Italian Simple Tenses

The simple tenses are verb tenses that consist of one word only, such as the present tense.

There are four simple tenses:

Present tense: The Italian present tense (presente) is happening right now. It's a simple tense—that is, the verb form consists of one word only. Examples:

  • regalo il libro a Stefania  »  I give the book to Stephanie
  • i due ragazzi sono di Berlino  »  the two boys are from Berlin
  • scrivo con una penna  »  I write with a pen
  • ho un biglietto per il teatro  »  I have a ticket for the theatre

Imperfect tense: The imperfect is much more frequently used in Italian than in English. It expresses the English "used to" and is used to describe actions or conditions that lasted an indefinite time in the past. It's also used to express an habitual action in the past and to describe time, age, and weather in the past. Examples:

  • Giocavo a calcio ogni pomeriggio  »  I played soccer every afternoon
  • Sempre credevano tutto  »  They always believed everything
  • Volevamo andare in Italia  »  We wanted to go to Italy
  • Il cielo era sempre blu  »  The sky was always blue

Simple Past tense: Or remote past tense (passato remoto); is a simple tense and is formed by one word. In general, it refers to the historical past or to events that have happened in the distant past relative to the speaker.

  • Dante si rifugiò a Ravenna  »  Dante took refuge in Ravenna
  • Petrarca morì nel 1374  »  Petrarca died in 1374
  • Michelangelo nacque nel 1475  »  Michelangelo was born in 1475

Future tense: The future tense in Italian expresses an action that will take place in the future. Although in English the future is expressed with the helping verb "will" or the phrase "to be going to," in Italian a verb ending marks it as being set in the future tense.

  • Alla fine di settembre partirò per Roma  »  At the end of September I will leave for Rome
  • Che sarà, sarà  »  what will be, will be!