Feeling Tense? Italian Modal Verbs

Free Basic Italian

Today, we have a quick lesson on Italian Modal Verbs and how they change their meaning depending on verb tense you select when speaking or writing about something that happened in the past.

The four basic Italian Modal Verbs are

Dovere – “Must”

Volere – “Want”

Potere – “Can”

Sapere – “Know how to”

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When using a modal verb, the formula is CONJUGATED MODAL VERB + ANOTHER VERB INFINITIVE

Ad esampio (for example): “I must go to work.” is “Devo andare al lavoro.” Devo (first person dovere) + andare (to go) in its infinitive form. “Can you (singular) enter?” would be “Puoi entrare?”

But here’s the tricky part. These Modal Verbs change their meaning if used in present perfect (passato prossimo) or imperfect (imperfetto).

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