L8: The Present Indicative Tense of Modal Verbs

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L8: The Present Indicative Tense of Modal Verbs

Post by BillyShears »

The Present Indicative Tense of Modal Verbs (I Verbi Modali / I Verbi Servili)

Dovere , Potere, and Volere
The verbs dovere (to have to), potere (to be able), and volere (to want) are modal verbs. A modal verb is a helping verb followed by an infinitive. Prepositions are not needed between the modal verb and the infinitive that follows the modal verb.

They are irregular in the present tense.
* Note the use of Italian subject pronouns in the examples are for clarity only. In every day speech subject pronouns are generally only used for emphasis. For more information about subject pronouns (io, tu, Lei, lui, egli, esso, lei, ella, essa, noi, voi loro, essi, esse) please read L2: Subject Pronouns in Lezioni Gratuite in the Pronouns lessons.
The conjugation of the verb Dovere (to have to / must)
io devo / debbo (I must)
tu devi / Lei deve (you must - informal / formal)
lui / lei deve (he / she must)

noi dobbiamo (we must)
voi dovete (you must)
loro devono / debbono (they must)

The conjugation of the verb Potere (to be able to / can)
io posso (I can)
tu puoi / Lei può (you can - informal / formal)
lui / lei può (he / she can)

noi possiamo (we can)
voi potete (you can)
loro possono (they can)

The conjugation of the verb Volere (to want)
io voglio (I want)
tu vuoi / Lei vuole (you want - informal /formal)
lui / lei vuole (he / she wants)

noi vogliamo (we want)
voi volete (you want)
loro vogliono (they want)

  • Devono scrivere un saggio. (They have to write an essay.)
  • Non possiamo bere. (We can't drink.)
  • Vuoi studiare con Eva? (Do you want to study with Eva?)
Dovere, potere and volere can also be used in a non modal manner meaning not followed by an infinitive.
  • Ti dobbiamo molta riconoscenza. (We owe you a great debt of gratitude.)
  • Paolo vuole uscire, ma non può. (Paolo wants to go out, but he can't.)
  • Voglio del pane. (I want some bread.)
(note - Dovere also means to owe)
Pronouns and participles either precede the verb or are attached to the infinitive (in which case the final –e is dropped.)
  • La tua nuova bicicletta? Sì, la voglio vedere. / Sì, voglio vederla. (Your new bicycle? Yes, I want to see it.)
  • Ci possiamo andare? / Possiamo andarci? (Can we go there?)
Reflexive pronoun also can either precede the conjugated verb or be attached as a suffix to the infinitive:
  • Carlo, ti devi sbrigare perché è tardi. / Carlo, devi sbrigarti perché è tardi. (Carlo, you must hurry up because it is late.)
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