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Verbs of Uncertainty and the Subjunctive

We talked about the subjunctive together with the conditional in a previous lesson. But there are other cases in which we need to use what’s called il congiuntivo (subjunctive mood). Certain verbs, usually having to do with some kind of uncertainty, “kick off” the subjunctive. This means that they are conjugated normally in the indicative themselves, but if they precede a conjunction like che (that), then the subjunctive comes into play with the verb that follows.

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

These particular verbs express wishes, thoughts, beliefs, worries, and doubts. Here are some of them:

accettare (to accept), amare (to love), aspettare (to wait), assicurarsi (to insure), attendere (to wait for), augurare (to wish for), chiedere (to ask), credere (to believe), desiderare (to desire), disporre (to arrange), domandare (to ask), dubitare (to doubt), esigere (to require), fingere (to make believe), illudersi (to delude oneself), immaginare (to imagine), lasciare (to leave), negare (to negate), permettere (to permit), preferire (to prefer), pregare (to pray), pretendere (to expect), rallegrarsi (to rejoice), ritenere (to retain), sospettare (to suspect), sperare (to hope), supporre (to suppose), temere (to fear), volere (to want).

It’s a daunting (and partial) list, but you can learn them gradually, on a need-to-know basis.

The issue of the subjunctive arises when we have a main clause and a dependent clause. The two clauses, or parts of the sentence, are often connected by che (that). There are other conjunctions, but once you learn how to use che, it’ll be easier to use the other conjunctions.

Let’s focus on a relatively simple sentence from this informative and popular Yabla interview with Silvia D’Onghia, a journalist, who obviously loves her job. At the end she says:

 

Credo che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.

I believe that it's the greatest job in the world.

Caption 58, Professioni e mestieri - Silvia D'Onghia, giornalista

 Play Caption

 

Note that in English no subjunctive is necessary here, and we could leave out “that.” Sia is simply the subjunctive of essere in the present tense. If you look at any conjugation chart, for example here, the subjunctive conjugation is the same in the first, second familiar, and third persons. Silvia’s comment provides us with a convenient formula to work with:

verb kicking off the subjunctive (credere) + che + verb in the subjunctive (essere)

Try using different verbs from the list above in place of credere. You can have fun with this while trying to have the sentence make sense. You’re simply replacing the main verb (conjugated normally), while the rest of the sentence stays the same. The idea is to get used to using the subjunctive so that it feels natural to you when using the appropriate verbs. Once it feels natural, you can go on to change other elements of the model sentence.

We can easily change the person in the main clause (this time it’s a reflexive verb!), but the subjunctive part of the sentence stays the same as in the model:

Ci illudiamo che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
We’re deluding ourselves that it’s the greatest job in the world.

Spera che sia il lavoro più bello del mondo.
She hopes that it’s the greatest job in the world.

Advanced learners might want to replace the verb in the subjunctive with fare (to do, to make) or avere (to have), for example:

Credo che faccia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that I do the greatest job...

Or:

I believe that he does the greatest job...

 

Credo che abbia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that I have the greatest job

Or:

I believe that she has the greatest job...

As mentioned above, the subjunctive is the same in the third person and the first person (which makes it easy, but can also cause confusion). You can add the personal pronoun for clarity if need be:

Credo che lui abbia il lavoro più bello...
I believe that he has the greatest job...

 

Further exploration:
Do a Yabla search of sia. Does che or some other conjunction precede it? Look for the verb that kicks it off. You’ll recognize many of the verbs from the list above.

Noi di Yabla speriamo che tu abbia capito questa piccola lezione sui verbi che prendono il congiuntivo, ma immaginiamo che non sia facilissima da mettere in pratica. Desideriamo che tutti voi siate felici di imparare con noi!

We at Yabla hope that you have understood this little lesson about verbs that take the subjunctive, but we can imagine that it isn’t all that easy to put into practice. We would like you all to be happy to learn with us!

BANNER PLACEHOLDER

Grammar

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