Grammar Lesson 96:

The Italian verb: moods and tenses

In Italian the verb conjugation is affected by mood, tense, person, number, aspect and occasionally gender.
Verbal moods inform you about the nature of the action expressed by a certain verb.
In Italian there are seven moods, divided in two categories:
- defined - which inflect according to the number and gender of the person performing the action;
- undefined - which don't.
The four defined moods are:

- Indicativo (Indicative)
- Congiuntivo (Subjunctive)
- Condizionale (Conditional)
- Imperativo (Imperative)
The three undefined moods are:
- Infinito (Infinitive)
- Gerundio (Gerund)
- Participio (Participle)
Verbal tenses inform you about the moment when the action expressed by a certain verb takes place.
Each verbal mood has a different number of tenses which can be either simple (that is, consisting of one single word) or compound (that is, consisting of an auxiliary verb - essere / to be or avere / to have in the specific mood + the past participle of the specific verb).
Indicative has eight tenses, four simple and four compound.
Subjunctive has four tenses, two simple and two compound.
Conditional has two tenses, one simple and one compound.
Imperative has one tense, simple.
Infinitive has two tenses, one simple and one compound.
Gerund has two tenses, one simple and one compound.
Participle has two tenses, both simple.
To fully understand this situation let's now have a look at all moods and tense, using the verb cantare (1st conjugation) and its auxiliary avere / to have:

  Indicative (Indicativo)
Simple Tenses - Io canto / I sing -> Presente (Present)
- Io cantavo / I used to sing -> Imperfetto (Imperfect)
- Io cantai / I sang -> Passato remoto (Absolute past)
- Io canterò / I will sing -> Futuro semplice (Simple future)
Compound tenses - Io ho cantato / I have sung —> Passato prossimo (Present perfect)
- Io avevo cantato / I had sung —> Trapassato prossimo (Past perfect)

- Io ebbi cantato / I had sung —> Trapassato remoto (Preterite perfect)
- Io avrò cantato / I will have sung —> Futuro anteriore (Future perfect)

  Subjunctive (Congiuntivo)
Simple Tenses - Che io canti —> Presente (Present)
- Che io cantassi —> Imperfetto (Imperfect)
Compound tenses - Che io abbia cantato —> Passato (Past)
- Che io avessi cantato —> Trapassato (Past perfect)

  Conditional (Condizionale)
Simple Tense - Io canterei / I would sing —> Presente (Present)
Compound tense - Io avrei cantato / I would have sung —> Passato (Past)

  Imperative (Imperativo)
Simple Tense - Canta! / Sing! —> Presente (Present)

  Infinitive (Infinito)
Simple Tense - Cantare / To sing —> Presente (Present)
Compound tense - Avere cantato / To have sung —> Passato (Past)

  Gerund (Gerundio)
Simple Tense - Cantando / Singing —> Presente (Present)
Compound tense - Avendo cantato / Having sung —> Passato (Past)

  Participle (Participio)
Simple Tense - Cantante / Singing, singer —> Presente (Present)
Compound tense - Cantato / Sung —> Passato (Past)

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