar with these 4 groups.
The funny thing about Italian is that the most common verbs, the ones used to talk about the most basic actions are mostly irregular and they are irregular to such an extent that studying them must be an headache for a foreigner.
Let’s say that Italians themselves (including highly educated people, sometimes even college professors) struggle with verbs.
And let’s also say that the irregularity occurs in the present indicative, as the inflection in other tenses and moods is not too far from the base form
For example, only in the present indicative the verb andare turns into something very different from the infinitive and becomes, as I said, vado, vai, va….
In other tenses and moods the various inflections of andare don’t deflect too much
I think that’s it for this post, otherwise things get too technical and I’d better reserve further information for future posts.